Day 2 at South Africa 2010 was not a day for arriving at the ground late. All three matches brought an early goal but while Korea Republic and Argentina profited to claim victories – Diego Maradona securing his first FIFA World Cup™ win as a coach in the process – England were pegged back in a draw with USA in the late game in Rustenburg.
First of the early birds was Lee Jung-Soo with a far-post volley from a set-piece seven minutes into the South Koreans' eventual 2-0 victory over Group B rivals Greece. If that was a Greek-style goal, Park Ji-Sung's quick feet added a more typical second as Korea Republic became the first team to win a game at these finals – and boost their chances of reaching the last 16 for the first time on foreign soil.
The focus then switched to Ellis Park where Maradona enjoyed a winning debut in the dugout. Argentina's rich pool of attacking talents has made them one of South Africa's fancied teams yet – fittingly for a tournament yet to see a striker score – they owed their victory to a sixth-minute goal by defender Gabriel Heinze, who profited from slack defending with a flying header from a corner.
This was South Africa's first glimpse of Lionel Messi, one of the predicted stars of the tournament, and on another day he might have had a hat-trick. The Barcelona man had eight goal attempts but was foiled by several fine saves by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who stood between the Super Eagles and a drubbing. Kalu Uche blazed over Nigeria's best opportunity as Lars Lagerback’s men sprang to life in the second period, albeit too late to prevent a hat-trick of FIFA World Cup losses to Argentina.
Goalkeepers were prominent in Rustenburg too. If the ghosts of Belo Horizonte had dominated the build-up to the showdown between Group C rivals England and USA, there will be new demons stalking England goalkeeper Robert Green after the error that allowed the Americans to claim a point. When Steven Gerrard scored after just four minutes England looked set to avenge the Americans' shock 1950 triumph, but Green then let Clint Dempsey's shot slip beneath his body. Both sides might have grabbed a second-half winner – Tim Howard foiled Emile Heskey and Shaun Wright-Phillips, while Green turned Jozy Altidore's shot against a post – but had to settle for the first draw between these transatlantic cousins.
Korea Republic 2-0 Greece
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria
England 1-1 USA
Goal of the day
Korea Republic-Greece, Park Ji-Sung, 52 mins: The Manchester United midfielder produced a fine solo effort that seemed to sum up the difference between the South Koreans and Greece, Park nipping in to rob the dawdling Loukas Vyntra some 40 yards from goal and leaving two defenders trailing as he burst into the box before beating Alexandros Tzorvas. In the process he became the second Asian footballer, after Saudi Arabia's Sami Al-Jaber, to score in three world finals.
One to remember
Maradona saw his Argentina side equal an Albiceleste record set in his own playing prime at Mexico 1986, where their seven-match unbeaten run took them to the title. Between their last group outing in 2002 and today's win over Nigeria they have produced an identical sequence, notwithstanding the penalty shootout defeat that brought their quarter-final exit in 2006.
Quote of the day
"Deep inside me, being the coach here was a very strong feeling, very nice, and I want to thank all the people for their support. After all I did once score a few goals in an Argentina shirt! Here, taking decisions is different, they carry more weight. You can't get it wrong," Diego Maradona on the hero's reception he received from the Ellis Park crowd on his return to the world stage, 16 years after his last playing appearance.
Stat of the day
360 – number of minutes Greece have so far waited to score their first FIFA World Cup goal. After three blanks and as many defeats at USA 1994, they continued their miserable run at Port Elizabeth Stadium where not even Theofanis Gekas – Europe's leading marksman in qualifying – could lift the spell, his late strike tipped over by Jung Sung-Ryong. If their drought lasts the entire group stage, the Greeks will surpass Bolivia's unenvied tournament record of 517 minutes without a goal.
Voice of the fans
"Definitely a great match! I was rooting for England … but Howard stole my heart," GreenDew.
Games of the day
Dexterha and his angels black dished out a perfect storm today. The Costa Rican shot to the top of the Fantasy table (88 points) and is currently No1 across each of the 12 leagues he is involved in, but how long will it last? In Castrol's Predictor Challenge, all 50 challengers are locked in joint-first place on 406 points. Predictors are clearly super-eager to get their hands on the grand prize, which includes a trip to Madrid for a training session with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Have your say
Is this the start of something special for Maradona and Argentina? Can Korea Republic go on and qualify from Group B? Who look the likelier winners of Group D, England or USA or neither?