Since I don’t expect everyone is going to be watching every match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup live and on DVR like I will be, I thought I would do a running Viewers Guide highlighting the most interesting televised match or matches of each day of the cup:
While this probably won’t be a great match, it’s the first one of the tournament, a first chance to watch favorites Brazil, and, frankly, the only game on TV on Thursday. That said, there are some interesting things to watch. Brazil will be under enormous pressure in front of the Sao Paulo faithful, and the release the crowd of 60,000+ will feel when they score that first goal will be very emotional. Croatia are certainly not push-overs, and will make this competitive. If Serbia’s performance against Argentina in last week’s friendly is worthy of analogy, the Balkan side will probably use their considerable muscle to disrupt the jogo bonito.
The crazy draw gave us this rematch of the 2010 World Cup final as the first Group D match. It is a must-win for both teams with the excellent Chile lurking to disrupt the group. Spain is seeking to become the first nation to win four consecutive major trophies (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012, and World Cup 2014), establishing their claim to be the greatest fooball dynasty of all time. The question on everyone’s mind is where the goals will come from. Netherlands are out for revenge. Maybe the most anticipated match of the entire group stage.
This is, in my opinion, one of the most unpredictable games between top teams. England are bringing a young side to the tournament who don’t have the usual weight of ridiculously over-hyped expectations. But will Roy Hodgson actually play them, or will he default to the Wayne Rooneys and other “experienced” players? There are equally interesting questions on the Italian side, where the fitness and form of star striker Mario Ballotelli is in question, and the usually impregnable defense looks shakey. Finally, it’s the first match of the cup in the insane white elephant stadium in Manaus, Amazonia — and should be an interesting look at what the venue will be like for the US-Portugal match on June 22.
The best of a mediocre day of games, which also includes France v. Honduras and Switzerland v. Ecuador. This is Bosnia’s World Cup debut as a nation, but all the pressure will be on Argentina where hopes are sky-high to go deep in this tournament on the South American continent. Could be a really open game, as Bosnia likes to get forward around their danger-man, Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko. But that openness could favor Argentina’s devastating counterattack, led by the greats Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, perhaps the best attack force in the tournament.
For neutrals, this match is easily the best of the day, and could rival Spain-Netherlands for quality, particularly if Portugal’s injured stars, like Christiano Ronaldo (arguably the best player in the world), are fit to play. Germany suffered a severe blow with striker Marco Reus’ pre-tournament injury, but they are massively deep, talented, and well-organized. Portugal are better individually than collectively. And the match has implications for the USA’s chances, as well.
These two nations have an epic World Cup feud going. Ghana has eliminated the US from the last two World Cups, last time in a Round of 16 match decided in extra-time. Pundits are saying that both teams’ chances of advancing from the group hinge on winning this match, so expect them to go at it hard. USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to find a winning formation against Nigeria with Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones playing holding midfield roles behind a rampant Michael Bradley. Meanwhile, Ghana blasted Korea 4:0 in their last tune-up, using speed and athleticism to rip apart the more technical Koreans. Two interesting teams with a history of close, competitive matches at the World Cup.