England ready to fight for World Cup survival

Published June 22, 2010

| Associated Press

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — Coach Fabio Capello won't bench John Terry for Wednesday's crucial World Cup game against Slovenia despite his annoyance at the former team captain's outspoken comments about England's poor performances.

Capello said there was no possibility he would leave out Terry as a punishment because he is "a most important player."

England is in danger of going out in the first round if it fails to beat Slovenia. There have been widespread reports of unrest within the squad and players questioning Capello's methods, tactics and selections.

On Monday at England's training base in Rustenburg, midfielder Frank Lampard said Terry's comments were just in keeping with the ex-captain's style and the team is on the same page.

"A rift honestly isn't there," Lampard said. "When things get difficult in football — results and performances — people will try to say there are factions (within the squad) and we have to make sure we stay very united.

"We're not happy with how we're playing as a group. Nobody is."

He said Capello has "given us our confidence back."

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

England's usual World Cup worries at this stage revolve around the fact it hasn't won the title since 1966. The more pressing concern this time is the fact that not since 1958 in Sweden has England failed to advance past the group stage once it's qualified for the tournament.

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 surprising 0-0 tie with Algeria.

England didn't qualify for the World Cup in 1974, 1978 and 1994. But when the English have made it, the team usually performs relatively well — losing in the semifinals in 1990, the quarterfinals in 1962, 1986, 2002 and 2006 and the second round in 1982 and 1998.

On Tuesday, West Ham defender Matthew Upson called on England "to get the best out of themselves" against Slovenia. Upson said he has been told by Capello that he will start the match.

"We had some spare time in Cape Town and everyone went off and reflected on what happened," Upson said. "We have had to put that behind us and move on to the next game."

Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek also offered a tidbit about his starting team.

"Usually I never speak about my first 11 but this time I can say that Mavric (Matej Mavric-Rozic) will definitely play if (Marko) Suler doesn't make it," he said. "Perhaps I will give this information because Fabio Capello has told everyone that Matthew Upson will start."

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 U.S. 2-0 in its second game, but the Americans fought back for a 2-2 draw.

With the field at Port Elizabeth still tender from three days of rain just over a week ago, both teams trained elsewhere Tuesday — England at Rustenburg and Slovenia at a local school in Port Elizabeth. It was third match here in a row in which teams were not allowed to practice at the stadium on the day before a game.

That was just as well, as rain fell late Tuesday morning and early afternoon. The forecast for match time Wednesday afternoon, however, was for sunny skies and highs in the 60s.

England captain Stephen Gerrard says the pitch at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has a "few problems."

"I've certainly played on worse," he added.

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AP Soccer Writer Robert Millward contributed to this story.

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