PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — Just in time, England appeared at the World Cup.
Jermain Defoe knocked in a goal for the revived Three Lions as they beat Slovenia 1-0 on Wednesday, advancing to the tournament’s second round.
It was a narrow but welcome escape for England, a pre-tournament favorite that was fighting off talk of internal strife after disappointing ties against the United States and Algeria.
The English needed a victory to move on and they got it, dictating the pace for much of the game. Now they’ll play Germany in the second round.
“This team, this spirit, played together and tried together,” said England coach Fabio Capello. “I am really happy because I found the team I know. We now go forward. We can play against all the teams because the mind is now free.”
The victory gave England second place in Group C behind the United States, which beat Algeria 1-0. Slovenia entered the day the surprise leader in the group but finished with four points to five for the U.S. and England. The U.S. earned first place based on tiebreakers.
Playing more aggressively than they did in draws with the Americans and Algerians, the English went ahead when Defoe put in James Milner’s cross from 5 yards out with a right-footed shot.
“I’m lost for words to be honest,” Defoe said. “What a moment. Everyone was focused before the game. We are through, that’s the most important thing.”
England continued to dominate after the goal, and Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had to make two saves within a few seconds of each other to stop shots from Defoe and Steven Gerrard.
Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Glen Johnson also had shots on goal.
Germany 1, Ghana 0
JOHANNESBURG — Mesut Oezil scored on a left-footed blast from outside the area to give Germany the Group D title. Despite the defeat, Ghana also advanced to the round of 16 — taking second place in the group with four points. Australia also finished with four points, but Ghana was ahead on goal differential. Ghana is the first of the six African teams in the tournament to make it to the knockout phase and it could be the last. Only Ivory Coast still has a chance to join Ghana.
Australia 2, Serbia 1
NELSPRUIT, South Africa — Tim Cahill and Brett Holman scored second-half goals. But both teams did not advance to the second round. Marko Pantelic pulled a goal back for Serbia, which finished last with three points, one behind Australia. Cahill put the Australians ahead with a glancing header off Luke Wilkshire’s cross in the 69th minute and Holman added the second from long range 4 minutes later. Australia, which made the second round four years ago and lost to eventual champion Italy, was undone by its 4-0 loss to the Germans in the opener.