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FIFA World Cup: Resurgent England beat Slovenia 1-0 to progress into last 16

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defoe_lampard.jpgJermaine Defoe proved to be the answer to England's prayers on Wednesday as the Tottenham Hotspur marksman fired home a volley which was enough for England to down Slovenia 1-0 and in the process, seal qualification to the ‘Round of 16' of the the FIFA World Cup. While England thought they had sealed the top position at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, there was a late twist in the tail though, with Landon Donovan getting a winner for the USA in Pretoria, to send them right up to the top and also as a result unlucky Slovenia out of the competition.

What this means is that England, in all probabilities would bump in to Germany in the next round and should they survive that threat, prospects of an ominous appointment with Argentina loom large on the horizon. All this would not matter much at this point though, and as Fabio Capello rightly said, the performance on the night would do good to take away all the fear and make the squad ready for future challenges.

A combination of some spirited and free-flowing football from the Englishmen coupled with some effective changes in personnel by Fabio Capello were probably the major factors that contributed to the win. Capello made three changes to his squad, as Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey followed the suspended Jamie Carragher out of the team. In came Jermaine Defoe, Matthew Upson and James Milner. Slovenia entered the game with the same team that played against the USA, in the entertaining 2-2 draw.

England began this match in much the same manner they ended the Algeria game, very nervy. Indecision was apparent in the back four as they failed to clear threats early and with Rooney and Defoe managing little time on the ball, there was no threat to the Slovenia goal. Things changed quickly though, as England started creating play both from the left as well as the right flanks.

Glen Johnson and James Milner were especially effective on the right, combining well to whip some dangerous crosses in while Steven Gerrard was the chief creator on the left. The spell of pressure yielded result earlier than expected, and it was once again a brilliant pass from Milner that led to the goal.

Jermaine Defoe moved brilliantly to find himself in the right spot to meet Milner's cross, having escaped from the clutches of his marker, and his sweet volley rushed into the back of the net through the hands of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, to the relief of the English fans. The goal seemed to take the pressure off the English as the coming few minutes saw them come real close to scoring a second.

wayne_rooney.jpgIt was Lampard first, who should have scored with the ball having rebounded off a Milner shot to Handanovic, though he could only hit it high over. Defoe and Gerrard then, got a double save out of the keeper and just as it looked like Gerrard's shot might just sneak in, Handanovic pounced to snuff the chance.

The run-in to the first half saw a few more decent opportunities for England and though Slovenia too managed to get close a couple of times, the score stayed at 1-0. Rooney and Defoe got England close twice right after the break, even though the latter failed to double England's advantage. Having received the ball from a Rooney corner, Defoe first failed to strike from 7-yards out before he managed to hit the back of the net, only to be rightly declared offside.

Valter Birsa then, got two free kicks for Slovenia in quick succession as David James' only real test of the day came from set pieces, which he managed to keep at bay. It was the subdued Rooney then, who came close to scoring, through on goal from a Lampard pass, only to agonizingly hit the base of the post!

With England failing to score a second, Slovenia almost punished them with a triple-shot in the 68th minute, only for first Terry and then Johnson to produce clean blocks as England were given a rude awakening. Capello brought on Joe Cole to huge cheers from the crowd in the 71st minute for a visibly limping Rooney, as the Englishmen looked to put the game beyond any doubt.

With the game going into its final 15 minutes and with tiredness setting in, both teams looked content with the scoreline, as the game ended 1-0 in favour of England. It was heartbreak for Slovenia though, who at the final whistle might have thought they have progressed, only to know about Donovan's goal in injury time in Pretoria and their resulting expulsion from the World Cup as a result.

England, on the other hand, have definitely survived the day, but bigger challenges will come in the future and they have not quite convinced they are up to face the likes of Germany and Argentina. They would certainly take heart from the performance though, and with the Defoe-Rooney pairing looking good, you cannot write Capello's men off.

Teams:

England: James, Upson, Terry, Cole, Johnson, Lampard, Barry, Gerrard, Milner, Defoe (Heskey 86'), Rooney (Cole 72')

Slovenia: Handanovic, Cesar, Suler, Jokic, Brecko, Radosavljevic, Koren, Kirm (Matavz 79'), Birsa, Novakovic, Ljubijankic (Dedic 62')

England 1-0 Slovenia (Defoe 23')

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Also Read:

England 1-0 Slovenia - Live Commentary

USA 1-0 Algeria - Match Report

Rooney Photograph Copyright: Shaun Brooks

Defoe & Lampard Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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