The build-up to this crucial match was not ideal by a long way. John Terry spoke out of turn in a press conference about the team's tactics amongst other things, landing him in a spot of bother with his manager, Fabio Capello. The Italian called the comments by Terry a 'big mistake', however unlike the fiasco which has surrounded the French team during the last week, John Terry has apologised to Capello, and it would seem England are moving on from the latest distraction.
Neither England nor Slovenia were allowed to train at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium prior to today's match in order to preserve the pitch. Slovenia are the smallest country to play in the 2010 World Cup Finals, and who would have thought going into this match that all four teams in Group C would have a chance of qualifying for the Round of 16? The two previous dismal perfomances by England have failed to ignite this World Cup. After being booed by England fans at the end of Friday's game against Algeria, and with the disruption over the weekend due to John Terry's comments, together with the players own disappointment with their performances in South Africa so far, the players seemed much more lively in this match.
Capello made three changes to his starting line-up which faced Algeria last Friday, with Matthew Upson replacing the suspended Jamie Carragher, James Milner came in for Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Defoe took over from Emile Heskey.
Being drawn as the "away" side in this match, England were required to wear their change strip of all red, something they have not done since 1970.
What a refreshing change in this game in hearing the fans chanting, especially England fans, above the noise of the Vuvuzelas. Fans were firmly behind the team and were in good voice. Fortunately, the players were able to match their fans in terms of passion, as the players showed much more enthusiasm than in their two previous World Cup matches. England needed to win this match to qualify for the Round of 16 in order to avoid relying on the result between the US and Algeria going their way.
In the fourteenth minute Frank Lampard took a freekick from just less than 40 yards out which Slovenia's 'keeper had to dive to his right to save. A minute later there was a nice build-up by the England players, when Rooney sent the ball into the path of Lampard but the Chelsea player was just unable to reach the ball. Glen Johnson tried his luck from long range but the 'keeper was able to stop the shot. Almost immediately the ball was at the other end of the pitch and John Terry had to make a last ditch tackle and conceeded a corner.
With more good passing from England, Milner sent in a lovely cross from the right which Defoe met in front of goal and hit the ball with his shin which went right through Handanovic's hands and into the net. England were playing much better today than they had previously in South Africa. Just before the half-hour mark, Defoe tried for goal number two however the 'keeper made a very good stop, but the ball went back out into play with Gerrard eventually getting a shot which went agonisingly close to crossing the line, but alas, Handanovic managed to throw himself on the ball.
Three minutes before half-time, Slovenia tested David James with a long range freekick, but he was able to punch the ball away, although the flag was raised for offside from Novakovic.
In the first minute of the second half Jermaine Defoe came so close to scoring again after a quick corner was punched away by Handanovic. There was a nice pass by Barry to the Spur's player who tried to flick the ball into Slovenia's goal but the ball went wide. In the 57th minute another corner almost resulted in an England goal with the ball was sent to the far post where Terry rose to head the ball but Handanovic made a good save resulting in another England corner. One minute later Wayne Rooney hit the post in what has so far been for him a frustrating World Cup.
John Terry made a great block from a Slovenia shot in the 68th minute, stopping the ball twice before throwing himself to the ground to try to head the ball away from danger before the ball was hit wide of James' goal. It was a real scare for England who were deservedly ahead in this match. The last period of the match was tense for England as Slovenia attempted to score an equalizer and it was nerve-racking at times. Fortunately England held on for the win and it seemed had won the group with the US drawing 0-0 with Algeria, which as the final whistle blew in Nelson Mandela Bay still had a few minutes remaining. Unbelievably in Pretoria the US went a goal up in the first minute of time added on pushing England into second place in Group C on goal difference.
Going into this match, England had not been knocked out in the World Cup group stage since 1958. Thank goodness they were able to play with more fire and get the need three points in Nelson Mandela Bay. In finishing in second place in Group C, they will now face the mighty Germans in the Round of 16 on Sunday, which will be a tie eagerly anticipated. It was wonderful to see England turn things around this evening and for there to be many smiling English faces at the end of the game, and of course, a happy Italian - Capello.
S Handanovic #1, Suler #4, Cesar #5, Brecko #2, Jokic #13, Koren #8 - Captain, Radosavljevic #18, Birsa #10, Kirm #17 (Matavz 79 mins - #23), Ljubijankic #9 (Dedic 62 mins - #14), Novakovic #11.
Subs Not Used: Filekovic #19, Mavric #22, Pecnik #7, Ilic #6, Seliga #16, Komac #20, Stevanovic #21, Dzinic #3, J Handanovic #12, Krhin #15.
James #1, Upson #15, Terry #6, Johnson #2, A Cole #3, Lampard #8,
Barry #14, Gerrard #4 - Captain,
Milner #16, Defoe #19 (Heskey 86 mins - #21), Rooney #10 (J Cole 72 mins - #11).
Subs Not Used: Green #12, Crouch #9, Wright-Phillips #17, Carrick #22, King #20, Dawson #5, Warnock #13, Lennon #7, Hart #23. (Full Squad)
Slovenia Cautions: Jokic (40 mins), Birsa (79 mins), Dedic (81 mins)
England Caution: Johnson (48 mins)
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)