Armchair Pundit

World Cup cheat sheet: day three

Alex Chick

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First match, first psychological trauma for England. And that second-round meeting with Germany appears ever-more likely. Here's today's essential information.

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Saturday's action

South Korea 2-0 Greece - Group B - Port Elizabeth

If there were any justice in the world, Greece would be expelled from the tournament after this abomination of a performance, and FIFA would invite Ireland to play the Greeks' remaining games against Argentina and Nigeria. Woeful marking allowed Lee Jung-Soo to notch the opener from close range, before a shocking blunder by Loukas Vintra sent Park Ji-Sung on his way to a fine second. Korea looked good, but tougher tests await.

Argentina 1-0 Nigeria - Group B - Johannesburg

Diego Maradona's side nearly failed to qualify, but any predictions of an embarrassing shambles proved well wide of the mark. Argentina were superb and should have won by a far greater margin, but for some great saves by Vincent Enyeama and poor finishing from Gonzalo Higuain - who could find his place in the side under pressure from Inter Milan's Champions League hero Diego Milito. Gabriel Heinze headed the only goal early on and Lionel Messi was brilliant.

England 1-1 USA - Group C - Rustenburg

Even with Fabio Capello at the helm, watching England at the World Cup remains a reassuringly excruciating experience. A decent display, sparked by Steven Gerrard's early goal, was undone by an extraordinary goalkeeping blunder by Robert Green, who let Clint Dempsey's speculative long shot slip through his hands. He couldn't even blame the flighty Jabulani ball. But, on the bright side, it was a good performance by England. Less so by ITV HD, whose viewers missed the England goal because of the channel mistakenly cut to an ad break.

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Sunday preview

Group C - Algeria v Slovenia - Polokwane - 12.30

Under normal circumstances, you couldn't pay English fans to watch this one. But there is every reason to shrug off that post-USA hangover and run the rule over the Three Lions' two other group rivals. Both sides are limited, but Slovenia toppled Russia in the play-offs and Algeria did the same to African champions Egypt, so neither should be underestimated.

Group D - Serbia v Ghana - Pretoria - 15.00

A clash of cultures as the Balkans take on West Africa. However, both teams love to literally throw their weight around so there should be shuddering challenges all round from the opening whistle. Ghana are missing talisman Michael Essien, but reached the African Cup of Nations final without him. Premier League hard men Nemanja Vidic and Branislav Ivanovic play at the back for Serbia, but Wigan goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic looks a weak link.

Group D - Germany v Australia - Durban - 19.30

These nations have inflicted so much sporting pain on England, fans could be forgiven for wanting both to lose. Germany lack star power, especially without injured captain Michael Ballack. They are bound to be emotional following the tragic suicide of their goalkeeper Robert Enke last November. The Aussies did well in 2006, nearly upsetting Italy in the second round, but now look a little long in the tooth. Harry Kewell (remember him?) and Tim Cahill are key men.

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Water cooler chat: That Robert Green howler

Remember when England had the best goalkeepers in the world? Well, neither do I, actually, but there was a time when beasts like Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton roamed the earth, stopping everything in their path. Ever since a creaky 40-something Shilton let a deflected free-kick loop over his head against West Germany in 1990, it has been a long toboggan ride downhill. There was David Seaman getting lobbed by Ronaldinho in 2002, Scott Carson's error against Croatia that cost us a place at Euro 2008 and numerous instances of David James clowning. Green's mistake against the US not only joined an illustrious list of foul-ups, it raised the bar. Extraordinary.

What to say: "My gran could have saved that."

What not to say: "David James, Joe Hart, Ben Foster, Scott Carson, Paul Robinson, Chris Kirkland and Manuel Almunia could have saved that."

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World Cup jargon: Lone striker

Formation in which a team plays five midfielders and only one out-and-out striker - usually in a 4-2-3-1 setup. Fabio Capello prefers a 4-4-2 (with Emile Heskey partnering Wayne Rooney in attack) but there is a growing clamour for Rooney to play as a lone striker against Algeria next Friday. He and Steven Gerrard played too deep at times against the USA, and the probable return of midfielder Gareth Barry next week could herald a switch in formation. Hardly riveting, but worth explaining to the uninitiated because England fans will spend the next six days talking about LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE. Except vuvuzelas, maybe.

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