Enter Messi and Rooney

Brilliant forward talent takes to the field on day two of the World Cup 2010.

    Messi, left, gets some tips from Maradona ahead of the match with Nigeria [GALLO/GETTY]

    Two of the world's most talented players, Argentina's Lionel Messi and England's Wayne Rooney, take the stage on Saturday hoping to reproduce the excitement of a spectacular start to Africa's first World Cup.

    Marshalled by maverick manager and former great Diego Maradona, Argentina take on African heavyweights Nigeria in the first Group B match at Johannesburg's Ellis Park – site of the Springboks' Rugby World Cup win of 1995.

    Saturday also brings an intriguing match between England, one of the tournament favourites and the United States, who could be one of its most dangerous outsiders, in Group C's first match near the sleepy town of Rustenburg.

    Though police said there was no indication of a specific plot, the England-United States match was to be the most closely-guarded of the World Cup in case of a terrorist threat.

    Crammed with talent

    Argentina are favourites to win their group with a team crammed with talent headed by the outstanding world player of the year Messi.

    Nigeria's experienced squad, with many players from European leagues, should provide the toughest test for them in the group.


    Along with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi's skills are one of the most eagerly awaited sights of this World Cup.

    Interest in Argentina is equally focused on ever-controversial manager Maradona.

    The inexperienced and quixotic coach's questionable decisions were blamed for Argentina's shaky qualifying road to the World Cup – before some dark-horse selections, such as veteran striker Martin Palermo, saw them through.

    England, who some pundits put behind only Spain and Brazil as potential winners despite the loss through injury of captain Rio Ferdinand, are notoriously slow starters.

    They face awkward opponents in the much improved US side under seasoned coach Bob Bradley.

    Capello 'relaxed'

    "I understand this is a really, really important moment for the country, but I am relaxed," England's Italian manager Fabio Capello said of national hopes he could end a wait since 1966 to bring the trophy back to the nation that invented modern football.

    Saturday's other match is between South Korea and Greece in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth where the main question may be if fans will fill the beautiful new lakeside stadium.

    Seldom outnumbered, England's famously raucous fans looked set to be outdone for once, with 30,000 Americans expected at the game from a burgeoning "Sam's Army" supporters' club.

    In a day of euphoria and street-parties across South Africa, the globe's most watched sports event met all expectations on Friday with an outstanding opening match – which South Africa drew 1-1 with Mexico – and ceremony.

    Johannesburg's Saturday Star said Bafana Bafana's display "showed we are not a nation of unrealistic dreamers."

    The mood was only dampened by sadness over the death in a car crash of the 13-year-old great granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, beloved father of post-apartheid South Africa, whose mourning forced him to miss the opening match.

    South Africa's thrilling draw totally outshone the second match between France and Uruguay which produced a lacklustre goalless draw in the graceful new Green Point stadium in Cape Town.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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