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European powers England, Italy clash on packed World Cup Saturday

Yesterday in one sentence: It’s a little early to declare a team completely dead, but Spain looked completely dead yesterday.

What’s on tap: Colombia vs. Greece, 12 p.m., ABC; Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, 3 p.m.; ABC; England vs. Italy, 6 p.m., ESPN; Ivory Coast vs. Japan, 9 p.m., ESPN.

What you’ll see: England and Italy are the highest-profile sides to kick off their World Cup campaigns Saturday, but they’re far from the most exciting teams that will be in action. That honor goes to one of Uruguay or Colombia, a pair of South American sides that can go a long way toward advancing to the knockout rounds with wins today.

Colombia will be without star striker Radamel Falcao for the nation’s first World Cup since 1998, but the South American sides have played some of the nicest football of the tournament (other than the Netherlands) and Colombia should be no exception. Their opponents, Greece, have played spoiler before, but it’s asking a lot.

Uruguay has one of the most potent attacks in the tournament (again, other than the Dutch), with Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan, and Luis Suarez creating a fearsome trio up front. The rest of the side is experienced as well, but after seeing what the Netherlands did yesterday, the “stars and scrubs” approach might be a way to go this week in Brazil. Costa Rica will try to keep CONCACAF undefeated in Brazil and will not likely succeed.

Even if the soccer is not as good -- and it won't on the spray-painted green field in Manaus -- England and Italy will likely be the juiciest game of the day. Italy took a blow this morning when they announced World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon would be out with an ankle injury, to be replaced by Salvatore Sirigu. But the main cog in the Italian setup isn’t Buffon. It's midfielder Andrea Pirlo. England’s young players could put on a breathtaking display or could be left on the bench to watch the old guard crumble under the Italian attack, but no matter who England sends out to start the game, Pirlo’s graceful distribution will probably decide the game.

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