Day 4 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is the first chance for fans to run the rule over Argentina. The South American nation is the third favourite to win the tournament, per Odds Shark.
The team is bulging with skilled forwards, such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain. Argentina will begin their attempts to win a third World Cup by taking on Bosnia and Herzegovina in Day 4's final game.
Before that it's the turn of Group E, home to a powerful France squad. The French begin their World Cup against a tough and resourceful Honduras team.
That game will take place after Switzerland and Ecuador attempt to get a head start on the French.
|Switzerland vs. Ecuador||5 p.m. (BST)/Noon (ET)||ITV/ABC||ITV Player/ESPN Player|
|France vs. Honduras||8 p.m. (BST)/ 3 p.m. (ET)||BBC One/ABC||BBC iPlayer/ESPN Player|
|Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina||11 p.m. (BST)/6 p.m. (ET)||BBC One/ESPN||BBC iPlayer/ESPN Player|
FIFA.com and FanSided.com
Of these games, Argentina's should generate the most interest. This is an ultra-talented squad, but one that has often failed to live up to its billing in recent tournaments.
Dealing with expectations hasn't been a problem for France. Sticking together has been the main issue. If that changes at this World Cup, then coach Didier Deschamps' squad will be a major threat.
Here's a look at some of the key players from each game:
Switzerland vs. Ecuador: Gokhan Inler and Antonio Valencia
While young striker Josip Drmic's performances will garner a lot of attention, the success of the Swiss will really depend on midfield hub Gokhan Inler. He is a savvy competitor, tough in the tackle and assured in possession.
Inler usually helps shield his defence, but the Napoli man isn't afraid to break forward and contribute a clutch goal. The 29-year-old dictates possession via classy and efficient passing.
If Drmic is going to get the chances he needs to decide this game in Switzerland's favour, Inler must play a key role in supplying him.
Speaking of a key role, that's just what Antonio Valencia will again perform for his nation. Stuck on the fringes of the Manchester United team in recent seasons, Valencia is still a powerful and pacey attacker.
His ability to dominate the flanks is the crucial element of Ecuador's strategy, per BBC Sport: "Ecuador shuttle the ball quickly to wingers Montero and Antonio Valencia, and the success or otherwise of that game plan over the next three games will largely dictate their chances of reaching the last 16 for only the second time."
If Valencia can't sufficiently exploit the width likely available against a compact Swiss team, Ecuador will begin the tournament in disappointing fashion.
France vs. Honduras: Paul Pogba and Maynor Figueroa
The French should be capable of bossing most games in midfield during this World Cup. That's thanks to the presence of dynamic linchpin Paul Pogba.
The young Juventus ace is a true powerhouse, but he's one whose strength often belies his dazzling skill and natural flair. Pogba is the complete midfielder, and he should seize control of this game early.
The 21-year-old has an innate gift for transitioning defence to attack in an instant. He will be critical to France's ability to counter and strike quickly out of Deschamps' 4-3-3 shape.
If Honduras are going to stem the tide, they'll need a big game from defender Maynor Figueroa. He is part of a familiar foursome to British fans.
It's a group Sky Sports states will be vital for Honduras in Brazil: "The British-based quartet of Emilio Izaguirre, Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios and Roger Espinoza will all be key players for Suarez."
Figueroa is certainly a capable and steady defender. He can operate at full-back and centre-back, and he can even chip in with a few goals. He must marshal the Honduras defence to resist the pace and power of the French.
Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Lionel Messi and Edin Dzeko
For Bosnia and Herzegovina to pull off the upset of all upsets, towering striker Edin Dzeko must be on top form. The Manchester City star has certainly been prolific at club level this season.
He netted 16 times in the Premier League, per WhoScored.com, to help power The Citizens to a second league title in three seasons. Dzeko is a legitimate force in the air and decisive with the ball at his feet anywhere in the box.
He'll need supply from classy schemer Miralem Pjanic. If that connection flourishes, Bosnia will cause some nerves in Argentinian ranks.
As much as Dzeko will be under scrutiny, it will be nothing compared to the spotlight on Messi. The best player in the game has yet to thrive in the sport's biggest tournament.
Messi's cause isn't helped by the fact he's coming off a troubled season with FC Barcelona. But the terrific tiny trickster is reportedly in good spirits ahead of the tournament, per The Guardian:
Messi scored his 38th Argentina goal in last week’s warmup win over Slovenia, opponents chosen specifically with Bosnia in mind. The Argentina captain will see it as a good omen as he looks to break a World Cup scoring hoodoo dating back to his 2006 debut in Germany and continuing in a goalless 2010 finals in South Africa.
Messi appears in good shape and mood going into the tournament after a mixed season with hamstring problems and fewer goals than usual, with a mere three for Argentina compared with the 13 he scored between June 2012 and June 2013.
Messi won't have any excuses for not delivering in Brazil. After all, he is surrounded by genuine quality, in the form of Aguero, Higuain and Real Madrid playmaker Angel di Maria.
The latter will be tasked with setting Messi free via subtle and stylish passes to split defensive gaps. If Di Maria is at his best, Messi will dominate.
By the end of Day 4, Argentina will have shown whether they merit the pre-tournament hype. The pattern of Group E might also be set, especially if both France and Switzerland make early statements.