World football fans will get a glimpse into the final days of the group stage for Saturday's Day 3 of action, with four matches filling the 2014 World Cup slate and no shortage of enticing matchups.
We're just two days into the World Cup, but the tournament's first four matches have lived up to the hype. Whether it was Brazil getting past an opening-night test against Croatia or the Netherlands routing Spain 5-1 on Friday, highlight-reel plays have been the norm and the unpredictable certainly hasn't been out of the question.
It's all set the stage for Saturday—a day chock-full with four matches, all of which are must-see showdowns just like the four that have preceded.
|2014 World Cup: Day 3 Fixtures|
|Colombia vs. Greece||12 p.m.||ABC||Belo Horizonte|
|Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||3 p.m.||ABC||Fortazela|
|Ivory Coast vs. Japan||6 p.m.||ESPN||Recife|
|Italy vs. England||6 p.m.||ESPN||Manaus|
|all matches on June 14|
|2014 World Cup Standings|
Colombia vs. Greece
Odds: Colombia 100-193, Greece 369-50, Draw 233-100
The draw was kind to Colombia as it paved the way for them to potentially win the group, but they'll have to overcome a big body in order to do so.
Star striker Radamel Falcao is out for the World Cup, and after losing the undoubted leader of the Colombian attack, his teammates are left trying to fill the void.
However, there's elite talent hailing from the Italian, English and French top leagues all over the starting 11, from Freddy Guarin to Cristian Zapata to Abel Aguilar. As one of just a few South American countries in the mix in Brazil, Colombia will be represented well.
Not having Falcao means that the Colombians could be doomed for a knockout-stage exit, but Saturday's match against Greece will be the first of three matches in which Colombia can simply out-skill their opponent.
Prediction: Colombia 3, Greece 1
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica
Odds: Uruguay 100-309, Costa Rica 241-20, Draw 333-100
The Uruguayans open up action in Brazil with somewhat of a mismatch, but they can't get used to it.
While some feel Group G is the true "group of death," the same argument can be made of Group D, where there are even more international powerhouses. Uruguay, England, Italy and Costa Rica make up the group.
Uruguay are planning for the future heading into Saturday's clash with Costa Rica, keeping Luis Suarez—who is regaining his fitness from a knee injury—out of the lineup, per Daily Mail's Paul Collins. Instead, they're starting Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani up top.
Suarez or no Suarez, Uruguay will have no trouble setting the tempo early on with a sheer sense of urgency knowing that matches against England and Italy lie ahead. Cavani and Forlan are capable of scoring goals in bunches whether or not Suarez is in the fold, and a Costa Rica team whose best player is Fulham midfielder Bryan Ruiz will be no match for the 2010 semifinalists.
Prediction: Uruguay 2, Costa Rica 0
Ivory Coast vs. Japan
Odds: Ivory Coast 83-50, Japan 197-100, Draw 9-4
The window of opportunity is closing for Ivory Coast, but a glimmer of light is now shining through that window after a favorable group draw that begins with a test against Japan.
Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure are all likely heading into their final World Cup bid together, and this time has a big chance of being different. With Japan, Colombia and Greece filling their group, an early three points against the Japanese would put them on a solid pace in a winnable group.
While Japan are far from elite, they have a strong midfield with the speed to make opponents pay with quick attacks. However, that will be no match for a massive Ivory Coast midfield and defense that will see off any serious movement in the defending third.
When Ivory Coast get on the attack, Drogba will have a shot to assume glory, and he's no stranger at shining in the spotlight.
Prediction: Ivory Coast 2, Japan 1
England vs. Italy
Odds: Italy 39-25, England 217-100, Draw 41-20
At long last, the crown jewel of Day 3's action and one of the most enticing fixtures of the group stage.England and Italy combine for two of the top national teams in the history of international football, and with early supremacy in a daunting Group D on the line, the stakes are as high as they could possibly be. The prospect of winning arguably the tournament's hardest group comes with being victorious, while defeat could send either team toward a group-stage exit.
It's experience versus youth, as England head coach Roy Hodgson injected a plethora of young players into his 23-man roster. Italy will have the experienced Andrea Pirlo in the middle along with the usual experienced back line orchestrated by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy are the favorites, but there's not much between these two teams in terms of talent. The Italians have a group-stage exit in 2010 to motivate them, and England have a 2012 Euro defeat to Italy to avenge. When it comes down to it, neither team will be able to get past the other after they trade early blows.
Prediction: England 1, Italy 1
All odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
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