Howard set to face Slovenia

17 June 2010 08:38

USA goalkeeper Tim Howard has recovered from a rib problem and will be fit to face Slovenia on Friday.

The Everton stopper suffered the injury in a collision with England forward Emile Heskey in their 1-1 draw on Saturday but has recovered sufficiently to take his place in the team.

Slovenia midfielder Rene Krhin has an ankle knock and defender Marko Suler, who has struggled with injuries throughout the season, has what coach Matjaz Kek described as "a light difficulty" but he expects both to be available for selection.

Kek's men will be underdogs against the Americans - a country with a population 150 times greater than the small Alpine nation - but they have form for seeing off world superpowers after dumping out Russia in the play-offs.

Kek was not keen to revisit that success as he faced the press but admits the transformation in his team from June 2009 to now has been incredible.

"A year ago we were making preparations for playing San Marino, today we are thinking about the knockout stage in our second match," he said.

"A great step has been taken and our squad has achieved a great evolution. This is not the most important match in our history but it is important and it can establish Slovenia on the global map of football."

A win for Slovenia and for England against Algeria will leave qualification for the knockout phase out of the hands of Bob Bradley's USA team.

The United States boss accepts it is a big game but believes his team have plenty of experience of such high-pressure encounters, some won and some lost.

"Along the way there are finals and matches where the pressure is on," he said. "We've had good experiences as a group, we've learned from both sides. We've learned from moments where we've stuck together and pulled out important wins and we've learned from days where we've let the game get away from us."

Source: PA