Held to an unsatisfactory 1-1 by USA in their first game, England need three points against Algeria to restore their flagging confidence and get their Group C bid back on course. With the wily Rabah Saadane at the helm, the Desert Foxes will be out to stymie the English. Failure to do so could result in a shock elimination.
No side has been more impressive at South Africa 2010 than Germany, who overwhelmed Australia in their tournament bow and are now seeking to impose their compelling brand of football on a Serbia side still smarting from their 1-0 defeat to Ghana.
The conquerors of Russia in the play-offs, unfancied Slovenia go into their game against USA full of confidence. Having kicked off with a win, the well-drilled Dragons will likely be planning to keep things tight at the back and hit the Americans on the counter.
Germany-Serbia, Group D, Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, 13.30
Slovenia-USA, Group C, Johannesburg (Ellis Park), 16.00
England-Algeria, Group C, Cape Town, 20.30
The big game
Fabio Capello could barely conceal his delight at the news that Gareth Barry would be available for the meeting with Algeria. Following a stop-start domestic season and a frustrating six-week injury layoff, the left-sided Manchester City midfielder is set to reclaim his place in the side. As well as offering England a measure of defensive stability, Barry’s return will also allow skipper Steven Gerrard to switch back to his preferred position on the left.
In this the first ever meeting between the sides, the Algerians will be hoping to draw on the Premier League experience of Portsmouth duo Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda, who know all about the strengths and weaknesses of the English. On the downside, Les Fennecs will be deprived of the services of one of their prized assets, striker Abdelkader Ghezzal, who was sent off against Slovenia.
The German defence v Nikola Zigic
The meeting between Group D leaders Germany and Serbia should produce its fair share of aerial tussles as the spindly Zigic goes head to head against totemic duo Per Mertesacker and Holger Badstuber, with towering goalkeeper Manuel Neuer sure to get involved in the fray as well.
Serbian shotstopper Vladimir Stojkovic will face a different kind of challenge against German strike tandem Jeronimo and Miroslav Klose, who reminded everyone of his aerial prowess with a sublime header against the Socceroos last Sunday. Mindful of the battle that awaits them against the Balkan side, the veteran finisher has been warning against complacency, urging Nationalmannschaft fans to “keep their feet on the ground”.
What they said
“We're on a learning curve, working on the little details that can make all the difference. That’s what top-level football is about,” Algeria coach Rabah Saadane ahead of his side’s crunch game with England
Another one for the collection: Venerated former England custodians Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton must be wondering what has come over the nations’ current generation of keepers. David James’ well-documented mistakes are a staple of the nation’s favourite football gaffe DVDs, and team-mate Robert Green added another his own to the collection with a howler against USA. Coach Fabio Capello will be hoping that is Green’s only contribution to the genre at South Africa 2010.
Soccer gaining ground: Football is attracting ever-larger TV audiences in the USA. Some 14.5 million viewers tuned in Stateside for last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with England, the highest figure for a football match since USA 1994, though still some way short of the 106.5 million people who switched on for the 2010 Super Bowl.
Allez Les Fennecs: Cheered on by Zinedine Zidane in their tournament debut against Slovenia, Algeria received the support of another Bleus legend in the build-up to their crucial match against England. Manchester City midfielder Patrick Vieira, something of an authority on the English game after his lengthy stay with Arsenal, paid a visit to the Desert Fox camp this week and had some encouraging words for Saadane’s charges. “Tight matches don’t come around every day and you can’t let the pressure get to you when you play them,” he said. “I told the players to go out and have fun and to play their own game. That way they might spring a surprise. I really love this country. It lives and breathes football and I’ll be supporting Algeria for Zizou.”