Algeria and Slovenia Pose Danger
The jubilation many US fans felt with the World Cup draw was justified. The US drew the lowest seeded team (England), the weakest team in Pot three (Algeria) and Slovenia who is one of the weaker (but certainly not the weakest) teams from Pot four. So basically, the US got a dream group.
But one thing lost in the analysis by American writers and bloggers is that the US itself is one of the weaker teams in the upcoming World Cup. All we know from the draw, is England the lowest seeded side, got the easiest draw of any seed. As far as the other three teams in the group, anything can happen, but none of the three will threaten England unless something unforeseen happens.
England and Slovenia played a friendly of note recently at Wembley. It was a close encounter with Slovenia playing well in large spells but ultimately coming up short largely because of a Wayne Rooney dive that drew a penalty kick. A Slovene side that defeated Russia over two legs will not be an easy out in any major tournament as some may think. Add to that the consistent trouble the US has had with Eastern European sides in the World Cup, and perhaps we should have been wishing and hoping for France or Portugal.
Slovenia is an organized, tactical side that can beat better teams because they rarely lose their shape or composure in matches. The US, by comparison loses its shape easily and has a discipline problem in big matches.
Algeria was without a doubt the best possible team for the US to draw from Pot three. This point is in my mind not even debatable. That having been said, the Algeria squad is filled with several good European b based players, and in my opinion they are as talented though less organized than the United States.
Current form as of December 2009 would see Slovenia as being more formidable than the United States as a potential trouble spot for England. Slovenia has beaten Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic since the summer and played England very close at Wembley. But current form in December means little in June.
When it comes down to it, if the US finds some degree of consistency they will advance. If they struggle as they have in stretches of CONCACAF play, the door is open for Slovenia and perhaps Algeria.
The United States got a favorable draw. But for a team with as many obvious question marks as the US, an “easy” draw is impossible. Balanced perspective is needed on the US chances going into 2010.