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England's Jermain Defoe, sends a shot off Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic's hands and into the net in the first half at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. ((Schalk van Zuydam/Associated Press))

Jermain Defoe lifted England from World Cup peril and into the second round with a first-half goal Wednesday in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

England prevailed 1-0 in the match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, with the Slovenians left heartbroken after the U.S. scored a late goal against Algeria in a concurrent match to claim the Group C top spot.

The Americans took group honours.

England, the runner-up, will play Group D winner Germany on Sunday in Bloemfontein (CBC, CBCSports.ca 9:30 a.m. ET).

Germany and England have engaged in several memorable World Cup matches. England beat Germany in the 1966 final for their only World Cup, but, lost to them in extra time in the 1970 quarters, and fell to the eventual winners in a 1990 semifinal shootout in Turin.

Defoe took James Milner's cross in the 23rd minute without a bounce and sent it off Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic's hands and into the net to end about 200 minutes of scoring futility for England (1-0-2) at the World Cup. 

England had not scored since early in its first game against the U.S.

"It's been difficult for the supporters because they weren't happy with the performances," Defoe said. "A lot of the top teams have struggled so it was important to keep the spirit, which we have done."

England moves past the first round for the 10th consecutive time in World Cup tournaments in which it has qualified.

"This team, this spirit, played together and tried together," England coach Fabio Capello said. "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."

Slovenia, which led the group heading into the day, will have to wait at least four more years to reach the second stage for the first time ever.

Capello called on Milner, Defoe and Matthew Upson to start the contest.

Upson came into central defence for the suspended Jamie Carragher, Milner returned to the lineup after missing the 0-0 draw with Algeria and Defoe took over from Emile Heskey in attack. 

Slovenia (1-1-1) kept the same starting lineup from its previous game against the United States.

For the first 10 minutes, England again looked nervous, but the players then began to produce some flowing moves and the chances followed.

Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Glen Johnson all had shots on goal. On the other end, goalkeeper David James had to react sharply to keep out a flick-on from Slovenia defender Bostjan Cesar.

England continued to dominate after the goal and Handanovic had to make two saves within a few seconds of each other to keep out shots from Defoe and Steven Gerrard.

Blunders in the Slovenia defence handed Defoe a second chance in the opening minute of the second half, but he flicked the ball wide from Gareth Barry's headed pass.

England continued to create chances after that and Handanovic blocked John Terry's powerful header at the near post and then finger-tipped Rooney's shot onto the post.

Slovenia, the smallest nation in the tournament, almost equalized in the 68th after Barry lost possession and Terry and Johnson blocked shots from Zlatko Dedic and Milivoje Novakovic.

With files from CBCSports.ca