As the World Cup enters its second week, here are the five games most likely to provide excitement before the weekend:
Monday, June 16, 12 p.m. EDT – Germany v Portugal: Granted, there haven’t been many dull games so far, but this is surely one of the premier matchups of the first round. The German team is a well-tuned engine, and while it does contain some of Europe’s biggest stars, it is as a collective that they are most fearsome. Portugal, on the other hand, provides a solid defense to back up one of the best players in the world.
What to Expect: Team vs. Star is one of the classic dichotomies of sports and we should see one of the best examples. Lionel Messi’s stellar goal on Sunday should fire up Cristiano Ronaldo to continue their feud on the biggest stage.
Prediction: The Germans will be too much for Ronaldo to handle. Germany 3, Portugal 1
Monday, June 16, 6 p.m. EDT – U.S. vs Ghana: So here it is, at long last — the debut of the American team. There was a lot of hand-wringing when the U.S. drew into the Group of Death, and there still isn’t much hope of progressing. But what hope the U.S. does have will wither even further if it fails to top Ghana. For added drama, Ghana has also been responsible for the U.S. exit in the last two World Cups (in the group stage in 2006, and in the round of 16 four years later). Win against Ghana and then take a point off the loser of Germany vs. Portugal and the Americans may have a path to the round of 16.
What to Expect: A tense and gritty encounter that probably won’t feature many goals, but plenty of chewed fingernails.
Prediction: Optimism rules here. U.S. 1, Ghana 0
Tuesday, June 17, 3 p.m. EDT – Brazil vs. Mexico: By the end of the day on Tuesday, all of the teams will have played once. This will kick off the second wave. Host Brazil entered the tournament as one of the favorites but stuttered to victory over Croatia. Mexico, on the other hand, were very good against Cameroon (despite the refs’ best efforts). Will Brazil step up?
What to Expect: Brazil will have something to prove and should go into this game guns a blazin’. But Mexico will not just lie down…
Prediction: Brazil should come out on top in a lightning hot game. Brazil 3, Mexico 1
Wednesday, June 18, 3 p.m. EDT – Spain vs. Chile: Reigning World Cup champ Spain was astoundingly bad against Holland on Friday. If that continues, the Chileans are likely to be the ones to profit (as Australia remains hopeless). It’s do or die time for Spain, and nothing short of a win will really be enough.
What to Expect: Spain simply has to win this game. Even a draw would then require them to rely on the Dutch beating Chile by a decent margin. And Holland may ease off the gas in that match, just to be jerks.
Prediction: Spain’s gotta do this. Spain 2, Chile 0
Thursday, June 19, 3 p.m. EDT – Uruguay vs England: Was Uruguay really that awful on Saturday, or was Costa Rica just a lot better than anyone thought? Other than Wayne Rooney, England was actually quite good in its loss to Italy. The two Group C losers will face off with both having points to prove.
What to Expect: Against Costa Rica, Uruguay’s defense was embarrassingly old and slow. The pace of Joel Campbell tore them apart again and again. It’s terrifying to think of what speedsters like Raheem Sterling or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might do to them. As reports suggest that Luis Suarez will not be ready for the game, this could very well be the end of the road for the South Americans.
Prediction: Say goodnight, Uruguay. England 3, Uruguay 0
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