|A lifetime to forget: Green fumbles the ball into his own net on his World Cup debut [GALLO/GETTY]
England goalkeeper Robert Green committed a horror blunder as he allowed a tame shot from Clint Dempsey to spin off his gloves and into the net to gift the USA a 1-1 draw.
The mistake cancelled out England captain Steven Gerrard's early opener in Rustenberg on Saturday as the Three Lions struggled to break down a tenacious USA defence.
Jozy Altidore could have scored a winner in the second half but Green, playing his first World Cup match, earned some redemption as he palmed the Villarreal forward's strike onto his post and out.
It means England have never beaten the USA in the World Cup – after losing 1-0 in their only previous match, in 1950.
Algeria or Slovenia can capitalise and go top of Group C when they meet in Polokwane on Sunday.
West Ham goalkeeper Green failed to get his body behind a shot by Dempsey five minutes before half time, allowing the ball to bounce off his gloves and across the line as he dived after it with despair etched across his face.
"It's one of those freak things that happens. It shocked us a bit, but we'll get behind Robert"
Steven Gerrard, England captain
It was a shattering moment for England and manager Fabio Capello who had gambled in handling the 29-year-old only his ninth start for England and it restored the United States' confidence after a shaky opening.
England had got off to a dream start at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
They took the lead after only four minutes when, from a Glen Johnson throw on the right, Frank Lampard switched the ball infield to Emile Heskey whose angled pass found Gerrard running into space.
A low steered shot with the outside of his right foot from 10 metres gave Tim Howard no chance and Gerrard his 17th goal for England on his debut as their World Cup skipper.
Instead of taking control, England drifted into a spell of unconvincing play and the Americans, sparked by the lively Dempsey and Landon Donovan, enjoyed most of the possession.
Altidore almost reached a cross from Donovan to equalise, but under pressure from Ledley King only skimmed a header wide.
Their recovery led to James Milner being cautioned for a foul on Steve Cherundolo and five minutes later he was withdrawn by Capello and replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
A low shot by Donovan was saved uneasily by Green before the goalkeeper gifted the Americans' an equaliser after 40 minutes.
Capello reacted by replacing King, who has a chronic knee injury, with Jamie Carragher for the second half, which opened with Heskey wasting a good chance by firing straight at Howard.
Carragher, after only 14 minutes on the field, and then Gerrard were booked for fouls as England battled to resist the Americans before a rising left-foot drive by Lampard was saved as the game opened out into a stunted end-to-end contest.
Blame the ball
After the match Gerrard defended Green despite his clanger and blamed the controversial Jabulani ball.
Several keepers – and strikers – have criticised the Adidas-made match ball as being too light.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas described it as "like a beach ball" ahead of the World Cup.
"It's one of those freak things that happens – plenty of people have been talking about the ball this week. It shocked us a bit, but we'll get behind Robert," he said.
"I think the most important thing in your first game is not to lose. Unfortunately, we let a poor goal in and we couldn't go on and get the win."
USA coach Bob Bradley, on the other hand, was pleased with his team's showing.
"It was a great team effort to come back and equalise. At half time we said we had a chance to win and at the end we took a point," he said.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies