10 Best Games to Watch from 2014 World Cup Group Stage

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

10 Best Games to Watch from 2014 World Cup Group Stage

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    The group stage is often the most exciting part of the World Cup. All the nations are still involved, and fans around the globe are infused with optimism about their team's chances.

    These matches provide vital clues as to who could go on to win the tournament, and who will fall by the wayside.

    In this article, we highlight 10 games that should make this year's group stage particularly exciting.

Brazil vs. Croatia, June 12

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    The opening game of any World Cup is always a special occasion.

    Despite some social unrest, the football fans of Brazil will be in fanatical mood ahead of their first match against Croatia. The expectation on Brazil will be enormous. Can they live up to it?

Spain vs. Netherlands, June 13

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    Two of the most attractive teams in the competition meet in what ought to be a humdinger of a clash. Chile's presence in Group B makes it an extremely competitive group. Both sides will have to go all out for the win in this crucial opener.

England vs. Italy, June 14

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    England and Italy resume their rivalry in their opening group game. The two sides last met in the Euro 2012 quarter-final, when the Italians triumphed in a penalty shootout.

    This game will be played in Manaus in truly tropical conditions. It'll be fascinating to see how the England team cope with such an unfamiliar climate.

Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 15

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    Lionel Messi is arguably the world's greatest player. If he can lead Argentina to victory in Brazil, he might just confirm his place as the greatest of all time.

    This game will be particularly interesting as it sees Bosnia and Herzegovina play their first ever World Cup match. Not even the intimidating presence of Messi will prevent them from enjoying this experience.

Germany vs. Portugal, June 16

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    Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo enjoys the big stage. This clash with strongly fancied Germany will give him quite the platform to shine.

    Ronaldo will be fiercely determined to carve the World Cup in his own image. A storming performance against Germany would go a long way toward helping him do that.

Spain vs. Chile, June 18

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    This should be a thrilling feast of football. Spain are a behemoth of international football. However, on their home continent, Chile stand a good chance of causing an upset.

    This match will see Alexis Sanchez come up against several of his Barcelona team-mates. His searing pace will certainly provide a considerable threat to the Spanish defence.

Uruguay vs. England, June 19

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    This match might as well be rebranded, "Luis Suarez vs. England."

    That's not intended as any disrespect to the other members of Uruguay's team. However, the focus will inevitably be on Suarez when he comes face-to-face with the country where he plays his club football.

    English defenders have struggled to cope with Suarez all season long. England fans will hope that pattern changes this summer.

Switzerland vs. France, June 20

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    The clash between these two neighbours is always tense. It'll be closely fought, too: The Swiss have a famously mean defence that has proved difficult to break down.

    This game could go a long way toward deciding who escapes from Group E.

Belgium vs. Russia, June 22

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    Belgium and Russia are likely to vie for top spot in Group H. Both countries will fancy their chances of finishing ahead of South Korea and Algeria, so the competition to finish first in the group ought to be intense.

    There's plenty at stake: Coming second could mean a tie with Germany in the next round.

Netherlands vs. Chile, June 23

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    Some games make it in to this list on grounds of potential aesthetic excellence. Netherlands versus Chile is undoubtedly one of those.

    The Dutch are renowned for their attractive style of play, and Chile's energetic style is particularly easy on the eye. For the neutral, this game promises to be a thriller.