World Cup 2010 - Behind Enemy Lines: Underdog tag suits US

Wed, 09 Jun 13:14:00 2010

We check out the latest news from England's World Cup Group C opponents, Algeria, Slovenia and USA, with the big kick-off in South Africa fast approaching.

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UNITED STATES (June 12, Rustenburg)

June 9: Clint Dempsey is revelling in his side's underdog status ahead of Saturday's big clash with England and the Fulham ace believes his side have the players capable of causing an upset. He said: "We stick to what we are good at...we have been the underdogs with both Fulham and the US and the most important thing is to have the kind of players who believe they can win no matter who they are playing against."

June 8: Shot stopper Tim Howard is the latest goalkeeper to hit out at Adidas's Jabulani World Cup ball, branding it "terrible". Landon Donovan also waded into the debate: "I think a lot of times the ball doesn't fly true and it puts your defenders under a lot of pressure," he said. "So we are going to have to do some work this week, just judging the ball better, so we are more comfortable against England."

June 7: Jozy Altidore has returned to training as he looks to recover from an ankle injury ahead of the States' opener against England on Saturday. The forward, whose ankle did not appear to be strapped up, took part in a five-a-side practice game and then did some extra running with the coaching staff after the training session.

June 6: Following their 3-1 friendly win over Australia, Landon Donovan claims Wayne Rooney is a spent force. "He is probably worn out after giving his all in so many matches in a demanding season - injuries too are all part of that," the US striker said.

June 5: Former US great Alexi Lalas had a dig at England's opinion of themselves: "With all respect to England, I think they have a good team but they maybe are not as good as they think they are."

June 4: A scan on striker Jozy Altidore's ankle revealed that he has only sustained a light strain and will be fit for the opener against England, although he may be rested in the build-up. The USA Soccer Federation said: "Altidore's status is considered day-to-day, and he will undergo a fitness test Friday to determine his availability for the June 5 friendly against Australia."

June 3: Defender Jonathan Spector has told his team-mates to stop worrying about his former Manchester United team-mate and concentrate on their own game: “He’s certainly a very talented player, we all know that. But he’s not the only player on England that has ability; they’re a good side. We haven’t really gone over tactically how we’re going to approach the game, but I think it’s important not just to focus on them, we need to be concerned with ourselves."

ALGERIA (June 18, Cape Town)

June 9: Algeria coach Rabah Saadane is still ruing the loss of playmaker Mourad Meghni ahead of their opener against Slovenia on Sunday. "He is the centrepiece in the team for his technical and moral qualities," Saadane told L'Expression. "I wanted to take him to the World Cup but fate decided otherwise."

June 7: Algeria star Madjid Bougherra says Rio Ferdinand's injury is a massive blow for England. "Rio Ferdinand's horror knee injury is a disaster for England - and a tragedy for the player," Bougherra said. "He was about to kick off probably the last and most important World Cup of his career."

June 6: Algeria beat United Arab Emirates 1-0 in a friendly thanks to Karim Ziani's second-half penalty, ending a run of four consecutive losses for the Desert Hawks.

June 5: Algeria coach Rabah Saadane claimed that his team's goals for the year have already been fulfilled by making the World Cup, saying that all they wanted to do now was put on a good show for Africa and the Arab world.

June 4: Midfielder Hassan Yebda and centre-back Habib Bellaid both missed training on Friday ahead of Saturday's friendly against UAE. Yebda sat out with a hamstring strain, while the reason for Bellaid's absence was not specified.

June 2: Goalkeeper Mohamed Lamine Zemmamouche was the only exclusion as Algeria finalised their 23-man squad for the World Cup, dropping out of the party that had been preparing in Switzerland and Germany. The decision last week to withdraw Lazio midfielder Mourad Meghni because of persistent injury left coach Rabah Saadane with just 24 players and Saadane had the simple tasking of reducing his goalkeepers from four to three for the trip to South Africa. The list includes nine players who have switched their allegiance from France to the north African country after previously being capped at junior level by the French. Algeria's squad features just three home based players and none from newly crowned league champions Mouloudia Alger.

June 1: Sochaux midfielder Ryad Boudebouz believes he can fill the gap left by the injury to Mourad Meghni that has ruled the Lazio playmaker out of the tournament. Former France U19 international Boudebouz, 20, said: I want to be more than just a member of the group. I want to play and contribute. I know what I can do in the playmaker position just behind the strikers. The coach hasn’t exactly selected me for my defensive qualities. He knows I don't like defending."

SLOVENIA (June 23, Port Elizabeth)

June 9: England have been warned not to underestimate minnows Slovenia by one of their former stars. Zlatko Zahovic said: “Whatever happens we will get out of that group.  And do you know why? Because we are stronger than both the US and the England teams. Remember how easily we defeated Russia in the play-off games?  We were so much better than the Russians.  I do not think that even their best player, Andrei Arshavin, could compete for a place in our squad. So, we will go further – and then see what is going to be next for us.”

June 8: Captain Robert Koren has thanked former club West Bromwich Albion, who he left at the end of the season, for helping him achieve his World Cup dream. "I have left West Bromwich now but I am very grateful to them that I was able to play first-team football and stay with the Slovenian national team," he told Express and Star. "Had I been out of the team then who knows if I would have kept my place. But the manager picked me and I am glad I was able to keep my place for my club and country."

June 7: Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek declares striker Zlatan Ljubijankic fit to start his side's World Cup opener against Algeria. "I am happy that the injury to Zlatan Ljubijankic is not a serious one and he will be fit for the opening game against the Algerians," he said. "There is room for progress in several departments, especially when we don't have the upper hand, but overall I am satisfied with our build-up for the World Cup."

June 6: Slovenia striker Milivoje Novakovic sends out a warning to their Group C rivals. The Cologne ace said: "We are once again proving that we are a collective unit. It is true that without such support, the team would not play so well. It is important that we are all healthy and unscathed after this game. It is important that the team won. It's good for confidence. Our goal is the second round, and we will try to achieve that."

June 5: A good 3-1 win over New Zealand adds a bit of confidence ahead of the finals. Milivoje Novakovic impressed with a brace against a Kiwi side whose team-sheet reads like an English lower-league select,.

June 3: Slovenia play their first match in three months against New Zealand on Friday. Their last outing before that was a 4-1 win over Qatar in early March. The match before that, of course, was November's play-off win over Russia that secured their place in South Africa.

June 1: Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek has picked the final 23-man World Cup squad that was widely expected. With a fully fit clutch of first-choice players, Kek has kept faith with the players who led the team through qualifying to reach the World Cup for only the second time. Bochum striker Zlatko Dedic, Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and Robert Koren, who was recently released by West Bromwich Albion, are included as expected.

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