World Cup Schedule 2014: Group Fixtures Info, TV Coverage and Picks

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 05: Paulinho and  Neymar of Brazil in action during the International Friendly match between South Africa and Brazil at FNB Stadium on March 05, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

National teams from around the globe worked for the past four years to reach this point. Now they have three games in the group stage to show they belong among the final 16, which would also put them within four wins of glory at the 2014 World Cup.  

The format is conducive to high drama. Since it's only single round-robin play in the group stage, there's added pressure to showcase top form right away. That's why there's usually a couple surprise exits. Certain sides just aren't able to reach their peak at the right time.

With that in mind, let's check out a complete schedule for the opening round of play, starting with the host nation of Brazil taking on Croatia. It's followed by predictions for the group winners and a look at some teams who could be heading home early.

 

Group Fixtures

2014 World Cup - Group Matches
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

 

Picks for Group Winners

2014 World Cup - Group Winner Predictions
GroupWinner
ABrazil
BSpain
CIvory Coast
DItaly
EFrance
FArgentina
GGermany
HBelgium
Projections

 

Early-Exit Alert

Portugal

 

If the draw had been more kind to Portugal it would have likely been a lock to advance. Instead, the Seleccao ended up in the "Group of Death" alongside a dominant German squad and two sides with the talent to advance in Ghana and the United States.

The tough group puts a lot of pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo to perform like the best player in the world right away. He's certainly motivated, as illustrated in comments passed along by ESPN UK from French outlet So Foot Junior about what a World Cup title would mean to him:

That would crown a great career. I know it will be difficult, but everything is possible with work.

I have always watched the players who performed the best, and by observing them I understood one thing—what makes the difference between good players and stars is their work. I have played with footballers who had incredible talent, and it's difficult to say if they were better than me, but where they fell down was in consistency.

Starting against Germany is also a disadvantage. It means there's a good chance Portugal ends up losing while either Ghana or the United States earn all three points. That will put the talented but not incredibly deep side in an early hole that will be very difficult to dig out of over the next two matches.

 

Netherlands

The reigning champions from Spain are highly likely to secure a berth in the knockout rounds. It leaves one spot coming out of Group B for either Chile or the Netherlands with Australia probably relegated to a spoiler role. It's a worrisome situation for the Dutch.

Not only is Chile one of the tournament's most underrated sides, but the Oranje are entering the event without their usual strength in the midfield. The absence of Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart is going to make it very difficult to control the pace of the match.

Furthermore, the Netherlands' defense lacks experience with just one player having more than 15 international appearances. It's hard to imagine the attack, led by Robin van Persie, will be enough to overcome the question marks elsewhere in such a tough group.

 

Uruguay

There are certainly strong cases that can be made both for and against Uruguay. On one hand, the Celeste are a side with plenty of very experienced international players and have the potential to feature one of the most dynamic offenses, featuring Luis Suarez.

Yet, the concern is they don't have enough talent elsewhere on the roster to survive a group that also includes Italy and England. As Paul Carr of ESPN notes, the outlet's Soccer Power Index rates Group D as the toughest in the tournament:

The high-end talent up front in Suarez and Edinson Cavani is a major weapon, but it takes more than strength in one area to advance. Unless some of the supporting cast shows improved form, Uruguay could be making an early trip home.