The atmosphere was electric. All across the country, millions of fans gathered in homes, bars, and even Dupont Circle for the most anticipated soccer match in American history, as the U.S. took on England. A 4th minute goal by Steven Gerrard quieted the crowd briefly and had many thinking the worst. But then, in the 40th minute, Clint Dempsey took a shot that bounced off English goalkeeper Robert Green and rolled into the net. It was a howler, but it was a goal nonetheless and the score was tied 1-1. In the 2nd half, both teams had their chances, but none better than in the 65th minute when Jozy Altidore took a shot that Green got a piece of but hit the post and out. In the end, the match ended in a 1-1 draw, which the U.S. will take. All eyes now are on Tim Howard, who got cleated in the ribs by Emilie Heskey in the 25th minute and had a remarkable game despite being in pain. They will evaluate his health to make sure he doesn't have any broken ribs, but as of now all signs point to him being in net on Friday against Slovenia.
In other action on Saturday, South Korea exposed Greece 2-0 with two great goals by Lee Jung-Soo and Park Ji-Sung. Greece was on its heels the entire match, and South Korea dictated the pace of play throughout. Also, Argentina faced off against Nigeria, and these two have a long history of great matches against each other in the World Cup and the Olympics. Gabriel Heinze kicked off the scoring early with a vicious header in the 6th minute, and despite Argentina's 3-headed monster of Messi, Tevez and Higuain throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Nigeria, their keeper was unflappable after Heinze's goal. Unfortunately, Nigeria couldn't put the ball in the net, and Argentina won 1-0.
Today saw 3 matches, Slovenia-Algeria, Ghana-Serbia and Germany-Australia. Slovenia beat Algeria 1-0 on another soft goal allowed by a GK in this World Cup, to the benefit of Robert Koren. It took a Ghana penalty on a Serbian handball in the box to get the win, as Asamoah Gyan sent home the winner to make Ghana the first African team to ever win a World Cup on African soil. Finally, Germany put on the best scoring display thus far in the tournament, taking Australia to the woodshed with a 4-0 shellacking. Goals by Podolski, Klose, Muller and Cacau were easy and demoralized the Socceroos.
So, the first half of the groups have played their first match. Now, we look at Groups E-H as they get ready to walk out onto the pitch for their opening matches over the next few days.