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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
The Church of England

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his blessing for churches to switch services this Sunday - so parishioners can watch England's opening World Cup match.

Dr George Carey, a big Arsenal fan, is happy for holymen and women to work around the Sweden game - which should ensure attendances aren't affected.

He said: "Worship comes first of course, but the World Cup only comes round every four years, so we can afford to be flexible."

Dozens of churches are expected to take exercise some flexibility, fearing empty pews if they don't.

The match kicks off at 1030 BST, with some clergymen bringing services forward and others opting for an afternoon sermon.

Michael Owen pictured during the warm-up match with Cameroon
Hold yourself back, Michael!

Reverend Peter Sutcliffe, the vicar of St Mary's at Burley-in-Wharfedale, Yorkshire, has decided to keep his regular Sunday slot because he will only miss 15 minutes of the match.

Rev Sutcliffe, a keen Bradford City fan, told BBC Sport Online: "We haven't changed our Sunday morning service because it will finish a quarter of an hour after the England game kicks off.

"We will just be hoping that Michael Owen can restrain himself before we get out!"

But Rev Sutcliffe confessed that he had once asked a couple to bring their wedding forward half an hour so he could get to a Bradford game. Unfortunately they couldn't oblige!

Jubilee

He added: "I think England have a chance of doing well in the World Cup - anything's possible."

Other vicars are planning to put big screens up in church halls and vicarage lawns, while some have written hymns celebrating their love of the beautiful game.

Unfortunately, the Archbishop will not be able to take advantage himself because he is already booked in to conduct a special Jubilee service for the Queen at Windsor.

Royal Princes William and Harry will also miss the game for the same reason, although they are thought to be making arrangements to have it videoed.

Pint of lager
Plenty of this will be supped over the weekend

Meanwhile, supermarkets are stocking up on supplies of alcohol, breakfast foods and headache tablets in preparation for the main event.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said this bank holiday weekend was set to be "the biggest ever" in terms of sales.

She told BBC Sport Online: "It's the World Cup meets the Jubilee and we are bracing ourselves for a huge rush.

"Sales of England merchandise have already topped figures for the whole of France '98 and TV sales have gone up 60%, with firms buying them in for the workers.

"But alcohol is the biggest seller. We are expecting to sell eight million pints of beer over the four-day weekend - that's 1,000 pints a minute."

Let's hope they won't be used to drown English sorrows.


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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