As we go into the second weekend of the cup, here are the games to keep your eye on:
Italy vs. Costa Rica, Friday June 20, Noon EDT: Italy showed resolve in fending off an aggressive and surprisingly cohesive challenge from England. Costa Rica, on the other hand, has been the most successful of the tournament’s underdogs, tearing the sloooowwww Uruguayan defense to pieces.
What to Expect: The Costa Ricans will try to use the same electric pace that shocked the Uruguayans against the patient Italians. Italy will hope to run the opposition in circles before going in for the kill.
Prediction: Italy will win 2-1 again.
France vs. Switzerland, Friday June 20, 3 p.m. EDT: France’s first performance against Honduras was, along with the Dutch, one of the truly electrifying early performances of the tournament. But it should be noted that Honduras was also pretty bad, and playing most of the match with 10 men. It will be interesting to see how the French do against tougher opposition. Switzerland played a hard fought match against Ecuador only to win by a last-second goal.
What to Expect: Karim Benzema will continue his quest for the golden boot while the Swiss defense does its best to hold him at bay.
Prediction: France will punch holes in the Swiss defense…like some kind of cheese. France 2, Switzerland 0.
Germany vs. Ghana, Saturday June 21, 3 p.m. EDT: Following Germany’s ruthless demolition of Portugal, the Germans can effectively clinch the group with a win over Ghana (which could of course work to the American team’s advantage). Ghana will want to stay alive after their dogged, but ultimately fruitless game against the U.S. Lose and they’re out.
What to Expect: Another game with a relentless offense crashing against a stubborn defense.
Prediction: Ghana will try, but Germany just seems unstoppable. Germany 3, Ghana 0.
Russia vs. Belgium, Sunday June 22, Noon EDT: Should the U.S. make it out of this group, one of these two teams is our most likely opponent in the round of 16. For a variety of reasons, we should want the Russians. The Belgian team is full of very talented players and showed that it can play with determination by coming from behind against Algeria. Russia huffed and puffed against South Korea, looking very uncomfortable in the heat. Assuming goalkeeper Akinfeev stays in the sticks, we can also hope that he’ll have another blunder on the level of his mistake in that game. And of course, all of the Rocky montages that will invariably be shown should the U.S. have a show down with Russia will be spectacular.
What to Expect: Both teams are technical and fast and have questionable defenses that have already conceded stupid goals in this cup.
Prediction: Belgium will just have too much for Russia. Belgium 2, Russia 1.
U.S. vs. Portugal, Sunday June 22, 6 p.m. EDT: The big one for every red-blooded American. Ghana was a tough fight against an old rival, but also in many ways a meeting of equals. Portugal, on the other hand, should be a tougher team to beat. Despite their shambolic display against Germany, the Portuguese are stubborn defenders and, as of now at least, Cristiano Ronaldo says he is playing. If the U.S. can manage at least a draw, passage to the round of 16 is all but sealed. Lose, and we’re left with the unenviable task of beating Germany in the last game.
What to Expect: Nervously holding your breath every time the ball lands at Ronaldo’s feet.
Prediction: We’ll keep up the optimism and call it a draw. U.S. 1, Portugal 1.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: