1 DisciplineEngland's players must avoid letting any frustration manifest itself in their performances. With four yellow cards so far, and Jamie Carragher suspended for today's game, we have put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. There have been 11 red cards in this World Cup, and only one of the teams affected has gone on to win – and that was Brazil, who were 3-1 up in the closing minutes against the Ivory Coast before Kaká was sent off. In a winner-takes-all game, being a man short can be a hurdle too far. Slovenia have had six men booked – five of them members of their starting XI – and England could take advantage of those individuals' desire to avoid suspension for the round of 16.
2 WidthEngland must get the ball out wide and attempt to progress into high, forward positions from this area. Ashley Cole, as a naturally left-footed wide player, must get the opportunity to join the attack from full-back and provide accurate crosses and passes. Likewise, whoever is chosen to attack down the right must show enough guile and speed to beat his man on the outside and draw Slovenian defenders out of the middle. Aaron Lennon has perhaps been guilty of cutting inside a little too often, and must resist that temptation. Having players stationed on the flanks opens space inside for the midfield. If Steven Gerrard starts on the left, his forays infield serve only to close off that space – as does Wayne Rooney's habit of dropping deep in search of the ball. It may help gain possession, but it makes it harder to keep it and harder to hurt the opposition.
3 ConcentrationTeams have already proved in this World Cup that solid defensive organisation can overcome technical inferiority – the game between New Zealand and Italy being perhaps the best example. So concentration in defence is vital, as the first goal is likely to prove crucial. We cannot afford to make a mistake. John Terry and Matthew Upson must stay close and cover each other, always anticipating possible error. Slovenia allowed an attack of nerves to disrail them against the USA, where they let a 2-0 lead slip, but they are capable of holding on to even a narrow advantage.
4. TempoThe ability to attack a game is a quality England do possess. We must believe that we can get it right and support each other at speed and with conviction. We have to exert pressure on Slovenia as soon as we lose possession – their defence will be at its weakest if we can win the ball back in the middle third and attack quickly. It is not in our nature to sit back and watch opponents pass the ball around in front of us, and we should not try it now. We must be conscious of Slovenia's strengths but also of their weaknesses: in their opening game Algeria seemed technically superior, and in their second they proved unable to resist severe pressure and a barrage of balls into the box.
5. BeliefIt is a Cup tie, and the goal of reaching the next round is certainly achievable for England against a Slovenia side who are a long way from being a world heavyweight. For all the pressure they have felt so far, the players must visualise the change that an impressive victory would create. The fervour with which the English back a successful side can be translated into positivity among the players. I predict that England will win comfortably, but would happily accept any win at all.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.