JOHANNESBURG - England finally played near its best Wednesday at the World Cup and the United States poked in an injury-time goal, enough to put both teams into the round of 16 with 1-0 victories.
Both the English and Americans came into their final Group C matches with two points from two draws – one against each other. They both needed wins to guarantee advancement, and they both got them.
In Group D, Germany beat Ghana, 1-0, at Soccer City but both still advanced, making the Ghanaians the first African team to reach the round of 16 at this year’s tournament. Australia defeated Serbia, 2-1, in Nelspruit in the other match.
Jermain Defoe scored for England against Slovenia in Port Elizabeth, and Landon Donovan did the job for the United States against Algeria in Pretoria.
Defoe scored England’s second goal of the tournament in the 23rd minute, sending a right-foot volley from James Milner’s cross past Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
“This team, this spirit, played together and tried together,” England coach Fabio Capello said. “I am really happy because I found the team I know. We now go forward. We can play against all the teams because the mind is now free.”
Before the goal, the English players again looked nervous and lacked any fluidity. But after taking the lead, the 1966 world champions dominated and could have scored more.
“It’s been difficult for the supporters because they weren’t happy with the performances,” Defoe said. “A lot of the top teams have struggled so it was important to keep the spirit, which we have done.”
The 1-0 result could have still seen Slovenia through, but the late American win changed things dramatically.
In the next round, England will play three-time champion Germany. The Americans will face Ghana.
Donovan beat Algeria goalkeeper Rais Bolhi in the first minute of injury time after Clint Dempsey’s shot from close range was saved.
The goal was Donovan’s fourth at the World Cup, equaling Bert Patenaude’s American record.
“I’m shocked,” Donovan said. “Clint made a good run in the middle, the ball fell to me ... time kind of stopped. You can’t miss from there.”
The United States nearly had another goal, but Dempsey’s 21st-minute tap-in was whistled away for offside, even though television replays appeared to show it to be fair.
“We finished first in our group,” United States coach Bob Bradley said. “Five points. Didn’t lose a match. So we’re ready.”
Algeria, which has never advanced from the group stage at the World Cup, finished last with one point.
Three-time champion Germany hasn’t looked as dominating as it did in its opening win over Australia, but the team still did enough to get through.
The Germans have never been eliminated from the World Cup at the opening stage.
Mesut Oezil scored the lone goal, sending a hard shot from outside the area into the net in the 60th minute and giving Germany six points and first place. Ghana finished ahead of Australia on goal difference.
Tim Cahill and Brett Holman scored in the second half for Australia, while Marko Pantelic pulled one back for Serbia.
Also, FIFA put 5,000 tickets for two round of 16 matches back on sale after South Africa and France were eliminated.