PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — Just in time, England appeared at the World Cup.
Jermain Defoe knocked in a goal for the revived Three Lions as they beat Slovenia 1-0 on Wednesday, advancing to the tournament's second round.
It was a narrow but welcome escape for England, a pre-tournament favorite that was fighting off talk of internal strife after disappointing ties against the United States and Algeria.
The English needed a victory to move on and they got it, dictating the pace for much of the game. Now they'll play Germany in the second round.
"This team, this spirit, played together and tried together," said England coach Fabio Capello. "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."
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. The U.S. earned first place based on tiebreakers.
Playing 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.
"I'm lost for words to be honest," Defoe said. "What a moment. Everyone was focused before the game. We are through, that's the most important thing."
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.
At the end of the game, relieved England players — who had met with Caello to discuss what went wrong against Algeria — embraced in a group hug.
"I think it was just a show of unity in the team and the determination we've had before this game," Lampard said. "No one wanted to go home with their tails between their legs after the group stage. We wanted go further that that, we want to go all the way."
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 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."
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."