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England on verge of SWC exit

2010-06-22 07:38

Port Elizabeth - England's Soccer World Cup woes usually revolve around the pressure of knowing it hasn't won the global title since 1966.

With England to play Slovenia in a Group C match on Wednesday at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, a more telling fact is that it's been 50 years - 1958 in Sweden - that the English have failed to advance past the first round once they've made it to the finals.

Yet that scenario is facing coach Fabio Capello and his apparently discordant English players - a loss to Slovenia would end any chance of England making it to the round of 16. England has two points after a 1-1 draw with the United States and a scoreless stalemate with Algeria.

England didn't qualify for the World Cup in 1974, 1978 and 1994, but when it has made it, the team usually performs relatively well: losing in the semi-finals in 1990, the quarter-finals in 1962, 1986, 2002 and 2006 and the second round in 1982 and 1998.

Its chances Wednesday won't be helped by rumours of a rift between the players and Capello.

But on Monday at England's training base in Rustenburg, midfielder Frank Lampard denied there were any problems with the coach. He said John Terry's emotional talk of a team meeting with Capello after England's poor performance in the 0-0 draw with Algeria was in keeping with ex-captain's style.

"I understand what John is saying because he's passionate," Lampard said. "He's like that as a player. All 23 players deal with things differently. Some people don't want to say too much, some people want to hit things head on. Everyone appreciates that.

"The messages I got on Monday from people was that John was saying some positive things. We will try and hit things head on on the training ground."

After the match against Algeria, England players were booed by their own fans.

Slovenia captain Robert Koren, meanwhile, says England's lackluster performances against the United States and Algeria have made his side more confident of victory.

Koren said his teammates were surprised by the low standard of England's performances so far.

"We know that England is a very good team," Koren said. "They have brilliant players. But we will not be thinking much about England, we will concentrate on our team.

"I watched their games against the U.S. and Algeria and I saw good things and bad things. They didn't show the type of football we expect of them. It gives us some hope. But we will see on Wednesday."

Slovenia had a winning start after a mistake by Algeria goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi handed the team a 1-0 victory, the country's first ever at a World Cup.

The small nation looked as good as in the round of 16 when it led the US 2-0 in its second game, but the Americans fought back for a 2-2 draw.

"Our whole nation is together following our success, it's a big thing back home," Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said. "They are very proud of us and we want to continue making them proud."

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