World Cup Groups 2014: Fixtures, Predictions and Final Preview

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Iker Casillas of Spain kisses the World Cup trophy as the Spain team celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Ever since the World Cup group draw was completed back in December there's been endless talk about which teams will advance, potential sleepers and top squads that may be in danger. Now, it's time to actually play the matches to find out the answers.

While there are obviously some national teams in better position to advance than others, every side enters with the same goal. They all want to simply find a way to reach the knockout stages because anything can happen in elimination matches. And it's a realistic goal for most sides.

The next two weeks will be filled with plenty of drama and some unexpected results, which is part of the event's worldwide allure. So let's check out all of the key fixture information for the stage, followed by predictions and a preview.

 

Group Fixtures

2014 World Cup - Group Schedule
DateTime (ET)GroupMatchTV
June 124 p.m.ABrazil vs. CroatiaESPN
June 1312 p.m.AMexico vs. CameroonESPN2
June 133 p.m.BSpain vs. NetherlandsESPN
June 136 p.m.BChile vs. AustraliaESPN2
June 1412 p.m.CColombia vs. GreeceABC
June 143 p.m.DUruguay vs. Costa RicaABC
June 146 p.m.DEngland vs. ItalyESPN
June 149 p.m.CIvory Coast vs. JapanESPN
June 1512 p.m.ESwitzerland vs. EcuadorABC
June 153 p.m.EFrance vs. HondurasABC
June 156 p.m.FArgentina vs. Bosnia-H.ESPN
June 1612 p.m.GGermany vs. PortugalESPN
June 163 p.m.FIran vs. NigeriaESPN
June 166 p.m.GGhana vs. USAESPN
June 1712 p.m.HBelgium vs. AlgeriaESPN
June 173 p.m.ABrazil vs. MexicoESPN
June 176 p.m.HRussia vs. South KoreaESPN
June 1812 p.m.BAustralia vs. NetherlandsESPN
June 183 p.m.BSpain vs. Chile ESPN
June 186 p.m.ACameroon vs. CroatiaESPN
June 1912 p.m.CColombia vs. Ivory CoastESPN
June 193 p.m.DUruguay vs. EnglandESPN
June 196 p.m.CJapan vs. GreeceESPN
June 2012 p.m.DItaly vs. Costa RicaESPN
June 203 p.m.ESwitzerland vs. FranceESPN
June 206 p.m.EHonduras vs. EcuadorESPN
June 2112 p.m.FArgentina vs. IranESPN
June 213 p.m.GGermany vs. GhanaESPN
June 216 p.m.FNigeria vs. Bosnia-H.ESPN
June 2212 p.m.HBelgium vs. RussiaABC
June 223 p.m.HSouth Korea vs. AlgeriaABC
June 226 p.m.GUSA vs. PortugalESPN
June 2312 p.m.BNetherlands vs. ChileESPN
June 2312 p.m.BAustralia vs. SpainESPN2
June 234 p.m.ACroatia vs. MexicoESPN
June 234 p.m.ACameroon vs. BrazilESPN2
June 2412 p.m.DItaly vs. UruguayESPN
June 2412 p.m.DCosta Rica vs. EnglandESPN2
June 244 p.m.CJapan vs. ColombiaESPN
June 244 p.m.CGreece vs. Ivory CoastESPN2
June 2512 p.m.FNigeria vs. ArgentinaESPN
June 2512 p.m.FBosnia-H. vs. IranESPN2
June 254 p.m.EEcuador vs. FranceESPN
June 254 p.m.EHonduras vs. SwitzerlandESPN2
June 2612 p.m.GUnited States vs. GermanyESPN
June 2612 p.m.GPortugal vs. GhanaESPN2
June 264 p.m.HSouth Korea vs. BelgiumESPN
June 264 p.m.HAlgeria vs. RussiaESPN2
FIFA.com and ESPNMediaZone.com

 

Group Predictions

2014 World Cup - Projected Group Finishes
Group1st2nd3rd4th
ABrazilCroatiaMexicoCameroon
BSpainChileNetherlandsAustralia
CIvory CoastColombiaJapanGreece
DItalyEnglandUruguayCosta Rica
EFranceEcuadorSwitzerlandHonduras
FArgentinaBosnia & HerzegovinaNigeriaIran
GGermanyUnited StatesPortugalGhana
HBelgiumRussiaSouth KoreaAlgeria
Predictions

 

Preview for Opening Round

The World Cup draw is extremely convoluted due to all of the different rules aimed to prevent too many teams from one region in the same group. That said, the process actually did a pretty good job of spreading out the talent this time around.

A couple of the top contenders, namely Spain and Germany, landed in tough pools, but nothing that would be considered unreasonable. If they, along with Brazil and Argentina, play up to their full potential, all of the elite sides should move through without a ton of drama.

And while many of the groups are pretty straightforward, at least on paper before play actually begins, there are a few that should feature some pretty fierce battles.

It starts with Spain's Group B. La Furia Roja should advance and it would be a major surprise if Australia joins them. That leaves one spot in the Round of 16 for either a Netherlands side with plenty of star power or Chile, which is playing on its home continent.

 

The advantage falls to La Roja due to two main factors.

Most importantly, they are perhaps the most underrated group in the tournament with talent, depth and experience in every area. In particular, look for Alexis Sanchez to have a very strong showing out from the shadows of all the big names at Barcelona.

The other factor that swings the knockout berth to Chile is the Netherlands' issues in the midfield. Without Kevin Strootman or Rafael van der Vaart, manager Louis van Gaal has been forced to juggle his lineup and formation, which rarely leads to good short-term results.

Group D is interesting because it has three very good teams, but no dominant side. England, Italy and Uruguay are all pretty evenly matched overall and Costa Rica is definitely capable of playing the role as spoiler.

The Three Lions' hopes rest heavily on the shoulders of Joe Hart. The rest of the squad is good enough to make at least a run to the quarterfinals. But goalkeeping has been an issue for awhile and the Manchester City star went through a dip in form during the club campaign.

John Cross of the Daily Mirror passed along comments from England manager Roy Hodgson, who said his side is capable of going the distance:

Yes I believe the squad can win the World Cup, otherwise what's the point? But they're empty words.

I'm sure Scolari is saying Brazil can win it. If we're going to win it, we'll have to prepare and play very well, and this talented group of players have to show their talent. Otherwise all the words in the world count for nothing.

For Italy, Mario Balotelli must be a game-changing attacker. The midfield can match any team in the tournament and Gianluigi Buffon is still a rock at the back. But to advance from the group, the Azzurri need the 23-year-old striker to keep his head on straight and score a couple key goals.

Ultimately, both England and Italy hold a slight edge over Uruguay. There's no doubting the squad's attacking talent, especially if Luis Suarez is at full strength, but a lack of star power elsewhere on the pitch will cause them to fall short.

Finally, there's the "Group of Death," which is Group G. It features Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States, which are all capable of moving through to the next round.

The strength of Germany is on display in odds provided by Paul Carr of ESPN. Despite the tough group, the Germans are still better than 90 percent to advance while the other spot is up for grabs:

Portugal would be the obvious choice, but things could get very tricky for the Selecao. If they lose their opener to Germany and either the United States or Ghana win the other match, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. would be in a major hole right away.

That's good news for the Americans, who should be able to avenge their losses to Ghana in each of the two previous World Cups. As long as the back line doesn't blink in the face of pressure from three different but dangerous attacking groups, the United States has a good chance to advance.

Ultimately, the group stage is rarely as predictable is it appears before the tournament. There will probably be at least one team that finds top form and comes out of the blue to move on. But the outlook for the top teams is very favorable thanks to a well spread out draw.