The 2014 World Cup has now kicked into full gear entering a jam-packed slate of Day 3 matches.
Eight more squads, representing Groups C and D, will begin their tournaments on Saturday. Group C is especially one of the field's most wide open quadrants, which sets up pivotal matches featuring no obvious favorites.
Here's a look at the early standings after two days and four matches.
|2014 FIFA World Cup Standings|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||0|
Courtesy of OddsShark, here are the top teams' odds of winning the World Cup.
|World Cup Odds|
|Team||Odds to Win|
Note that these were formulated before the tournament began. Spain's chances have sharply deteriorated after suffering a stunning 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver calculated a drastically smaller probability for them to take home the title.
Colombia vs. Greece
Although considered a favorite to survive Group C, Colombia must overcome a slew of injuries in order to validate those expectations.
Among those out of commission for Colombia is star striker Radamel Falcao, who scored eight goals in 11 World Cup qualifying matches.
Despite missing one of his best players, manager Jose Pekerman refuses to lean on a long injury list as an excuse. He insisted to the Guardian's Andy Hunter that they are not fretting about Falcao's absence:
We have dealt with our problems and now we are not thinking about what is behind us but the potential of this team. Any team in the world would love to have Falcao as its striker but we are strong, we can deal with this and with the game against Greece. You will see for yourself.
Look for 22-year-old James Rodriguez to assume the offensive burden. Greece is content on playing back and letting their defense work, but that conservative style will generate ample scoring opportunities for an ultra-aggressive Colombia.
Even without Falcao, Los Cafeteros have more than enough scoring threats to string together a couple of scorers to top Greece.
Prediction: Colombia 2, Greece 0
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica
With powerhouses England and Italy occupying the other half of Group D, the pressure is on both teams to leave this match with three points.
In order for one of these clubs to pull an upset and advance, they'll need a victory here, preferably with a glossy goal tally. If one of these two teams is going to upend Italy or England, it's Uruguay.
According to BBC, Oscar Tabarez's club will start the match without Luis Suarez, who underwent a knee operation in May. But he could be used as a substitute later in the match, which likely means they'll save him for England unless they need him on Saturday.
The underdog Costa Rica needs stellar play from goalkeeper Keylor Navas to have any shot at staying alive. He'll keep it closer than the game would otherwise be, but expect La Celeste to emerge victorious.
Prediction: Uruguay 3, Costa Rica 1
England vs. Italy
Representing Saturday's marquee fixture, two European juggernauts in England and Italy will collide for control over Group D.
Two nations with long track records of success are each in the midst of a youth movement. As noted by the Rob Harris and Andrew Dampf of Associated Press, via USA Today, the two teams are rostering a combined 17 newcomers.
Yet it's the familiar names of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and captain Steve Gerrard who will propel the Three Lions in Manaus. The squad's physical defense is also crucial in containing Italy's boisterous star striker, Mario Balotelli.
Anticipate a hard-fought, old-school clash between these two titans that ends with England limping away with a one-goal victory.
Prediction: England 1, Italy 0
Ivory Coast vs. Japan
This is believed to be the Ivory Coast's last opportunity to capitalize on their golden era of stars, most notably striker Didier Drogba. In a group with no clear-cut favorite, they could set themselves up for advancement by gaining three points over Japan.
Despite making the last two World Cups, the Ivory Coast has still never advanced past group play. Now an aging squad looking to make one last run, the side will start against a fast-paced Japan team that represents a stark clash in style.
While the Blue Samurai rely on sharp midfield, the Elephants utilize a more physical, defensive-minded approach. Don't expect either side to compromise its philosophy to bend to the other side.
Deeper into the tournament, Japan's fresher legs would have signified a greater advantage, but Ivory Coast's veterans have had time to amp up for what could be the last World Cup run for many of them. As long as they avoid an early blip, they'll endure a battle of attrition to slip past Japan.
Prediction: Ivory Coast 2, Japan 1
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