PORT ELIZABETH - England insist their
dire World Cup start is behind them and they can go on to win
the tournament having salvaged their campaign with a sprightly
1-0 win over Slovenia on Wednesday.
After two dour draws in their opening matches, England
progressed in second place in Group C behind the United States,
who came top by virtue of goals scored, after a much-improved,
at times panicky, performance in Port Elizabeth.
Midfielder Frank Lampard said history had shown that results
of group matches were insignificant in the knockout rounds and
England were still contenders to lift the World Cup.
They next face Group D winners Germany in Bloemfontein on
"Our performance has given us a lot to build on. We've seen
many times with big teams that you often start these tournaments
a bit cagey but come good and strong," he said.
"It starts here - it's a knockout. How you played in the
group didn't mean anything ... it's pure knockout football.
"It's about performing. When you're only four games away
from something special, it can focus the mind," Lampard added.
Striker Jermain Defoe was recalled to the starting lineup
and justified his selection after 23 minutes when he converted a
delightful cross from James Milner, who was also drafted in to
reenergise the flagging side.
England were always in control against the Slovenians, with
Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and John Terry standing out in an
action-packed first half.
The performance was far from perfect, however, with plenty
of missed chances, some wayward passing and a few panicky
moments in defence. Rooney showed promise but was still far from
the scintillating form he showed last season in the Premier
Lampard said England's players had accepted the tide of
criticism about their poor start but had risen to the occasion
and showed mettle when it counted most.
"When you get to this stage, you have to be big enough to be
stand up to it, you can't have off days," he said.
"From the start there was a determination, a big feeling.
There was something about us. If you take a bit of stick you
have to react and there was determination in the way we played."
Joe Cole, who was widely tipped to start but came on as a
second-half substitute, said England could regain the form that
steered them through qualifying with nine wins from 10 games.
"Coming into a game with so much tension is tough," he
added. "We'll play with more confidence because we rediscovered
the spirit. It's a nice start but now we need to push on and try
to win this World Cup."
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