The 2014 World Cup in Brazil promises to be one of the best in recent memory due to the sheer amount of top contenders. Any number of teams could potentially win this tournament, which makes every match hugely important.
As good as the knockout rounds are, it can be argued that no stage of the World Cup is more entertaining than the group round. Not only does it feature plenty of David vs. Goliath matchups, but it also pits some of the top soccer powers in the world against each other.
With so many excellent matches on the upcoming slate, here is the full viewing schedule for the 2014 World Cup, along with further analysis regarding the very best matches the group stage has to offer.
World Cup Schedule
|Date||Matchup||Start Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Thu, June 12||Group A: Brazil vs. Croatia||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 13||Group A: Mexico vs. Cameroon||12 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 13||Group B: Spain vs. Netherlands||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 13||Group B: Chile vs. Australia||6 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 14||Group C: Colombia vs. Greece||12 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 14||Group D: Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||3 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 14||Group D: England vs. Italy||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 14||Group C: Ivory Coast vs. Japan||9 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 15||Group E: Switzerland vs. Ecuador||12 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 15||Group E: France vs. Honduras||3 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 15||Group F: Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 16||Group G: Germany vs. Portugal||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 16||Group F: Iran vs. Nigeria||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 16||Group G: Ghana vs. United States||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 17||Group H: Belgium vs. Algeria||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 17||Group A: Brazil vs. Mexico||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 17||Group H: Russia vs. South Korea||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 18||Group B: Australia vs. Netherlands||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 18||Group B: Spain vs. Chile||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 18||Group A: Cameroon vs. Croatia||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 19||Group C: Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 19||Group D: Uruguay vs. England||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 19||Group C: Japan vs. Greece||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 20||Group D: Italy vs. Costa Rica||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 20||Group E: Switzerland vs. France||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 20||Group E: Honduras vs. Ecuador||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 21||Group F: Argentina vs. Iran||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 21||Group G: Germany vs. Ghana||3 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 21||Group F: Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 22||Group H: Belgium vs. Russia||12 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 22||Group H: South Korea vs. Algeria||3 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 22||Group G: United States vs. Portugal||6 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 23||Group B: Netherlands vs. Chile||12 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 23||Group B: Australia vs. Spain||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 23||Group A: Croatia vs. Mexico||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 23||Group A: Cameroon vs. Brazil||4 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 24||Group D: Italy vs. Uruguay||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 24||Group D: Costa Rica vs. England||12 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 24||Group C: Japan vs. Colombia||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 24||Group C: Greece vs. Ivory Coast||4 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 25||Group F: Nigeria vs. Argentina||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 25||Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran||12 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 25||Group E: Ecuador vs. France||4 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Wed, June 25||Group E: Honduras vs. Switzerland||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 26||Group G: United States vs. Germany||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 26||Group G: Portugal vs. Ghana||12 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 26||Group H: South Korea vs. Belgium||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 26||Group H: Algeria vs. Russia||4 p.m.||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 28||Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up||12 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sat, June 28||Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up||4 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 29||Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 29||Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 30||Group E winner vs. Group F runner-up||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Mon, June 30||Group G winner vs. Group H runner-up||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, July 1||Group F winner vs. Group E runner-up||12 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, July 1||Group H winner vs. Group G runner-up||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat, July 5||Quarterfinal||12 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sat, July 5||Quarterfinal||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Tue, July 8||Semifinal||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Wed, July 9||Semifinal||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sat, July 12||Third Place Game||4 p.m.||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|Sun, July 13||Final||4 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
Top Group Matches to Watch
Germany vs. Portugal
Group G is considered by many to be the "group of death" in this year's World Cup, which is largely due to the presence of Germany and Portugal. Germany are considered to be among the top contenders to win the World Cup, while Portugal aren't far behind. They will meet to kick off Group G play in a match that should set the tone for the entire group.
If one of the two sides lose, they will be in a precarious position, as it will leave them vulnerable to be surpassed by either the United States or Ghana. Germany will be favored in this match due largely to their depth throughout the lineup. The Germans have plenty of excellent attackers, including Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze. Perhaps most importantly, though, they have one of the world's best goalkeepers in Manuel Neuer.
Portugal have plenty of talent as well, but there is no doubt that world-class striker Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest key to the side's success. Ronaldo has been dealing with some injuries as of late, however, and he left training early Thursday with a knee ailment, according to NBC Sports Soccer:
Getting worse: Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Portugal training with ice around his ailing left knee - http://t.co/zSUBmQhUDw— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) June 12, 2014
Ronaldo's status for the match against Germany is somewhat in question, but even if he plays he may not be himself. If Ronaldo is unable to move forward with speed and confidence, Portugal will have a very difficult time in this match.
If he is healthy, though, this could be the best match of the entire tournament.
Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Due largely to the presence of Lionel Messi, Argentina are considered a major threat to win the 2014 World Cup on their home continent of South America. Most seem to believe that La Albiceleste will waltz through what looks like a fairly easy group on the surface, but the Argentinians won't be able to beat a team like Bosnia and Herzegovina without putting forth maximum effort.
The Bosnians were spectacular in qualifying to reach their first-ever World Cup, and they may have enough firepower to give Argentina some trouble. The striker combination of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic is as dynamic as any in the entire tournament, so Bosnia may be able to keep pace with the explosive Argentinians.
One person who firmly believes Bosnia have a shot against Argentina is Bosnia and Herzegovina winger Izet Hajrovic, according to Ryan Benson of Goal.com:
Physically we are ready. We played great in the preparatory matches against the Ivory Coast and Mexico so we expect to be (great) in Sunday's encounter with Argentina. We're doing well and I believe we are at (the level of) and maybe even better than Argentina. The normal thing is to have a bit of stage fright because we play the first game ever at the World Cup finals. However, it will be great motivation.
Everyone expects to play and get a result, supporters say we will and this will get us our place in the second round.
A Bosnia win over Argentina would be considered a major upset, but Bosnia don't seem to see it that way. Regardless of the result, this will most definitely be an exciting affair with plenty of attacking.
Uruguay vs. England
Which World Cup group match are you most excited to watch?
If Group G isn't the toughest group in the entire World Cup, then that distinction belongs to Group D. It features three former World Cup champions in Uruguay, England and Italy, as well as Costa Rica. Since the top three teams are expected to beat up on the over-matched CONCACAF side, the results between will be key.
Uruguay and England will each have a match under their belts when they play, and their match could very well determine the fate of the group as a whole. Another thing that will have a major impact on the group, though, is the health of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. The Liverpool star tied the EPL single-season record with 31 goals this past season and is the biggest key to La Celeste's success in Brazil.
Suarez underwent knee surgery a few weeks ago, and it is unknown when he will be ready to return to action. According to SuperSport Blitz, Suarez is making progress in his recovery:
According to coach Oscar Tabarez, striker Luis Suarez is recovering well from knee surgery ahead of Uruguay's 1st match against Costa Rica— SuperSport Blitz (@SuperSportBlitz) June 11, 2014
Per Sky Sports, Suarez himself conveyed in a video on Twitter that he is improving as well.
"Hello to everyone, I wanted to tell you that my knee is getting better. I feel very good, I have to go day by day, but everything is on the right way," Suarez said. "I wanted to thank you all for the support I received during this week and now my mind is focused on the World Cup."
If Suarez is not fit to play against England, things certainly shift in Three Lions' favor. England have plenty of attacking flair in their own right with Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge leading the charge, so it would be difficult for Edinson Cavani to do it all virtually on his own without help from Suarez.
The hope is that Suarez will be able to play in that match, because it will be an extremely compelling one if both teams are at full strength.
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