Three games in Day 2 at the
SOUTH KOREA vs. GREECE
12.30pm – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
The plucky nature of South Korea’s progress in their own 2002 World Cup captured our hearts, and they will need a similar spirit if they’re to reach the knock-out stages in an open Group B. As ever the teams’ hopes will be pinned on Park Ji-Sung, the industrious Manchester United midfielder, but it is his fellow Lancashire-based compatriot Lee Chung-Yong who could be the real star with his dynamic runs from midfield.
Another team who have defied the odds in recent time are their first opponents in Group B, Greece. Despite that European Championship victory in 2004, this will be only the Greek’s second appearances in a World Cup finals, and they will be looking to do slightly better than their winless outing at USA 94. The current squad have that same spine that was victorious in Portugal with Giorgos Karagounis, Kostas Katsouranis and Angelos Charisteas all retained in Otto Rehhagel’s squad, but the over-reliance on Theofanis Gekas to get goals in a team not known for their attacking prowess might be the Greeks’ downfall.
ARGENTINA vs. NIGERIA
3pm – Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg
Maybe the most talked-about team in the run-up to this year’s finals, maybe even more so than the host nation, has been Diego Maradona’s Argentina. A nervy qualifying campaign, littered with controversy, did nothing to improve the reputation of one of the legends of the game, nor the chances of Argentina claiming a third World Cup crown. Even with the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, as the figurehead of their attack, the erratic nature of their Coach’s selection policy means they are considered outsiders for the trophy.
Nigeria bring with them a similar reputation of unpredictability. Their record in both World Cup and African Cup of Nations competitions is poor at best, but their ability to thrill, as Daniel Amokachi showed in Foxborough during USA 94 against one of their Group B opponents Greece, means they have to be considered as a threat. Their wonder boy these days is Obafemi Martins, who like Amokachi, can score from anywhere. Elsewhere the defensive duo of Joseph Yobo and Danny Shittu can expect a torrid time against a three-pronged Argentine attack.
ENGLAND vs. USA
7.30pm – Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
England were one of the more impressive sides in European qualifying, with nine wins from their 10 games, but the responsibility on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney could be too much of a burden if Fabio Capello’s side want a prolonged stay in South Africa. However, England’s record in the group stage of World Cups is impressive, and Bob Bradley’s emerging USA side will have their work cut out if they are to overcome their rivals from across the pond.
Bradley’s side beat Spain in last year’s Confederations Cup, and have a pedigree to surprise a few sides, especially with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey in their ranks. But the player to really watch in South Africa is Stuart Holden, who after recovering from a broken leg has really impressed in the international game and is ready to take the pressure off the aforementioned golden boys of American football.