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England can’t hold on, Spain breaks hex

The Associated Press
Monday June 03, 2002

YOKOHAMA, Japan – Spain finally figured out how to start a World Cup with a victory. England still doesn’t know how to beat Sweden anywhere. 

The Spaniards broke a 52-year winless spell in World Cup openers, dating back to a 1950 victory over the United States. Goals from Raul, Juan Carlos Valeron and Fernando Hierro lifted the Spaniards over Slovenia 3-1 Sunday night (Sunday morning EDT) at Gwangju, South Korea. 

“It wasn’t easy, there are a lot of surprises and all games are very close at this level,” Raul said. “There is more to come.” 

England must hope there are no more meetings with Sweden ahead. A second-half goal by Niclas Alexandersson gave the Swedes a 1-1 tie and stretched their unbeaten streak against the English to 10 games – 3-0-7 – since 1968. FIFA does not recognize all of those matches. 

“It didn’t look good in the first half,” Alexandersson said of Sweden’s one-goal deficit at Saitama, Japan. “We showed a lot of fighting spirit in the second half, when we came back into the game. We could have won the match.” 

Also on Sunday, Argentina, the pretournament favorite, edged Nigeria 1-0 at Ibaraki, Japan, while Paraguay and South Africa tied 2-2 at Busan, South Korea. 

Gabriel Batistuta, a fixture in the Argentina lineup but questionable to start after a poor, injury-plagued season in Italy, sent an angled header into the net off Juan Sebastian Veron’s swinging corner kick in the 63rd minute. 

Batistuta moved into a tie for sixth place in career World Cup goals with 10 with the winner. 

“I am not thinking of any records, I don’t care about that,” he said. “But if I score goals, it means that Argentina gets closer every time to our goal, to win the World Cup.” 

At Busan, in a half-empty 53,926-seat stadium, South Africa rallied from two goals down against Paraguay. 

Quinton Fortune scored on a la