Heading into Day 2, the 2014 World Cup will immediately present one of the group stage's top matchups. With a trio of contests from Groups A and B, the preliminary rounds will truly begin full swing after Thursday night's kickoff in Brazil.
For those looking to catch the action, all Day 2 matches can be seen on WatchESPN.com. Here are all the times for each match:
|Time (ET)||Team 1||Team 2||Group|
So what should futbol fans watch for from the first full slate of games? Below, check out a preview of what we should expect from each of the three contests.
Mexico vs. Cameroon
With Brazil the heavy favorite to take the top seed in Group A, this is an absolutely critical match for both squads. The triumvirate of Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon all harbor realistic dreams of the knockout round, but an opening-match loss would likely doom either of these two squads.
For Mexico, the biggest storyline surrounds Javier Hernandez, the country's third all-time leading international scorer. Chicharito's club production dropped off precipitously at Old Trafford this season, and it appears the 26-year-old will not receive an initial chance to atone for his slump:
No Javier Hernandez in Mexico's starting XI vs. Cameroon tomorrow. Poor guy can't catch a break (unless he's picked up an injury).— Chris Fleming (@Chris__Fleming) June 12, 2014
For Cameroon, Samuel Eto'o headlines a physically imposing squad that will seek to push the pace. The Indomitable Lions have plenty of experience, as Alex Song and Jean Makoun will play important roles as well.
The Cameroonians attack has been quite inconsistent in the matches leading up to the World Cup. So long as Mexican centre back Rafael Marquez and Co. can hold up on the back end, Mexico should have enough to stake an early claim to second place.
Spain vs. Netherlands
The 2010 finals rematch stands out as arguably the best match of the preliminary round. With heaps of world-class talent on both sides, the third match of the tournament will have the feel of a knockout round, heavyweight battle.
The Furia Roja have largely returned the same group that captured major international championships in 2008, 2010 and 2012. One pressing question could be the health of striker Diego Costa, who has gamely played through a debilitating hamstring injury. The Chelsea-bound forward claims he is healthy ahead of the tournament:
Diego Costa insists he will be fully fit for Spain’s opening World Cup game with the Netherlands on Friday. http://t.co/v4sLp89SIV— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) June 10, 2014
The Oranje have their own personnel concerns, as captain Robin van Persie could be operating at suboptimal health after an injury-plagued season for Manchester United. Van Persie and Arjen Robben are familiar faces to most fans, but the Dutch's success will hinge upon the contributions from unknowns like Jonathan De Guzman, Jordy Clasie and Bruno Martins-Indi.
If either side can take three points, that would be a huge boost toward their knockout round qualification prospects. The top three of Group B rivals that of any other group, meaning that a legitimate championship contender will find itself going home far earlier than expected.
Chile vs. Australia
The Chileans should not face a particularly difficult test in their opening match. In fact, though Spain and the Netherlands may receive the majority of the mainstream pub, WorldSoccerTalk.com believes that Chile loom as legitimate threats to make a deep run:
resultantly should have no problems implementing Sampaoli’s high-intensity, high-pressure brand of football., they will be well acquainted with the conditions and
As such they will have the capabilities at hand to disrupt the opposition and keep the ball for long periods themselves. And with the implementation of their unorthodox 3-4-3 system, they are capable of maintaining possession exceptionally well. The whole team are completely at ease with the ball at their feet and they can run opposition sides ragged with their sharp passing and subtle movements.
However, one potential monkey wrench to La Roja's plan could be the health of Arturo Vidal. One of the world's best all-around midfielders has been dealing with a balky knee and could miss the opening match as a consequence:
Arturo Vidal is a doubt for Chile's opening match at the World Cup against Australia due to a knee injury. pic.twitter.com/X6AYDigQCI— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) June 9, 2014
The Australians are the minnows of the group, as even a point would be borderline miraculous. Though the Socceroos do have plenty of grit and the veteran leadership of all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill, the Aussies arguably face the most difficult task of any team in the tournament.