World Cup 2014: TV Schedule for Most Important Matches in Group-Stage Action

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World Cup 2014: TV Schedule for Most Important Matches in Group-Stage Action
Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

While every match counts in the 2014 World Cup, some hold more weight than others.

No one expects Brazil vs. Cameroon to decide which teams advance out of Group A. (Well, except maybe Joel Embiid). Brazil doesn't have a match in the Group Stage that qualifies as one of the most important because it's expected to go undefeated.

It's the toss-ups that shape the second round.

Here are those toss-ups, the most important matches of Group Stage action.

*All odds are according to Odds Shark

 

Group A

USA TODAY Sports

Croatia vs. MexicoMonday, June 23 at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN

Brazil is a lock to advance out of Group A, but second spot is up for grabs. Croatia entered with better odds than Mexico. But then Croatia lost 3-1 to Brazil and Mexico beat Cameroon 1-0.

Of course, Croatia will also likely go on to beat Cameroon and Mexico lose to Brazil. That would give their head-to-head match win-or-go-home stakes.

 

Group B

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Spain vs. ChileWednesday, June 18 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN

Spain was a heavy favorite to win Group B—but no more. The Netherlands thrashed the defending world champions 5-1 on Friday. The Netherlands are now the front-runners while Spain must fight for life.

Chile defeated Australia 3-1 on Friday, so it's Spain's greatest opponent for the second seed.

 

Group C

Shuji Kajiyama/Associated Press

Ivory Coast vs. JapanSaturday, June 14 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

Colombia likely won't lose a match in the group stage. The second seed in Group C should come down to the Ivory Coast and Japan. They actually have identical 4-1 odds to win the group.

Neither is a World Cup title contender, but it'll definitely be one of the closest matches of the first weekend.

 

Group D

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Italy vs. EnglandSaturday, June 14 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN

England vs. UruguayThursday, June 19 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN

Uruguay vs. ItalyTuesday, June 24 at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN

Group D will be the most competitive group in the World Cup by far. It doesn't have a heavy favorite like nearly all of the other groups. And it doesn't have a massive drop-off between the second- and third-best teams (which is why Groups G and H are omitted from this list).

Costa Rica should serve as an automatic win for Italy, Uruguay and England. The bottom feeder of the group has only 50-1 odds to win the group. Comparatively, Italy has 3-2, Uruguay 9-5 and England 9-4.

The above three matches are the most important of this list because one of the top 11 World Cup title contenders is guaranteed to be eliminated.

 

Group E

Nabor Goulart/Associated Press

Switzerland vs. EcuadorSunday, June 15 at 12 p.m. ET on ABC

France isn't the heaviest of the favorites to win its group, but it'd be shocking if it didn't advance. It'd be even more shocking if Honduras and its 33-1 odds to win the group did.

That leaves Switzerland and Ecuador to duke it out for second seed (or first if the winner upsets France).

 

Group F

Amel Emric/Associated Press

Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Nigeria—Saturday, June 21 at 6 p.m. at ET on ESPN

If Argentina doesn't win Group F, I'm crying apocalypse. Lionel Messi and friends should steamroll its three opponents. And Iran shares the same try-again-next-time odds as Honduras, 33-1.

This match between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria will almost definitely determine who joins Argentina in the second round.

 

David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.

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