World Cup 2014: Do-not-miss group stage fixtures

With the first round of group stage games almost complete, Brasil 2014 is up and running. The football has been pulsating, the atmosphere appropriately electric and the fans delirious. The games have been quick and fast – upto 4 a day – and before you know it, we already have a bunch of early favourites and flops less than a week into the tournament.

 

Here, we list down a particular set of Group Stage action that cannot, at any cost, be missed. So turn back your sleep clocks for these next few weeks (if you haven’t already), and bask in the shining light of the greatest spectacle on the planet.

Some of these games have already taken place, but with two rounds to go, it isn’t too late to join the party and do the math:

Spain v/s Netherlands (Result Netherlands 5-1 Spain)
This was touted to be the ultimate first-round contest between the 2010 finalists – with both teams coming into Brasil strong as ever. What happened next shocked most fans, as a Robben and RVP-powered Netherlands side stomped all over an ageing Spanish side, ending their dominance in grand style. Spain had lost their first game of the last World Cup too, but not like this, and certainly not by 4 goals. Their hopes hang by a thread now, which is why the next game on this list is even more important…

 

Spain v/s Chile (18th June, Wednesday)

Chile destroyed Australia in the first game, and looked the most convincing South American team in the first round. Sanchez will be looking forward to a sort of reunion with his Barcelona teammates, while Spain will be fighting to survive in a group that might have to see one of these two teams face Brazil in the next round. Not a great reward, but a reward nonetheless. 
Prediction: Spain will be back with a narrow win.

 

Germany v/s Portugal (Result Germany 4-0 Portugal)
Another high-profile European game that ended up as the most one-sided contest so far. After Netherlands, it is Germany (again) that has laid down the early marker – as they always do in the first stage. This time, they look good to go all the way, and destroyed Ronaldo’s Portugal with a routine performance that sees them top the Group Of Death. Muller’s hat trick, the first of this World Cup, is a scathing message to critics that wondered if Germany could play without their “key players” Robben and Ribery.

Brazil v/s Mexico (17th June, Tuesday)

The winner here could top the group and face either Chile or Spain in the next round. The hosts are favourites, but they looked far from convincing, and will need to be at their best against a consistently overachieving Mexican team that scraped past Cameroon 1-0. Neymar will look to add to his two goals, and I suspect that this could be the tournament’s first high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Draw

 

Uruguay v/s England (19th June, Thursday)
This is by far the most crucial game of the second round fixtures. Uruguay fell by the wayside against Costa Rice in the tournament’s biggest shock (until USA beat Ghana), without star striker Suarez, who will return against the Three Lions. England, meanwhile, played well against Italy only to lose 1-2, and the loser here will take an early flight back home. This could prove to be a highly emotional volatile tie between two high-profile teams. Also, Liverpool teammates Suarez and Gerrard will do battle-both looking to get a crucial first win of the World Cup.
Prediction: England do the unthinkable. And lose.

Colombia v/s Ivory Coast (19th June, Thursday)
A Drogba-inspired Ivory Coast will look to go past the group stages for the first time ever against an inspired Colombian team that massacred defensive favourites Greece in the opener. This is a crucial game for both teams, consistent underachievers, with all to play for. The loser here will get a final chance in their last group game, but things could get complicated by then with Japan still hurting from their loss.
Prediction: Colombia continues their dream run. A narrow win for them.

 

Belgium v/s Russia (22nd June, Sunday)
Irrespective of their first results, this game is set to be one of the most important fixtures in the group stages. Both teams went on a rampage in qualifying, and lost none of their games, and are dark horses to reach the final. Belgium look especially impressive, while Russia – coached by ex England manager Capello – will look to fulfil their potential after a disappointing Euro 2012, where they failed to get out of the group stages.
Prediction: Belgium for the win.

Switzerland v/s France (20th June, Friday)
Switzerland pulled a rabbit from the hat with a stunning stoppage time winner against Ecuador, while France had it easy against minnows Honduras. No Ribery could hurt them against the well-drilled Swiss team though, and the winner here could book themselves a place in the next round. France, after a terrible 2010 campaign, will look to make the most of this easy group.
Prediction: France scrape through. Won’t be a game for the eyes though.

This second round of group fixtures could mean curtains for teams like Australia, England, Greece, Cameroon, Honduras, Bosnia, Algeria and even Portugal – who are all in danger of losing their second consecutive games.

The third and final round of fixtures will acquire greater meaning and importance after this set of games.

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