The US got almost the best possible draw. Based on the three other pots of teams, the US got the best possible picks from two pots. When looking at the pot containing the African and South American teams, I believe that Algeria was the weakest possible opponent. Likewise, Slovenia seemed to be the weakest possible team from the European pot. In regard to the seeded teams every team was a nightmare except for South Africa. England isn’t significantly tougher than any of the other teams, and I would rather have them than Spain or Brazil for instance.
So on paper I feel that the US could only have gotten a better draw by getting South Africa from the seeded teams. I would also say that on paper and based on the Fifa rankings, the US goes through in second place behind England into the group stages. Of course on any given day you never know what is going to happen. It is also important to look at Algeria and Slovenia and recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Any team that makes it to the World Cup finals has to be taken seriously and is not a pushover.
When looking more closely at Algeria, they have the talent to pull off an upset against the US. I don’t think they have a shot of beating England, but they have a couple of players that could rise above and punish the US. A large portion of the Algerian National Team squad comes from Algerian based teams. However, they do have at least nine players on 1st division teams throughout Europe, although most of them are not starters. They also have some players in lower divisions throughout Europe.
The only name I recognized on the Algerian National Team Roster was Kamel Ghilas, who competes with Jozy Altidore at Hull City for playing time. I have seen him play a few times, and he has the speed and scoring ability to hurt the US. That being said, he isn’t considered an amazing talent. Besides Ghilas, Algeria have a player named, Mourad Meghni, who played for the French U-21 team and was considered “le petit Zidane”. Although he hasn’t lived up to billing while playing in Italy, if he plays like Zidane at the World Cup the US could get hurt. They also have Madjid Bougherra, who is a quality defensive midfielder playing for Rangers in Scotland. Luckily, they do not have a quality goalkeeper or defenders.
In terms of accomplishments, the Algerians have not achieved much success in the recent past. They played the likes of Gambia, Liberia, Rwanda, and Zambia in qualifying. The only teams that were respectable were Egypt and Senegal. In addition they got through to the World Cup based on away goals after losing two to zero in Cairo against the Egyptians. Scraping by to get into the World Cup and losing your last qualifying match does not send a signal of strength. I definitely see the US beating them, but it will not be easy.
Slovenia might seem like the tougher opponent because they are a European squad, but their talent level seems similar to that of the Algerian National Team. I do think, however, that Slovenia will be a tougher team because of their organization.
I did not recognize any players on the Slovenian National Team Squad. They have no Premier League players and only one player on a major team, Inter Milan. Of course, he is young and gets very little playing time. Most of the players are members of lower division teams in the major European countries or in the top division of lesser European leagues. They don’t have any major players, but they also don’t have many weak players. In addition they don’t have a strong goalkeeper.
Their recent accomplishments haven’t been that spectacular. In qualifying they did have to play both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They also played Northern Ireland, San Marino, and Poland. None of those teams are very strong, and San Marino is a joke. The Czech Republic has been on a downward slope with aging players, but are still a quality team. Slovakia are solid and have a couple of top players like Martin Skrtel from Liverpool. Slovenia came in second to Slovakia in their group, but won a playoff against Russia, who I consider to be a very strong team. However, they won on away goals, and Russia played very badly in both games. In the last game the Russians were eventually playing 9 on 11, and Slovenia could still only muster one goal. I would say that the US has a strong probability of tying this team. I don’t see this team beating the US, but I also don’t see the US breaking them down and beating them.
My predictions at this point would be that: Algeria loses all three games, England wins all three games, Slovenia ties one, wins one, and loses one, and the US ties one, wins one, and loses one. Goal differential, etc. would then determine whether Slovenia or the US goes through. I predict that the US loses to England 2 to 1, beats Algeria 2 to 0, and ties Slovenia 1 to 1. What do you think?