Sub guarantees Slovenia win over U.S.


JOHANNESBURG – Andrej Komac probably never has heard of Joe Namath, even though he sure can imitate the Hall of Fame quarterback.

The Slovenia midfielder is so confident about the tiny country’s chances against the United States in their World Cup match on Friday that he guaranteed victory.

“We are going to win this match,” Komac said after practice Tuesday.

He added there’s “a good feeling” on the squad after Slovenia beat Algeria 1-0 to claim its first World Cup victory and the top spot in Group C. Komac came on as a substitute in the final minutes.

The U.S. and England have one point each after their 1-1 draw.

With a population of just more than 2 million, Slovenia is the smallest nation in the Cup – about the size of Houston.

Howard expected to play

Tim Howard walked to the swimming pool, sporting a Band-Aid over his ribs.

The message to his American teammates was clear.

“That just gives us confidence as his partners to expect him out there,” defender Jay DeMerit said.

Howard needed an injection of a painkiller to play the second half of Saturday’s World Cup-opening 1-1 tie against England following a collision in which Emile Heskey’s boot landed in the goalkeeper’s midsection.

For the first two days after the match, it wasn’t clear whether he had broken ribs. But the U.S. Soccer Federation said late Monday that Howard is expected to be available against Slovenia.

Italian keeper sidelined

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has a “serious” back problem and the team physician said it’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to play again in the World Cup.

Buffon exited Italy’s 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Monday at halftime, and was replaced by backup Federico Marchetti.

Team physician Enrico Castellacci said the problem was with Buffon’s sciatic nerve.

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