England gets good draw

England will open its quest to lift the World Cup by tackling the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday, June 12.

England will open its quest to lift the World Cup by tackling the United States in Rustenburg on Saturday, June 12.

Fabio Capello could not have hoped for much better from a group that will also see the Three Lions tackle Algeria and Slovenia in Group C.

Any clash with the United States is bound to revive memories of that shock defeat during the 1950 tournament in Brazil.

And, as finalists in last summer's Confederations Cup - where they ended Spain's 35-match winning streak - the USA will be confident of causing another sensation.

However, even with Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey in their ranks, England should emerge unscathed from a game that gives them a great start geographically because Capello is hoping to use the area as a training base next summer.

England would probably have wanted to avoid the United States.

However, Capello will no doubt be pleased to be drawn with Algeria and Slovenia.

"With the draw, people will think it is easy but I think we have to respect all of the teams," he said.

"I know from my experience as a player that when you play here (in the World Cup) the pressure is different and the mentality is different."

"We have to respect the teams we have to play against."

"For me, no groups are easy. We have to play the first game which will be the most difficult. If we win the first game then in the second you play in a more relaxed way because you don't need the points to qualify."

As for how much he knows of Algeria, Capello was brutally honest.

"Nothing," he said. "I saw only some moments of the play-off games against Egypt. I saw goals they scored but not too much to understand much about them."

"For me it's important to see a lot of videos of games they have played."

Capello revealed England are likely to face Egypt in a friendly on March 3 as preparation for facing Algeria.

While Slovenia, who knocked Russia out of the European play-offs, are a decent side, they lost all three games on their first appearance in the competition in 2002.

In addition, England beat them in a friendly at Wembley last March, when Frank Lampard and Jermain Defoe scored in a 2-1 win.

England will hope to have qualification tied up by the time they meet Slovenia in Port Elizabeth - the match could yet be moved on security grounds - on Wednesday, June 23.

For that they would need to win their first meeting with Algeria, who they will face in Cape Town on Friday, June 18.

The fixture will probably get Capello scrambling to organise a friendly against north African opposition before England depart for South Africa - as well as booking a ticket for the African Nations Cup - as he bids to gain as much information on Algeria as he can, beyond the presence of Portsmouth duo Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda, as well as Madjid Bougherra from Rangers.

As Algeria needed a play-off win over Egypt to reach South Africa, they are widely viewed as the weakest of the five African teams that qualified.

It means thoughts - for fans at least - can start drifting towards the first knock-out round, when a much harder test, against either Germany, Ghana, Australia or Serbia, would await.