Brazil got things started at the 2014 World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Croatia, but the action really begins to pick up with three matches on Friday.
Mexico and Cameroon will attempt to keep pace with Brazil in Group A, while the Netherlands and Spain recreate the World Cup final from 2010. In the final match of the day, Chile will try to show why they are one of the top sleepers in the tournament with a battle against Australia.
Each of these competitions will play a major role toward deciding which teams will advance to the knockout stage and which will be going home early.
Here is a look at predictions for each match along with the latest standings after Day 1.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0||0||0||0||0|
Day 2 Matches
Mexico vs. Cameroon
Although Mexico struggled throughout qualifying and barely reached Brazil, they still have enough talent to make a run in this tournament. Manager Miguel Herrera is not short on confidence, via Tom Marshall of ESPN FC:
Mexico manager Miguel Herrera: We can win the World Cup.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 12, 2014
Miguel Herrera: We have a team that can be world champions, but we need to believe it.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 12, 2014
Motivation might be the problem because Mexico is simply not getting the most out of its talent in recent years. The nation has fared extremely well in youth events, but it has not put forth its best effort at the senior level.
Between Giovani dos Santos, Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez (off the bench), the squad has more than enough firepower to score with any team in the world. The key will be to actually turn the opportunities into goals.
Of course, Cameroon is not going to make things easy. They have a strong defense and an experienced forward in Samuel Eto'o, who will try to lift the squad up with a goal or two. Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine anyone cracking Mexico's five-man back line.
Mexico will escape with a win, but it will not be as dominant as they hope.
Prediction: Mexico 1, Cameroon 0
Spain vs. Netherlands
Four years ago, the Netherlands proved that they were one of the top teams in the world as it took extra time for Spain to beat them in the World Cup final. Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder created a formidable attack that could defeat anyone.
Unfortunately, each of these players are now moving past their prime while the younger competitors do not seem ready to contribute at a high level. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has caught up with the Dutch style, as noted by Simon Kuper of ESPN FC:
In Brazil, Holland will be playing against versions of itself—in the case of Spain and probably Chile, better versions. Expect the Spaniards and Chileans to play Dutch-style against Holland, pressing deep on the weak Dutch defense, rather than sitting back and letting Van Persie and Robben attack. The know-how that made Dutch soccer unique is now the property of the world. That may prove fatal. This month could be a mere foretaste of dry times ahead.
Spain also have to deal with their core players getting older, but the difference is their incredible depth. Midfielders like Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas and others just keep coming, keeping everyone on the pitch fresh without having any drop-off late in the match.
Of course, the Spanish squad will not need to be aggressive, as they can simply work to control possession and find the best shot available.
The Netherlands might find a way to steal a goal with the immense offensive talent, but Spain will come away with an opening victory as they hope to win another title.
Prediction: Spain 2, Netherlands 1
Chile vs. Australia
While Spain and Netherlands are the two higher-profile squads in Group B, fans should not count out Chile as a team that could make a deep run in this tournament.
Experts like Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, Max Bretos of ESPN FC and Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports all see the South American squad as a sleeper:
Chile taking no quarter from Germany in Stuttgart. Chileans, my sleeper pick in Brazil. Way they r playing, may not be in sleeper category— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) March 5, 2014
With talented young players in the midfield setting things up for scorers like Alexis Sanchez up front, this team knows how to score. It will not be as easy against top opponents like Spain and Netherlands, but Australia will not put up much of a fight.
The Socceroos have seen their best players move past their prime without finding adequate replacements. They might be one of the more overmatched squads in Brazil and will struggle to even come away with a point in three matches in the group stage.
This will be a strong showing for Chile to finally put themselves on the map as one of the top contenders at the World Cup.
Prediction: Chile 3, Australia 0
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.