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World Cup – Day 13, Group C

USA 1 – Algeria 0

The USA was clearly the better team, but Algeria played strong and steadfast defense, and the USA could not finish the chances they got.  The Americans escaped from the gift-an-early-goal pattern when a gorgeous Algerian strike on 7′ beat goalie Tim Howard but clanged off the crossbar. A Clint Dempsey goal was ruled out wrongly for offside in the middle of the period.  The second half was more of the same.  The Americans did the bulk of the attacking, and had a few chances that should have been put away.  Howard was never really tested in the second half, although there were a few Algerian chances that looked dangerous but didn’t materialize.

The USA got the justly deserved goal on a counter-attack in stoppage time.  Landon Donovan got the ball in midfield and sent it down the right wing. The ball was crossed to Jozy Altidore, the Algerian goalie challenged, and the ball bounced out to Donovan on the penalty spot. Donovan calmly slotted it into the left corner, and the USA advances.

England 1 – Slovenia 0

In many ways this game was similar to the USA/Algeria game, except that the only goal came early. England played with more spirit and unity than we saw in earlier games, and was in control for most of the game. England manager Capello’s two changes for this match combined for the only goal in the 23rd minute. James Milner drove down the left wing and crossed to Jermaine Defoe on the edge of the 6 yard box who put it away.

The USA and England both had 5 points in the group, and both had +1 goal difference.  So, the USA advances from the group on the goal scored tie-break, and England advance second. Slovenia finishes third on 4 points, and has to be asking what could have been.  They outplayed both England and the USA for much of those games, yet got only a point from them and are going home.

USA plays the second qualifier (update: Ghana) in Group D on Saturday afternoon, and England plays the first qualifier (update: Germany) on Sunday morning.

Update: The USA now has a relatively clean path to the semi-finals.  They can beat Ghana, and if so the face the winner of South Korea/Uruguay in the quarters. Both games are eminently winnable!

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