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Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Thursday, 24 June 2010 16:09 UK

World Cup 2010: Improving England can trouble Germany

James Milner, Jermain Defoe and Matthew Upson
Milner, Defoe and Upson played key roles against Slovenia

Alan Shearer
By Alan Shearer
Former England striker and World Cup pundit

England's World Cup is up and running after the win over Slovenia but, with Germany to play in the last 16, it is only going to get more difficult from here.

The Germans are well organised, with a good forward line in Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose. It will be a tough game, made even more fascinating by the footballing history that binds the two nations.

But Joachim Loew's side are definitely vulnerable and one we can get at. The Germans lack a bit of pace at the back and I am confident we can take advantage of that.

I am looking forward to Sunday's game in Bloemfontein but I am just relieved England are through to the second round. I am sure the sentiment is shared by people back home.

Our performance in the 1-0 win over Slovenia was a lot, lot better than against the United States and Algeria in our first two group games. In fact, I would give England a mark of 8 out of 10 for Wednesday's display in Port Elizabeth.


England coach Fabio Capello stuck with a 4-4-2 formation, which many people, including myself, wanted him to change, but it worked.

Why? In my view, the players were a lot more rigid when it came to their positions.

Steven Gerrard, for example, was out on the left again. It might not be his best position but against Slovenia he stayed there, rather than wandering inside as he had done against Algeria on Friday. As a result, he had a much bigger influence on the game.

The players Capello brought in - Jermain Defoe, James Milner and Matthew Upson - were all outstanding, too.

Defoe looked sharp, was full of movement and scored the winning goal. What more can you ask from a striker?

His pace gives England so many options. He is a natural finisher, too, as we saw from his 22nd-minute strike from a Milner cross.

Milner's deliveries into the box were exactly what you want as a forward. They invited Defoe and Wayne Rooney to get on the end of them. We have not seen anything like that from England until now.

Rooney also improved significantly on his previous performances in South Africa. He got involved more for a start and got around the pitch a lot more. He looked hungry for a goal, which was probably the only thing missing from his display.

Jermain Defoe

Defoe puts England ahead against Slovenia

England could have scored four or five against Slovenia but I am not too concerned it ended in only a 1-0 win. The time to start worrying is when England do not create chances.

There were a few tense moments before the final whistle but the defence did its job when it had to.

Upson made one brilliant block and looked solid alongside Terry at the heart of defence. I would stick with those two at the back against Germany even though Jamie Carragher is back from suspension.

It cannot have been easy for Upson to come into the team, knowing that first Ledley King and then Carragher were picked ahead of him after Rio Ferdinand was ruled out with a knee injury before the tournament began, but the West Ham centre-back did very well.

Upson took the chance that came his way and he has hold of the shirt now. He deserves to keep it.

The rest of the team can be happy with their efforts, too. Their backs were against the wall and they handled the pressure very well. They will be pleased but nothing more.

Germany will hopefully bring the best out of England and there is definitely more to come from the team

England were in a similar situation against Colombia in the 1998 World Cup. Our final group game was a winner-takes-all encounter for a place in the second round. We won but it was a case of job done, now for the next game.

Back then, finishing second in our group behind Romania meant we had to play Argentina, one of the tournament favourites, in the next round. We ended up losing in one of the most memorable matches of all time.

Only time will tell if England will regret finishing second in their group in 2010. We do not know how exactly the draw will pan out further down the line but, at the moment, it appears we have got a difficult route.

If England get past Germany, Argentina look like being our most likely quarter-final opponents.

But to win the World Cup, you have to beat the best. That goes without saying. You would prefer not to play the bigger teams so early on but Germany will hopefully bring the best out of England and there is definitely more to come from the team.

Alan Shearer was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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see also
Lahm expecting World Cup classic
24 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
England ramp up penalty practice
25 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Beckenbauer sorry for England dig
25 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
England spirit delights Capello
23 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Coach Loew wary of England test
23 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Upson shrugs off Beckenbauer barb
15 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Beckenbauer attacks England style
15 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Highlights - Slovenia 0-1 England
23 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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