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Group C pole position is vital if England want deep run

| 15.06.2010

If England are to go far at this World Cup, it seems vital that they secure top spot in Group C.

While they are 4/9 favourites ahead of the USA (3/1) to manage this, it should not be overlooked how easily they could come second.

After a draw with the North Americans in the opening group game, it may be goal difference which decides who claims the final pole position.

Each nation would expect to beat Slovenia and Algeria and should that happen England must hope Wayne Rooney (6/4 for top scorer), Emile Heskey (12/1) and Frank Lampard (5/1) start to find the net.

History shows us that if England fail to finish first it could mean an earlier trip home than expected.

The clearest example of this came in 2002 when a 0-0 draw with Nigeria in the last group game meant England finished behind Sweden in the pecking order.

A surprise early exit for reigning champions France meant Sven Goran Eriksson’s team had the relatively easy task of dispatching Denmark in the round of 16 – which they did 3-0 – but eventual-winners Brazil lay in wait in the last eight and England were sent packing.

Had England finished top of their group they would have instead played Senegal and then Turkey in the same knock-out matches – a distinctly easier run.

In 1998 England conspired to lose to Romania in the last minute of their second group game and had to settle for runners-up spot. A well-equipped Argentina side, rather than a Croatia team yet to properly get going, were their next opponents and England went out.

When England have won their group a simpler path has shown itself. In 1990 they went into the round of 16 from top place and faced Belgium rather than West Germany and, in the quarters, Cameroon instead of Italy.

In 2006 they should have benefited greater from a group victory, when only Ecuador, Portugal and France were in the way of a run to the final.

Whether a depleted squad this time round can muster the rousing displays required to beat a couple of defensive teams will go a long way to deciding England’s potential for lifting the trophy come July 11th (7/1).

First could mean Ghana then Mexico, while second should spell Germany then Argentina. A top or runners-up finish could be the difference between a second round exit (19/10) and a semi-final surge (5/4).

Can England finish top and reach the semi-finals? They are 7/2 to exit at that stage. See the full England Specials market.

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Author

John Klee