The 2014 FIFA World Cup is nearly a week old, and the action is just beginning to intensify in Brazil.
Now that every squad has taken the field, we have a better idea of what to anticipate going forward. Some teams can virtually wrap up a spot in the knockout stage with another victory, while others can't afford to suffer another loss.
Another trio of matches will occupy Wednesday. By the end, we'll have a much clearer picture of Groups A and B.
Australia vs. Netherlands
The Netherlands stole the show in the opening line of fixtures, shockingly embarrassing Spain in a 5-1 onslaught. With the win, it'd take an epic collapse for them not to qualify for the knockout stage.
According to FiveThirtyEight's interactive forecasting model, the Netherlands now have a 95.7 percent probability of advancing to the knockout stage. Per ESPN Stats & Info, they also increased their standing among the sport's best.
Netherlands jumps from 10th to 4th in Soccer Power Index (SPI) after defeating Spain on Friday http://t.co/S2BHTokSaN— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2014
Spain actually controlled possession and completed 251 more passes, according to FIFA, but Holland shredded their defense by playing a more direct style. They completed 95 long passes, which set up plays such as Robin van Persie's leaping header.
We'll now find out if the Dutch were undervalued heading into the tournament or simply enjoyed one sensational game. The answer likely falls somewhere in the middle, which is enough to keep their winning ways intact against Australia, who surrendered three goals to a much less dangerous Chile squad.
Another five goals won't be necessary to all but seal a spot through Group A, but Van Persie will lead his explosive offense to a few more scores to earn another victory.
Predictions: Netherlands 3, Australia 1
Spain vs. Chile
On the other side, the reigning World Cup champions dug themselves a massive hole with their opening loss to the Netherlands. Spain's probability of advancing shot all the way down to 24.6 percent, and Chile can make that number even dimmer.
Due to their minus-four goal differential, Spain almost certainly need two victories over Chile and Australia to make it out alive. Chile currently sit in the driver's seat for one of two desirable spots after putting three goals over Australia.
Spanish veteran Cesc Febregas did not mince words about the significance of this game to the Associated Press' Graham Dunbar (via The Sacramento Bee). "If we don't win we go home, and the consequences will be brutal," Fabregas said.
Despite getting shell-shocked by the Dutch, Spain should stay true to their tried and tested tactics that have served them well over the years. Even though the Netherlands scripted a blueprint on how to bring La Furia Roja down, few other teams have the personnel to pull it off.
As long as Spain don't overreact to one bad day, they should return to form on Wednesday to stay in the hunt.
Prediction: Spain 2, Chile 1
Cameroon vs. Croatia
If either one of these teams is going to slither through Group A, they need to scoop up three points on Wednesday in a battle of point-less squads.
Cameroon's 1-0 loss to Mexico was respectable in terms of the score, but El Tri controlled possession (58 percent) during the match and had two goals wiped away due to questionable offside decisions. Croatia never stood much of a chance against Brazil, falling 3-1 on the strength of two Neymar goals.
The absence of striker Samuel Eto'o deals Cameroon a big blow heading into the vital match. He confirmed on Twitter that he's unlikely to suit up for his country's next match, leaving the squad bereft of a top scorer.
The doctors confirm! I would probably not be able to play the match vs Croatia on Wed, june18th due to an injury on my knee causing me pain.— Samuel Eto'o (@setoo9) June 15, 2014
Even if neither squad are likely to advance past group play, Croatia are the stronger of the pairing. They played the juggernaut Brazil tough in a difficult matchup. And while Cameroon are dealing with a debilitating injury, star striker Mario Mandzukic will return for Croatia after serving a one-game suspension.
Mandzukic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic should give the Croatians plenty of offense to stay alive with a crucial victory
Prediction: Croatia 2, Cameroon 0