Slovania’s midfielder Andrej Komac is quoted as saying “We will win this game. I have a good feeling.” Unfortunately for the United States, history is on Slovenia’s side. The U.S. is 3-10-3 against European teams in the group stage (0-2-2 in their last 4 games).
Slovenia is a small country, with a population the size of Houston, Texas. They gained independence in 1991 and won their first-ever World Cup game last Saturday against Algeria. Small country or not, any team that beats a team like Russia and qualifies out of Europe needs to be taken seriously.
by Justin Mertes-Mistretta
The U.S.-England match-up may have been the most anticipated soccer games in recent U.S. history. However, the most important game, in terms of World Cup implications, is against Slovenia. This match will most likely decide the U.S.’s fate in the 2010 World Cup. Win and they will almost surely solidify a spot in the round of 16. Lose and they will find themselves in a bleak situation.
Look for the U.S. to come out aggressive, playing for the win. Slovenia will look to counterattack any chance they get, so the midfield for the U.S. will have to be in top form.
Key players to watch:
- Goalkeeper Tim Howard: U.S. fans across the world held their breath when goalie Tim Howard was kicked in the ribs by England’s Emile Heskey. He has been one of the World Cup’s best goalies and without him the U.S. would in a world of hurt, literally. Don’t be surprised if Slovenia takes some long shots early to test Howard’s ribs.
- Defender Oguchi Onyewu: He played a vital role against England, which was his first full match since injuring his knee back in qualifiers. It remains to be seen how Onyewu’s knee will react to having to play on less than a week’s rest. It’s one thing to have the knee healthy for one game, but the true test is how it will hold up in consecutive games with little time in-between. His importance for this U.S. team cannot be overstated. He is the glue of their back-line.
- Forward Jozy Altidore: I’m expecting big things from number 17 going forward. He had a couple opportunities against England, one being a breakaway that he should have finished. If Altidore wants to be compared to the great forwards in the game today, he has to finish those plays. Wayne Rooney would have hit that shot in his sleep. Altidore has the chance to redeem himself against Slovenia and prove that he is one of the best young strikers in the world.
Prediction: United States 2 – Slovenia 1
This will be an exciting game, as most people do not realize how good Slovenia really is. Their defense will give the U.S. trouble at times and their counterattacking will play a big role if the U.S. can’t improve their play in the midfield. In the end, the United States will have too much firepower for Slovenia.
Read more articles by Justin Mertes-Mistretta at https://www.percysperspective.com/