After the first few days of the 2014 World Cup featured a number of surprises, fans should expect more of the same as the group stage continues.
Day 4 offers up the first matches of Group E, which could be the most wide-open group in the tournament. Switzerland, France, Ecuador and Honduras each have their strengths, and any of them could advance to the next round.
Additionally, Group F will get started as Argentina take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in a match that features some of the most talented players in the world.
There will be plenty to keep track of, but here is a breakdown of what to expect from Sunday's action.
|Noon||E||Switzerland vs. Ecuador||ABC||Brasilia|
|3 p.m.||E||France vs. Honduras||ABC||Porto Alegre|
|6 p.m.||F||Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina||ESPN||Rio de Janeiro|
Switzerland vs. Ecuador
Although Switzerland earned one of the prestigious seeded positions in this tournament, they are still being overlooked at this point.
Despite this fact, the squad is confident it can make a run at least into the knockout stage if things go according to plan.
Young midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri pointed out that teamwork is the most important thing for this team. He said, via Andrew Wychrij of Goal.com: "We are not France, not Spain, not Brazil. We must play as a unit, then we can achieve something. We're little Switzerland. We have to play as a team. I can only help bring the team back something important."
With plenty of young talent throughout the pitch, the Swiss should be able to control possession and work to get good shots until they score.
This match will not be as easy for Ecuador, who struggle when playing outside of their home country. In CONMEBOL qualifying, they had seven wins and a draw in eight home matches but only three draws and five losses on the road.
Although they are much closer to home than Switzerland while playing in Brazil, they will still struggle to get onto the scoresheet in what will be a low-scoring match.
Prediction: Switzerland 1, Ecuador 0
France vs. Honduras
After a terrible showing at the 2010 World Cup, France were hoping for a bounce-back effort in Brazil. Unfortunately, losing star forward Franck Ribery makes the situation a bit more desperate.
Jonathan Johnson of ESPN FC points out that the French will miss his experience:
With 10 World Cup appearances to his name, the 31-year-old has played one more match at this level than the rest of the entire squad combined. Also, at 81 caps he was by far the most experienced member of the group, and that burden now falls to Karim Benzema, who is still looking for a first goal at a major international tournament.
While the leadership is important, Ribery is also an elite talent offensively. Although he did not have his best year with Bayern Munich, he knows how to create opportunities for teammates. Without him, scorers like Karim Benzema will be left to find a way to score on their own.
On the other end of the pitch are Honduras, who seemed overmatched heading into the week but should get a boost from the success of others in the region, as noted by ESPN FC:
They are aggressive enough to break through a tough French defense and get at least one goal, although France are likely going to battle back.
Still, Honduras will be able to continue the surprises of the early part of the World Cup by securing a draw in this match.
Prediction: France 1, Honduras 1
Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina
It seems unlikely that anyone in the World Cup will be able to match Argentina's skill on the attack. The offense will feature elite talent like Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria, who have all shown plenty of ability in European competition.
Of course, the big star is Lionel Messi, who was named the best player in the World Cup by ESPN FC:
These players have the ability to score on any defense in this tournament, regardless of what level. The question will be whether or not their defense will hold up, especially considering that the aggressive midfield will leave the back line hanging at times.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have some offensive talent and are disciplined enough to score on a counterattack at any point. Edin Dzeko is a strong finisher and will be able to find opportunities throughout this match.
Although he could get onto the scoresheet, he will not be able to keep up with the overwhelming offense of Argentina.
Prediction: Argentina 3, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1
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