"Talk is cheap." That's what American goalkeeper Tim Howard said in response to a Slovenian midfielder guaranteeing victory for his country over the US on Friday's meeting. "A lot of boxers talk, too, and they're looking up at the lights. And the next thing they know, they're trying to figure out how they got there."
The shit-talking Slovenian was Andrej Komac, who's riding a high after he and his peeps beat Algeria last Sunday to take three points and the lead in the Group C standings. The Americans, thanks to Howard's brilliance in front of the net and Clint Dempsey's game-tying goal against England, sit with just one point.
Friday's 9:00 a.m. will go a long way in determining who will advance to the knockout stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Both teams are more than lucky to be sitting where they are -- points-wise. Both Slovenia and the United States were the benefactors of some shaky goalkeeping from their adversaries.
The United States only tied England because of Robert Green's gaffe on Dempsey's strike, while Slovenian midfielder Robert Koren literally snuck one by Algeria's goalie.
So what to make of this matchup? The Americans are deeper than Slovenia (which is sad in and of itself), and are thus favored to win this matchup. Slovenia is very capable of pulling off the victory; they eliminated Russia in the playoff just to qualify for the World Cup.
The US will once again look to Howard to defend the nets, as well as lead the defense. Slovenia's offense will not come close to replicating what England brought in the first game, so the US shouldn't be as occupied on defense as they were this past Saturday. Landon Donovan and Dempsey should have more freedom to create plays from midfield and distribute the ball.
Also, US head coach Bob Bradley has to learn to make his substitutions early enough so the players coming on can get into the game. Slovenia didn't get their goal until the 79th minute of their match. They didn't look all that impressive against a mediocre at best Algerian side.
The Yanks basically need all three points in order to qualify for the next round. A loss or draw against Slovenia, and the US players will be going home earlier than they would have liked.
Slovenia already did its part by beating Algeria, and a win against the US will automatically advance them to the next round.
Who's going to next round? Who's going home from the party early? Friday will essentially answer these two questions.
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