It feels like a whole generation has passed since we sank our teeth into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, making the endless football drama and rather annoying vuvuzela buzz distant memories.
We’ve made it, though, the World Cup is back—with Brazil’s 2014 instalment set to live up to its billing as a thrilling festival of football.
As World Cup fever begins to grips all four corners of the earth, as the big kick-off draws ever nearer, we take a look at the fixtures from Group A to Group H and assess the potential matchups in the knockout stage with an in-depth look at the pick of the bunch.
World Cup 2014 Fixtures and Group Odds
|June 12||Brazil vs. Croatia||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo|
|June 13||Mexico vs. Cameroon||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Natal|
|June 17||Brazil vs. Mexico||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza|
|June 18||Cameroon vs. Croatia||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Manaus|
|June 23||Cameroon vs. Brazil||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Brasilia|
|June 23||Croatia vs. Mexico||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Recife|
|June 13||Spain vs. Netherlands||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Salvador|
|June 13||Chile vs. Australia||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Cuiaba|
|June 18||Spain vs. Chile||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro|
|June 18||Australia vs. Netherlands||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre|
|June 23||Australia vs. Spain||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Curitiba|
|June 23||Netherlands vs. Chile||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo|
|June 14||Colombia vs. Greece||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte|
|June 14||Ivory Coast vs. Japan||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Recife|
|June 19||Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Brasilia|
|June 19||Japan vs. Greece||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Natal|
|June 24||Japan vs. Colombia||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Cuiaba|
|June 24||Greece vs. Ivory Coast||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Fortaleza|
|June 14||Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza|
|June 14||England vs. Italy||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Manaus|
|June 19||Uruguay vs. England||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo|
|June 20||Italy vs. Costa Rica||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Recife|
|June 24||Italy vs. Uruguay||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Natal|
|June 24||Costa Rica vs. England||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte|
|June 15||Switzerland vs. Ecuador||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Brasilia|
|June 15||France vs. Honduras||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre|
|June 20||Switzerland vs. France||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Salvador|
|June 20||Honduras vs. Ecuador||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Curitiba|
|June 25||Honduras vs. Switzerland||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Manaus|
|June 25||Ecuador vs. France||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro|
|June 15||Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro|
|June 16||Iran vs. Nigeria||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Curitiba|
|June 21||Argentina vs. Iran||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte|
|June 21||Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Cuiaba|
|June 25||Nigeria vs. Argentina||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre|
|June 25||Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Salvador|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||6/1|
|June 16||Germany vs. Portugal||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Salvador|
|June 16||Ghana vs. United States||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Natal|
|June 21||Germany vs. Ghana||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza|
|June 22||United States vs. Portugal||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Manaus|
|June 26||United States vs. Germany||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Recife|
|June 26||Portugal vs. Ghana||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Brasilia|
|June 17||Belgium vs. Algeria||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte|
|June 17||Russia vs. South Korea||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Cuiaba|
|June 22||Belgium vs. Russia||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Rio de Janeiro|
|June 22||South Korea vs. Algeria||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Porto Alegre|
|June 26||South Korea vs. Belgium||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Sao Paulo|
|June 26||Algeria vs. Russia||9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET||Curitiba|
World Cup 2014 Knockout Stage
|Round of 16||Quarter-finals||Semi-finals||Final|
|Winner Group A|
|Runner-up Group B|
|Winner Match 49|
|Winner Match 50|
|Winner Group C|
|Runner-up Group D|
|Winner Match 57|
|Winner Match 58|
|Winner Group E|
|Runner-up Group F|
|Winner Match 53|
|Winner Match 54|
|Winner Group G|
|Runner-up Group H|
|Winner Match 61|
|Winner Match 62|
|Winner Group B|
|Runner-up Group A|
|Winner Match 51|
|Winner Match 52|
|Winner Group D|
|Runner-up Group C|
|Winner Match 59|
|Winner Match 60|
|Winner Group F|
|Runner-up Group E|
|Winner Match 55|
|Winner Match 56|
|Winner Group H|
|Runner-up Group G|
Potential Matchup: Brazil vs. Netherlands (Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up)
With the hosts Brazil expected to breeze through Group A, it’s likely they will face the Netherlands in the round of 16 with the Dutch looking to emerge as runners-up to Spain in Group B.
In a repeat of 2010’s quarter-final, Brazil vs. Netherlands would showcase some of the best footballers on the planet with a place in this year’s quarter-finals up for grabs.
Four years ago the Dutch came from behind to knock Brazil out, with Robinho’s opening strike cancelled out by a Wesley Sneijder brace.
However, the Brazilians are in a position to exact revenge this time around—coming into the World Cup in blistering form.
According to SoccerWay, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have lost just one of their last 19 internationals, winning their last seven on the spin.
With friendlies against Panama and Serbia to come before their Group A campaign kicks off against Mexico, Brazil could be coming into their prospective match against the Netherlands on the back of a 12-match winning streak.
With the class of Neymar, Oscar, Hulk and Marcelo in their ranks, it’s hard to see the Dutch causing the star-studded hosts much of a problem. However, their manager Louis van Gaal has the kind of mission on his hands whereby failure won’t be taken lightly.
The 62-year-old will take charge of Manchester United on a permanent basis following the climax of the World Cup and will be hoping to go out with a bang and emulate the Netherlands’ exploits of four years ago when they went all the way to the final.
With the likes of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Sneijder all donning the famous orange shirt this summer, Van Gaal certainly has the personnel to do so.
One player Van Gaal will have to cope without is midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who will miss the finals with a calf injury.
World Cup latest: Holland's Rafael van der Vaart ruled out by injury …— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) May 28, 2014
The former Tottenham Hotspur man scored five goals during the Netherlands’ World Cup qualification campaign, per SoccerWay, and will be a big loss for the Dutch in Brazil—a sentiment echoed by teammate Ryan Babel:
I feel bad for @rafvdvaart as i know that feeling missing a tournament with an injury... Get well soon Raf!— Ryan Babel (@Ryanbabel) May 28, 2014
Another player that lamented the loss of his colleague’s services is Bayern Munich star Robben, who said in an interview with NOS that the Netherlands will miss Van der Vaart’s experience—per Goal.com:
I would have preferred that he had gone, with all his experience. It will also be a huge disappointment for him. I have not spoken to him about it, that's a pity. With Wesley Sneijder now I'm the only player who is going into a sixth finals tournament. Experience is always good to have around, especially in a big tournament.
Robben’s top-level experience will undoubtedly play a big part if the men in orange meet with Brazil, with the 30-year-old having played in the biggest matches in world and European football throughout his career.
Though Van Gaal will be hoping to sign off in style, it’s hard to see anything other than a Brazil victory if these sides meet in the knockout stage.
Selecao seem destined to have a fruitful campaign in front of their home crowd. Despite the Dutch dumping them out of the 2010 World Cup, Brazil look a different and much more impressive outfit this time around.
Other Knockout Stage Potential Fixtures
Colombia vs. Italy (Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up)
France vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (Group E winner vs. Group F runner-up)
Germany vs. Russia (Group G winner vs. Group H runner-up)
Spain vs. Mexico (Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up)
England vs. Ivory Coast (Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up)
Argentina vs. Switzerland (Group F winner vs. Group E runner-up)
Belgium vs. Portugal (Group H winner vs. Group G runner-up)