PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — A revived England made the round of the 16 at the World Cup on Wednesday, beating Slovenia 1-0 on Jermain Dafoe's goal in the 23rd minute.
The victory gave England second place in Group C behind the United States, which beat Algeria 1-0. Slovenia entered the day the surprise leader in the group but finished with four points to five for the U.S. and England.
Playing far more aggressively than they did in draws with the Americans and Algerians, the English went ahead when Defoe put in James Milner's cross from five yards out with a right-footed shot.
Now a squad that was among the pre-tournament favorites can take a breath, having moved on and avoided a humiliating early exit.
"This team, this spirit, played together and tried together," England coach Fabio Capello said. "I am really happy because I found the team I know. We now go forward. We can play against all the teams because the mind is now free."
Bad defense by Slovenia handed Defoe another chance in the opening minute of the second half, but he flicked the ball wide off Gareth Barry's headed pass.
Slovenia's best chance to tie the game came in the 68th minute after Barry lost possession and Terry and Johnson blocked shots from Zlatko Dedic and Milivoje Novakovic.
"It's been difficult for the supporters because they weren't happy with the performances," Defoe said. "A lot of the top teams have struggled so it was important to keep the spirit, which we have done."
The smallest nation in the tournament, plucky Slovenia beat Algeria and then built 2-0 lead on the United States before giving up two second-half goals for a 2-2 draw. Against England, the talent difference against England quickly became apparent.
Slovenia still had a chance to advance, even with a loss, but when the Americans scored a goal in injury time against Algeria to win that match it also knocked Slovenia out of the tournament.
"This is indescribable, but this is sport," Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said. "I can only hope our sport will be able to gain from this defeat. Our (players) should be left alone for a while as they are feeling very hard moments."
Kek said he hoped Slovenia soccer would benefit from getting so close to the final 16.
"I hope these players will be role models for (those) who might play for Slovenia in the future," he said. "They are maturing a lot and they will come to a point where they will play their best. We have created huge potential and it's up to us to use it. We need to benefit from this."