JOHANNESBURG, June 16 – The United States will be looking to topple unlikely Group C leaders Slovenia from their perch on Friday with forward Clint Dempsey saying defeat will virtually send the US home.
"If we lose we’re pretty much done," admitted Fulham’s Dempsey, whose goal in the 1-1 draw against England has already gone down in World Cup folklore after goalkeeper Robert Green’s fumble.
"We can’t lose this next game. We have to get something from it."
Thanks to Dempsey’s lucky strike, the US took a point from their draw against the English in their opening game, while Slovenia edged Algeria 1-0 to lead the group.
"It’s a good start but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t follow it up," US midfielder Landon Donovan said.
"In all likelihood, if we lose we are out of the tournament."
Slovenia, the smallest nation at the World Cup, will book themselves a Last 16 berth if they can beat the States, but coach Bob Bradley is expecting a tactical battle at Ellis Park with opposite number Matjaz Kek.
Compared to the frantic pace of the 1-1 draw against England, Bradley expects his players to have to show more patience.
"The Slovenia game might be more of a chess match," said Bradley.
"They are a hard-working team.
"They are organised and have the ability to sit back a little more and still get you on the counter."
The Americans expect to have US goalkeeper Tim Howard, who bruised ribs against England after a tackle from striker Emile Heskey, back to face Slovenia after passing a medical examination.
Bradley was pleased at how his young team coped well with seven players making their first World Cup appearance and kept their focus despite falling behind to the goal from England.
"The mentality of the group is strong," Bradley said.
"We have been hardened along the way and we believe that we can play against tough teams.
"We know the mentality of how 90 minutes works."
Slovenia captain Robert Koren, who scored the winner against Algeria, says he is relishing the chance to take on the United States with a place in the knock-out phase at stake and has seen nothing to fear from the Americans.
"Both teams put in a lot of energy but there were a lot of mistakes," said the 29-year-old.
"We saw good things and bad things and our coaching staff will try to get as much information out of that as possible.
"We have confidence after the win against Algeria and we will give them both a good game.
"Hopefully after the match with the USA we will still be top of the group."
Key to the match
The United States are a hard-working side, but having been gifted a goal against England after the fumble by Green Slovenia’s defence will not be so generous.
The Americans need to score goals if they are to make any significant impact at this World Cup while the Slovenians will be looking to test US goalkeeper Howard at every opportunity.