Groups C and D will be under the spotlight on Day 3 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It's the first chance to see if Colombia and Uruguay can deliver on their undoubted talent.
The day will also be highlighted by the clash between England and Italy, a rematch of the gruelling Euro 2012 quarter-final.
TV Schedule Information
|Colombia vs. Greece||5 p.m. (BST)/12 p.m. ET||BBC One/ABC||BBC iPlayer/ ESPN3.com|
|Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||8 p.m. (BST)/3 p.m. ET||ITV/ABC||ITV Player/ESPN 3.com|
|England vs. Italy||11 p.m. (BST)/6 p.m. ET||BBC One/ ESPN||BBC iPlayer/ ESPN3.com|
|Ivory Coast vs. Japan||2 a.m. (BST)/9 p.m. ET||ITV/ESPN||ITV Player/ESPN3.com|
FIFA.com and FanSided.com
Those willing to defy the clock should make the effort to check out Ivory Coast's clash with Japan. The game features two squads with plenty of attacking talent that is sure to produce goals.
As for the marquee game, it's probably smart to expect a cautious approach from both England and Italy. Three Lions coach Roy Hodgson is what is politely called a "tactical" strategist—football's accepted parlance for defensive-minded.
Fellow Group D contenders Uruguay have the attacking prowess to be a major threat at this tournament. That should have plenty of eyes on their game to see how strikers such as Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan get started.
Here are some predictions for Day 3:
Mario Balotelli Will Break English Hearts
Despite their well-earned reputation for pragmatic football, the Italians actually possess some gifted attacking players. Chief among them is erratic striker Mario Balotelli.
The AC Milan frontman is well-known to English audiences after an eventful spell with Premier League heavyweight Manchester City.
Nobody can dispute Balotelli knows where to locate the self-destruct button in himself. But it's equally true that when he's at his best, the 23-year-old is an awesome forward.
Balotelli has the power, pace and technical quality to punish the England defence. That's just what he'll do, en route to settling a tight and largely dour game.
Predicted Final Score: England 0-1 Italy
Carlos Bacca Will Star for Colombia
In another game that is likely to be tight, Colombia's superior quality up front will help them pip defensively solid Greece. A lot of that quality comes from Sevilla star Carlos Bacca.
Tricky, sly and relentless, Bacca can seize an opening at any time. He was superb during Sevilla's UEFA Europa League-winning season.
Bacca helped himself to 18 goals, with 14 coming in La Liga, per WhoScored.com. The 27-year-old is one reason why Colombia can survive the injury-enforced absence of Radamel Falcao.
They are hardly bereft of options without him. Colombia’s attacking quartet for the World Cup consists of Jackson Martínez, top scorer in Portugal last season with Porto, albeit a player who has not always replicated that form for his country, River Plate’s imposing Teofilo Gutierrez, Carlos Bacca, who enjoyed a fine season with Europa League winners Sevilla, and Adrien Ramos, whose exploits for Hertha Berlin last season have earned him an £8m transfer to Borussia Dortmund as a replacement for Bayern Munich-bound Robert Lewandowski. Colombia were not steered to Brazil by Falcao alone and will continue to be supplied by the striker’s supremely gifted Monaco team-mate, James Rodríguez, the attacking midfielder on who much depends.
Bacca will show this squad's strength in reserve by tying a stubborn Greek defence in knots before making the telling contribution.
Predicted Final Score: Colombia 1-0 Greece
Ivory Coast vs. Japan Will be a Goal Fest
If there's one match sure to provide goals on Day 3, it has to be Ivory Coast's game against Japan. Each side has match-winners in forward areas, many well-known to Premier League audiences.
The Japanese will rely on the craft and technical acumen of Shinji Kagawa. He is often a peripheral figure for Manchester United, but Kagawa is a talented provider who can expose the Ivorian defence.
His efforts will be aided by the presence of AC Milan advanced schemer Keisuke Honda. He is a player capable of producing the spectacular at any moment.
But while the Japanese will rely on subtle movement and creative flair, Ivory Coast can attack with imposing physical power and dynamic athleticism.
Those qualities are embodied by strikers Didier Drogba and Wilfried Bony, as well as wingers Gervinho and Salomon Kalou. That's a quartet certainly capable of undermining a quick but slight Japan defence.
With most of the ability on both sides in forward areas, expect a minimum of four goals to be shared between these two Group C opponents.
Predicted Final Score: Ivory Coast 3-1 Japan
Uruguay Will Win Emphatically
Uruguay are a fancied team for many, thanks largely to their trio of terrific strikers. Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are all legitimate match-winners.
Although it seems not everyone is a convert. German-based journalist Jan Aage Fjortoft has expressed doubts about the Uruguayans' recent form:
And by the way! England will do better than you think. This NOT group of death. Uruguay: 2 good strikers, but needed play-off to qualify— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) June 12, 2014
Some pessimism is only natural, considering the pre-tournament knee injury suffered by Suarez. The Liverpool ace took full part in his nation's most recent training session but has still been left out for this game, per BBC Sport.
Despite the doubters, Uruguay will enjoy the best possible start by emphatically sweeping aside Costa Rica. Even without Suarez up front, Forlan and Cavani give Uruguay enough firepower to score early and often.
This squad will also be a major threat on South American soil. Coach Oscar Tabarez's squad will waste no time proving its credentials.
Predicted Final Score: Uruguay 3-0 Costa Rica
Once Day 3 is officially in the books, the order of Groups C and D will be starting to take shape. England will be under the most pressure following early disappointment.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast will enjoy opening with a victory. But they will also provide future opponents with plenty of pointers for exposing their suspect defence.
As for Uruguay and Colombia, they'll both be happy to make solid starts, with the former looking particularly impressive.