Bocanegra, Slovenia exchange World Cup warnings

France improbably seems the epicenter of U.S. World Cup news today.

U.S. striker Charlie Davies endured his first tackle and scored his first goal today as he trained with French team Souchaux.

i-c98d19e1d0906f3bf340124010c8aee8-Carlosbocanegra.jpg(AP Photo)

And UCLA product and defender Carlos Bocanegra of Alta Loma, right, had this to say about the chances of the U.S. advancing out of its group:

PARIS (AP) — Carlos Bocanegra is expecting his team to play without fear at the World Cup because coach Bob Bradley has players brimming with confidence.

The U.S. captain says the team’s performance at last year’s Confederations Cup is proof Bradley’s attacking soccer is paying off. And he is certain the Americans can reach the latter stages and cause an upset against any of the top teams in South Africa.

“When it hits the knockout stages it’s a one-off game, and who knows what can happen? We always take the example we beat Spain in the Confederations Cup,” Bocanegra said during an interview with The Associated Press. “Before that we beat Egypt 3-0, the champions of Africa. So on our day we feel like we can beat anybody.”

Bocanegra was part of the American team that was eliminated in the first round four years ago, losing 3-0 to the Czech Republic, holding eventual champion Italy to a 1-1 tie and then losing to Ghana 2-1.

This time the United States opens against England on June 12, plays Slovenia six days later and closes the first round against Algeria on June 23.

“It’s a great chance for us, and we thought we got a fair draw and we have a good chance,” said Bocanegra, a defender for French club Rennes. “We feel like we have a good team and we have gained a lot of confidence and experience over the past four years.”

Having played more than 100 Premier League games for Fulham, the 30-year-old defender knows just how passionate English fans are, and he is relishing the first competitive match for the U.S. against England since the Americans’ famous upset win at the 1950 World Cup.

“That is a cool way to kick off the tournament. It’s a big game. They are a country rich in
football history,” Bocanegra said, predicting the game “will be quite highly viewed in the
United States.”

Although Bocanegra is fully settled in France, where he has one year left on his Rennes
contract, he is aware that good performances at the World Cup could earn him a move back to England.

“If you play really well you have a chance to move,” he said. “If something arises there I
would never say, ‘No.’ But I am quite happy in France, actually. I enjoy the style here. I
enjoy the life off the field. But obviously the Premiership is the cream of the crop, right?”

But Slovenia’s captain, below, has warned the U.S. and England not to the Eastern European nation lightly:

WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) — Slovenia captain Robert Koren isn’t afraid of World Cup group rivals England and the United States, setting a target for his team to advance to the knockout round in South Africa.

i-40f7a878967b3c9d320381b17e41b0c7-Koren.jpg(AP Photo).

The Slovenes went home from the 2002 World Cup in disarray after three straight losses and a damaging rift between the coach and the team’s best player. But this Slovenia team, Koren said, is well organized, does not rely on a big star and thrives on being the underdog.

After all, Slovenia wasn’t even supposed to beat Russia in the playoffs.

“A few months back when we met Russia in the playoffs, everyone was saying Slovenia was the underdogs. Slovenia will lose this game. Russia is in the World Cup,” Koren said. “But, at the end of the day, we are in the World Cup, the Russians aren’t and we deserved that.

“It’s difficult to say what is realistic to expect at the World Cup but we are full of confidence. The last seven games we played together we won six of them. We have a great team spirit, we are really good friends and we do everything for each other on the field and that’s the main thing. Our target is to go through the group stage.”

Slovenia faces another Group C underdog, Algeria, in its first game, and then faces the two teams which are expected to make the last 16, the United States and England.

A victory over the Algerians in Polokwane on June 13 would give the nation with a population of only 2 million its first ever World Cup points and that, Koren said, will boost confidence ahead of the tougher games to follow.

“England is the favorite (in the group) and people are saying that USA is the second
favorite,” the midfielder said. “But we are not bothered about these things. We will go into each game, try to win it and try to get points.”

Although Koren is proud to be captain and joked that he is the star of the team, he stressed that this Slovenia lineup won’t be brushed aside in the same way the 2002 squad did when coach Srecko Katanec fell out with Zlatko Zahovic and sent the player home after the team’s opening game.

“It was a massive thing for our country for the national team to get into the World Cup (in
2002) and some bad things happened down there. First of all, we didn’t get the right results and that was a big disappointment because everyone expected that we would at least get some points,” Koren said. “There were problems in the national team between the manager and the players and that was no good for anyone.

“Now it’s completely different. Before, we had one star in the team, Zahovic was our best
player. Now we are trying to play more as a team than have one star in the team. We are really good friends and developing a team spirit.”

Koren, whose goals and consistent performances have helped West Bromwich Albion gain promotion to the Premier League, has played against many of the England players before, both with the national team in a 2-1 loss at Wembley and when West Brom last made it to the top flight two seasons ago.

“It’s a massive game not just for me but for everybody in our team. Of course, I play here in England, so it’s special for me,” he said. “But when you’re playing soccer you’re not thinking this way at all. We will stick with our plan and every player wants to play his part. We will play 11 against 11 and we will try to do our best.

“But of course it will help me a lot that I am playing in England and I will try to use my
experience to help the rest of the team and give the manager some information.”

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!
  • http://www.insidesocal.com/soccer Nick Green

    Well, I mentioned it rather than linked to a story, but yeah, it seemed apt given his progress. As for my “inside source,” well, it was Charlie himself. He tweeted it on Twitter. I should have attributed it.

  • Benny Dargle

    Did you mean to link to a story about Davies and scoring a goal during training today? Is this a scoop from your inside sources at Souchaux?

  • Benny Dargle

    Thanks! I just didn’t see it mentioned elsewhere on the usual sites, so I wondered if I was missing something in your post. Great news.