PORT ELIZABETH - England finally found
their fighting spirit and along with it a place in the second
round with a battling 1-0 win over feisty Slovenia on Wednesday,
reviving their World Cup ambition.
With criticism at home mounting and hopes of ending a
44-year World Cup drought fading, England finally played with
the determination that had been missing in two timid draws
against the U.S. and Algeria in Group C.
"That result can breed confidence for everyone and keep us
going," midfielder Gareth Barry told reporters.
"I thought we
approached the game well, especially in the first half with the
amount of pressure we took into the game. We played some good
"Now that we are into the knockout stage anything can
happen. We've got to believe in ourselves."
A win over Slovenia would not normally be considered a
springboard to a trip to the World Cup final, but the European
minnows had been the surprise package of tournament sitting atop
the group standings heading into the final matches.
Striker Jermain Defoe rescued England's stuttering campaign
with a first-half strike as the Three Lions went on to dominate
match in a confidence-boosting victory.
"This is a relief. It's a good start," said Joe Cole. "Now
we can push on and try to win this World Cup.
"If we play the way we played today, anything can happen."
Now that a spark has been lit, coach Fabio Capello is
confident that England's competitive spirit will continue to
burn bright through the remainder of the World Cup.
"I saw the team play with the spirit that we lost in games
before this," said Capello. "The performance of the team was
very good and we had a lot of chances to score the second goal
but we didn't.
"This is the spirit that I remember in the qualification
games. We played hard. Every moment we met the ball, we made the
"I'm sure we will play with more confidence because we
rediscovered the spirit."
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