Everything is still to play for in Groups C and D, where all eight teams are in with a chance of making the Round of 16 at this FIFA World Cup™.
England, highly fancied before the finals began, surely did not expect to be heading into their last match in Group C needing a victory to stay in the competition. Despite their sluggish start, the Three Lions still have a chance of clinching top spot provided they can beat a Slovenia side who themselves only require a draw to progress. A high-scoring draw could also see Fabio Capello's men qualify if the match between USA and Algeria also finished all square. Should England win, both the Americans and Algerians would need to win also.
The situation is just as open in Group D, where high-flying Ghana have their noses in front. The Black Stars have already picked up four points and only need to avoid defeat against Germany in order to be sure of going through. By contrast Die Nationalmannschaft must win to prevent being leapfrogged by Serbia and potentially Australia, who have three points and one point respectively. The Socceroos need a victory to keep their qualification hopes alive, while a draw would suffice for Serbia if Germany were to lose.
The matchesGroup C (both matches at 16.00 local time)
United States-Algeria, Group C, Tshwane/Pretoria
Slovenia-England, Group C, Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth
Group D (both matches at 20.30 local time)*
Australia-Serbia, Group D, Nelspruit, 20.30
Ghana-Germany, Group D, Johannesburg (Soccer City), 20.30
The big gameGhana-Germany
Joachim Low will be aiming to avoid going down in history as the first Germany coach eliminated in the first round of a FIFA World Cup since 1938. The euphoria of his side's 4-0 demolition of Australia was dampened by a 1-0 reverse against Serbia and now Die Nationalelf have it all to do again. With Miroslav Klose suspended, Cacau must lead the line against the four-time African champions. Although a draw may be enough, the Germans are hoping for a rousing victory to put the wind back in their sails. Meanwhile Ghana, who are kicking themselves for failing to exploit their numerical advantage in the 1-1 draw with ten-man Australia, are banking on the return from injury of central defenders John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah. Milovan Rajevac's men will have the support of the South African spectators but would be unwise to play for a draw against a Germany side who are never more dangerous than when they are down.
In focus*Robert Koren v Wayne Rooney *
Slovenia's captain and creative fulcrum has undoubtedly been one of the stand-out performers in the eastern Europeans' campaign so far. By contrast Wayne Rooney is yet to find his shooting boots in an England team which have looked at sixes and sevens in their opening two matches. While the Manchester United striker will be hunting for goals to keep his side in the tournament, former West Bromwich Albion midfielder Koren will be itching to get one over on his Premier League counterpart by firing Slovenia into the Round of 16 for the first time in their history.
What they said"The United States are like us, they’re patriots not stars. It's the team that matters," Madjid Bougherra, Algeria defender
Coaches strut their stuff
Gone are the days of crumpled tracksuits. Since the start of South Africa 2010, the team managers have been flaunting their fashion sense, and this time it is the big guns who are setting the trend. Brazil coach Dunga, a manager more known for the odd fashion faux pas, has been impeccably turned out in a snug-fitting roll-neck and fetching short overcoat. Smart dresser Fabio Capello looks as elegant as ever in the official suit of England's Football Association, while Joachim Low is sticking with his customary casual chic look, with a white T-shirt under a V-neck cardigan. The biggest surprise has come from Diego Maradona who has bowed to his daughters' requests by donning a classy pearl grey suit. Only Marcello Lippi has broken the mould by appearing in a red tracksuit. Finally, France coach Raymond Domenech already seemed to be mourning his side's demise campaign in his short black overcoat.
Lucky number 13
The expectations of Germany's supporters are weighing heavily on the shoulders of Thomas Muller, not least because the 20-year-old bears the same surname as legendary German striker Gerd Muller. 'Der Bomber' won practically all there was to win with Bayern Munich, during a stellar career in which he also netted 68 goals in 62 matches for his country. Although Thomas is ten centimetres taller than his namesake and an attacking midfielder rather than a centre-forward, he still has the same surname as Gerd, plays for Bayern and also wears the number 13 shirt. All that is missing is a hatful of goals to complete the comparison.
Capello perplexed by slump
England coach Fabio Capello is at a loss to explain his side's lacklustre start to the tournament. "We train and everything is perfect, we are training well together always, but when we play the players are not the same," pondered the 64-year-old Italian manager, who is having to draw on his vast experience to get to the bottom of this blip. "The fear of the World Cup is in the mind of the players. It is incredible. I want to see the spirit next time." According to former captain John Terry, the monastic regime imposed by the disciplinarian coach may have something to do with England’s indifferent form. "We are in the hotel, we finish training, we have lunch at one o'clock and then we have a few hours to spare," said Terry. "There is a bit of boredom that kicks in and there are times as a group of players we need to get together." Only time will tell if the England coach can inspire his players to perform in time for the make-or-break showdown with Slovenia.