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2014 World Cup: Previewing the 4 World Cup Qualifiers to Watch Tuesday

Frank WagnerCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2016

2014 World Cup: Previewing the 4 World Cup Qualifiers to Watch Tuesday

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    With yet another big day for international football looming, interesting matchups and huge fixtures lie ahead in the road to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

    In an ideal world, it would be fantastic to sit down and watch every match, enjoying the struggles and familiarizing ourselves with all of the contenders.

    There's just one problem with that: FIFA, in their infinite wisdom, has scheduled all 38 matches on the same day.

    Hence, watching every moment of action is just impractical.

    So what matches will be the most competitive? Which will have the highest level of play? Which have the most on the line?

    Here is a preview of the four best World Cup qualifying matches to watch Tuesday.

    I mean, that's already over six hours of game time right there.

Belgium vs. Croatia: Tuesday, 2:45 EDT

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    What's at stake

    This is the second match of each nation's World Cup qualifying campaign.

    In the highly competitive Group A, both picked up a win in their first match and sit in a tie atop their group.

    Only the winner of the group automatically qualifies for the World Cup, while the runner-up (probably) advances to a playoff.

    Even though this match is early in the process, it could go a long way in deciding which of these teams goes to Brazil.

     

    Why this is a match to watch

    The match isn't the most important of the day, but it is probably the most mouth-watering encounter because of the level of play.

    Belgium has an up-and-coming side that should compete in major tournaments for years to come. Croatia has a very talented side that were a close third in Group C of Euro 2012, which had both the eventual winners and runners-up.

     

    Players to watch

    Luka Modric and Eden Hazard are not only the players to watch; they also epitomize the state of their national teams.

    Modric has long been seen as one of the most creative midfielders in the Premier League, but has failed to use those talents to help his Tottenham team get winning results over the past few years. By moving to Real Madrid, he hopes to take a step up and win some trophies.

    Hazard has already made a name for himself at Lille, but is still improving at 21 years of age. He is certainly a player to watch not just in this match, but over the next few years with Chelsea.

     

    Important questions

    Are Croatia still adjusting to life after Slaven Bilic?

    Is Belgium ready to become the next big national team?

     

    Prediction

    Belgium 2-1

England vs Ukraine: Tuesday, 3:00 EDT

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    What's at stake

    It's the second match for England and the first for Ukraine as they look to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil from UEFA's Group H.

    With Poland and Montenegro the only other threats in the group, this match could be an important one in deciding the automatic qualifier.

     

    Why this is a match to watch

    Beyond the implications of the group, England and Ukraine have been building a small rivalry over the past few years.

    In qualification for the 2010 World Cup, these two were again in the same group. England finished six points ahead of Ukraine to get the automatic bid, but Ukraine gave England their only loss of the campaign.

    In Euro 2012, they were again in the same group. In the final match of the group stage, England delivered the knockout blow to hosts Ukraine with a 1-0 victory. A goal-line controversy in that match makes the budding rivalry even more interesting.

    Since then, the two teams have had a few losses. Captain Andriy Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin retired, a blow to the makeup of Ukraine football. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney's gash and John Terry's ankle spell differences for the England side.

     

    Players to watch

    I'm going to go with two more youngsters here in 22-year-old Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko and 19-year-old Englishman Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

    Yarmolenko has quickly become a star at Dynamo Kiev and is linked with a move to AC Milan. Oxlade-Chamberlain has just began his career at Arsenal but has already begun dazzling, even being shortlisted for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

    Both will look to continue their maturation processes and create chances for their teams.

     

    Important questions

    Can England carry over the form they had against Moldova and continue their dominance of Ukraine?

    Can Ukraine take advantage of a banged-up England to get their campaign off to a flying start?

     

    Prediction

    England takes it 1-0

Uruguay vs Ecuador: Tuesday, 5:30 EDT

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    What's at stake

    It's the seventh qualifying match out of 16 for both of these nations in the nine-team South American qualifying group.

    As of right now, both sit in positions that would see them automatically qualify for Brazil.

     

    Why this is a match to watch

    Over the past year, these two teams have looked to be on very different paths.

    After 2010 World Cup semifinalists Uruguay finally reached the top of South America by winning the 2011 Copa America, it seemed certain that they would go on from there to threaten in Brazil. Instead, their form has gotten more and more shaky, coming to a head on Friday in their 4-0 loss to Colombia.

    Ecuador had a very different experience at the Copa America, becoming one of just four teams to be eliminated from the group stage. Since then, though, they have played very solid football and currently sit in third in the group, one spot ahead of Uruguay.

    A win for Uruguay could get them back on track and re-establish them as a threat in Brazil.

    A win for Ecuador, especially in Montevideo, would establish them as a dark-horse threat to make a run come 2014.

     

    Players to watch

    Two Premier League rivals are the ones to watch here.

    Liverpool's Luis Suarez returns to the lineup for Uruguay after missing his nation's 4-0 drubbing on Friday. Suarez will hope his pace and tactics can get his team the victory they need.

    On the other side, Manchester United's Antonio Valencia will captain Ecuador, hoping his play on the wing will be more than the Uruguayans can handle.

     

    Important questions

    Is Uruguay really in the decline, or was that Colombia match a one-off?

    Is Ecuador for real?

     

    Prediction

    Uruguay 2-0

United States vs Jamaica: Tuesday, 8:00 EDT

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    What's at stake

    It's the fourth match for both teams in their group for North America's third round of qualifying.

    As of now, Jamaica sits in first place on seven points. Meanwhile, the USA is virtually tied with Guatemala in second place on four points.

    The top two teams from the group advance to the next round of qualifying, so a win would be huge for the United States in this position.

     

    Why this is a match to watch

    The Jamaicans just pulled off a huge upset on Friday, coming back from a goal down to defeat the USA 2-1.

    Jamaica's side has been steadily improving over the past few years and are a threat at any point.

    On the other side, the USA will still miss Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley in the midfield, while Clint Dempsey is still not at the top of his form.

    The USA does have home-field advantage in this match, but there's no reason to think it won't be a hotly contested one.

     

    Players to watch

    For the USA, let's go with Clint Dempsey. If the new Tottenham signing is at the top of his game, he could easily be the difference-maker for the USA. On the other hand, if he struggles, the team could struggle with him.

    Jamaica's player to watch is Luton Shelton. The striker's beautiful free-kick on Friday proved the difference in the match and furthered his position as Jamaica's all-time leading scorer at 34 goals.

     

    Important questions

    Will the USA's injuries prove too tough to overcome for the second straight match?

    Just how big of a threat are Jamaica in North American qualifying?

     

    Prediction

    USA bounces back with a win, but it's a hard-fought and close 2-1 finish.

     

     

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