We're nearing the end of the first full week of the 2014 World Cup, and already the tournament has surpassed its previous edition in several key categories such as excitement, comebacks and heart-stopping drama.
ESPN Stats & Info has the roundup of key figures that prove this World Cup is operating at an absurdly high level of play:
The stat gurus at ESPN also pointed out just about every half in this year's World Cup has given fans something to celebrate:
Iran & Nigeria scoreless at half, just the 2nd scoreless half (1st or 2nd) in the #WorldCup this year. Other was Mexico-Cameroon 1st half.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 16, 2014
By Day 4, the 2014 World Cup had easily featured more comebacks than in all of 2010:
Switzerland becomes the 5th team in this year's World Cup to come back from a 1-0 deficit. Only 3 such instances in 2010. #SUIvsECU— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 15, 2014
Legendary Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel summed up many fans' feelings about the global game's finest exhibition:
I love this World Cup tournament, only one boring 0-0 match out of 14, and 44 goals. #sambabold— Peter Schmeichel (@Pschmeichel1) June 17, 2014
With so many wonderful moments already on the books, it makes sense that we soldier on and take a look at the matchups in store for fans on Day 6.
Brazil returns to World Cup play against a dangerous Mexico side to kick off the second round of Group A play. Don't sleep on Group H, though, as tournament darling Belgium takes on Algeria, and Russia squares off against South Korea to round out the final matches of the first round of group-stage play.
Here are the updated standings, a schedule for upcoming fixtures and match predictions for Day 6 of the World Cup.
|Belgium vs. Algeria||June 17||12 p.m.||H|
|Brazil vs. Mexico||June 17||3 p.m.||A|
|Russia vs. Korea Republic||June 17||6 p.m.||H|
|Australia vs. Netherlands||June 18||12 p.m.||B|
|Spain vs. Chile||June 18||3 p.m.||B|
|Croatia vs. Cameroon||June 18||6 p.m.||A|
|Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||June 19||12 p.m.||C|
|Uruguay vs. England||June 19||3 p.m.||D|
|Japan vs. Greece||June 19||6 p.m.||C|
|Italy vs. Costa Rica||June 20||12 p.m.||D|
|Switzerland vs. France||June 20||3 p.m.||E|
|Honduras vs. Ecuador||June 20||6 p.m.||E|
Day 6 Predictions
Brazil vs. Mexico
This match could be a decisive one for Mexico, as it will look to beat out Croatia for the runner-up spot in the group. Look for this match to feature plenty of aggressive, fluid attacking play.
Mexico slipped past Cameroon with a 1-0 victory, but the scoreline is completely deceptive, as it dominated the run of play. Mexico and Cameroon were nearly even in shots on goal, but El Tri were definitely the more dangerous, aggressive team on the day.
Giovani dos Santos played especially well; he had two goals overturned due to incorrect offside calls, and it was his deflected effort that Oribe Peralta swept into the goal to give Mexico the advantage it would never relinquish. Dos Santos and Peralta looked good enough against Cameroon to notch a goal or two against Brazil.
Brazil will be the more confident team in the match. Neymar, Oscar and Hulk will look to combine in the attacking third and go straight at Mexico's defense. According to TV Globo commentator Jon Cotterill, Brazil expects to beat any team it faces. Via David Hytner of The Guardian:
There is a phrase that is bandied about here that roughly translates as 'Brazil can only lose to itself'. In other words, defeats are not down to the quality of the opposition, merely Brazil's own shortcomings. Is it cocky? Yes. But they have won five World Cups.
Brazil will take that national pride and use it as fuel for an exciting victory full of wide-open play on Tuesday.
Prediction: Brazil 3-2 Mexico
Belgium vs. Algeria
Belgium should have no trouble dispatching Algeria in the first of two Group H matches on Tuesday. Belgium went undefeated in UEFA World Cup qualification, notching eight wins and two draws in 10 matches with a plus-14 goal differential.
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Algeria is just no match for this powerful Belgian squad. It is a rather scattershot group of players; every single member of the roster plays for a different club team.
It will be up to head coach Vahid Halilhodzic to marshal his players into a coherent side. Algeria's best shot in this game is to put 10 men behind the ball and play for a draw, but that is unlikely to happen with national pride at stake. Sporting Lisbon's crafty Islam Slimani is Algeria's best bet for stealing a goal against Belgium.
Slimani will likely snatch a goal, but Algeria will be lucky to escape this draw against Belgium with its World Cup hopes intact.
Prediction: Belgium 4-1 Algeria
Russia vs. South Korea
Russia will be looking to avoid another disastrous performance at a World Cup. It failed to advance from a soft group in the 2002 World Cup and missed out in both 2006 and 2010.
Alexander Kerzhakov is the only member of that 2002 World Cup team in Brazil, and he has a strong belief in coach Fabio Capello's ability to bring out the best in his teammates.
"We are bidding to win this tournament," said Kerzhakov, per a Reuters report (via The Moscow Times). "All of our players have been thriving in Russia, but people outside the country do not know us. What's important, though, is that our coach, Fabio Capello, knows us and our strengths."
Which team will finish at the top of Group H
Russia also might get a boost from the players' familiarity with each other; every single member of the national team plays in the Russian Premier League.
The Russians might be a little bit overconfident considering their eagerness to make amends for previous failures. South Korea, with the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Ji Dong-won leading the line, should be able to shock Russia and hold it to a stalemate on Tuesday.
Prediction: Russia 1-1 South Korea