Slovenia won on Saturday without taking the pitch.
With Group C's two pre-tournament favorites drawing in Rustenburg, the Slovenes have a chance to take the group lead. Of course, the Algerians have that same opportunity, but let's address that in a moment, as the Slovenes' style also makes the lost point from Saturday's draw important.
When I say lost point, I'm talking about that third point that disappears from a match's rewards when teams draw, giving each side one point while a third point (that would normally go to a winner) drifts into a kind of evaluation purgatory. Each time this happens, fewer points are left to be distributed amongst the group's quartet, a scenario that disproportionately benefits Slovenia.
Slovenia is a team that can play out a draw against anybody but don't necessarily have the firepower to always play for three points. They're strength is in organization and effort in defense but they relay on opportunism in attack. If, with England and the United States having already drawn, we consider the possibility teams pic-up another draw, max-ing out at five points - potentially winning the group with five points - then Slovenia becomes viable contenders to take the group.
Part of that viability is skill, and part is approach. Slovenia's skill is reflected in their 18:4 goal ratio in UEFA World Cup qualifying, their goals allowed the lowest total in the region (amongst teams that played ten matches). While not an expansive team, the 18 goals (scoring multiple goals against the likes of Slovakia) show that players like Milivoje Novakovic could take advantage of the type of defensive errors we saw committed Saturday by the United States and England. Algeria, as they showed in the African Cup of Nations, are prone to similarly detrimental errors.
This statistical record is not an anomaly, with the Slovenes showing an aptitude for identifying opposition weakness and opportunistically exploiting them. In the qualifying playoff against Russia, Guss Hiddink's side had fitness concerns and form issues with their center halves. Slovenia kept that two-legged tie close and eventually got a goal from Zlatko Dedic that exploited that advantage. That goal kept one of the more talented teams in the world out of the World Cup.
If the Slovenes win Sunday, they can play conservatively against the U.S. and England knowing that two draws cap the group's ceiling will be five points - knowing they still have the capability of taking full points should the States and England keep the back door open. And if that continues to happen, Slovenia wins Group C. But this scenario depends on beating Algeria, a team that is not only considered to be the group's weakest team but is also on the edge of turmoil.
Earlier this week, then-captain Yazid Mansouri threatened to walk-out of Algerian camp amidst concerns about how he was to be used in the World Cup. Mansouri was said to have his bags packed, ready to leave, but was convinced to stay, though he has been subsequently dropped from the first team and replaced as captain by Antar Yahia.
As troublesome for supporters of the Desert Foxes: Rabah Saadane is intent on going back to the break three with which he is most comfortable - a back three that was disastrous at the Cup of Nations. Then, Algeria started 3-5-2 and was torn apart in the tournament opener by Malawi, then ranked in the 90s by FIFA. Algeria then switched to a four man back line that its defenders use at the club level and went on a run to the tournament's semifinals. Now comes word that Saadane has, amidst injury considerations, crafted a 3-6-1, with Yahia, Mahjid Bougherra and Rafik Halliche at the back.
If Algeria ultimately starts 4-5-1 or 4-4-2, they will be underdogs. With players like Abdelkader Ghezzal and Karim Ziani, they can be dangerous underdogs. But if Algeria goes three at the back, Slovenia becomes prohibitive favorites to get the three points that could vault them to winning Group C.