The first round of group-stage fixtures at this year's World Cup has come full circle, and nerves are now beginning to settle as the groups take shape.
Wednesday will see reigning champions Spain once again take to the stage. After suffering a humiliating defeat in their opener, La Furia Roja have a lot to do if they are to retain their title.
Inhabitants from Groups A and B will be in action for what promises to be a selection of (mostly) tight encounters. Below, we make our predictions for Wednesday's games.
|Wed, June 18||Group B: Australia vs. Netherlands||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET|
|Wed, June 18||Group B: Spain vs. Chile||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET|
|Wed, June 18||Group A: Cameroon vs. Croatia||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET|
Australia vs. Netherlands
Following the first round of Group B results, no head-to-head looks like a bigger mismatch than that of Australia facing a resurgent Netherlands side.
Louis van Gaal's men are out to prove that their 5-1 victory over Spain was no fluke, but Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is quoted by The Guardian's Stuart James as saying his minnows can still leave their mark on the tournament:
I think if we just try to defend for 90 minutes, there’s only going to be one result and that won’t be in our favour.
We’ve had Dutch national coaches in the past and that has driven the development of our football in the last couple of years. We have an understanding of how they play the game – but if you watch the first game, against Spain, the Dutch certainly didn’t play 4-3-3. I think it comes down to our approach on Wednesday and having belief in the way we play.
The Netherlands' formational setup was difficult for Spain to unravel, as Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie led several sensational counters. The performance left one with the impression that Australia won't be up to the challenge either.
However, even if Postecoglou's men were to somehow tactically outdo their opponents, there's still the matter of outdoing the supremely talented Oranje in terms of individual talents, a battle that just doesn't match up.
It may not be another goalfest, as was the case against Spain, but the Netherlands are likely to sear into an early lead Thursday before taking their foot off the pedal, taking no great risks in forcing a demolition.
Prediction: Australia 0-3 Netherlands
Spain vs. Chile
Having seen their tiki-taka traditions come undone in most almighty fashion against the Dutch, Spain's only hope for salvation against Chile could be a tactical turnaround.
Jorge Sampaoli's side will operate on a similar basis of counter-based play. The Daily Mail's Jeff Powell quotes manager Vicente del Bosque, who suggests that his Spain side are willing to change in order to get their results: "Tactically it will be a different game from Holland because Chile are brave and quick and risk attacking all the time."
Fernando Torres added, "I hope we can win playing our style at a high level but if not we have to win any way we can."
If Spain do decide to change their methods, they risk giving up a greater share of the possession, something that could well play into the hands of the Chileans.
In terms of personnel, few teams in this World Cup can match Spain, but strategy and blueprint will decide this matchup, which could well fail to produce a winner.
Prediction: Spain 2-2 Chile
Cameroon vs. Croatia
Wednesday's proceedings end with the Group A clash between Cameroon and Croatia, each of whom will be looking to take full advantage of the 0-0 stalemate between Brazil and Mexico on Tuesday.
A decisive factor in the battle will be the involvement of Samuel Eto'o, who suffered a recurrence of an existing knee injury during the 1-0 loss to Mexico.
Manager Volker Finke is quoted by the Daily Mail's David Ljunggren as saying the nation's record goalscorer could be risked: "I think the most important thing for us tomorrow is that Samuel is with us, perhaps as a substitute. I think it would be very very hard for him to start because we're dealing with health matters here and we can't work miracles."
Cameroon may decide it's worth the risk for what is very much a make-or-break fixture against Group A's other losing party from the opening round of fixtures.
The Croats were technically sound in the 3-1 defeat to Brazil last week, but they were ultimately undone by a highly controversial refereeing decision.
One would expect that injustice burns bright in the Croatian camp, and Niko Kovac's men should have enough to set up a crucial showdown with Mexico for a qualifying ticket out of Group A.
Prediction: Cameroon 1-3 Croatia