If you are a sports fan with a taste for drama, the first week of the 2014 World Cup is sure to be the best thing you've seen in months. There have been dominant performances, upsets and surprises every day, that have left the group standings in an absolute shambles.
Despite the rash of shocks so far in the group stage, there is still time for clubs to correct things before we get to the knockout rounds on June 28. We've got an updated look at where things stand in each group, followed by the biggest matches left on the schedule.
Source: FIFA.com; As of June 17
Group G: United States (1-0-0, 3 Points) vs. Portugal (0-0-1, 0 Points), Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Team USA was able to exact some semblance of revenge with an opening-match win against Ghana—the nation that has knocked out the Americans in the previous two World Cups. Now the real test comes against a Portugal side that will be out for blood.
The Portuguese squad was humiliated against Germany, 4-0, yet seems to have everything working to their advantage in this matchup.
American Jozy Altidore was taken off the field by a stretcher during Monday's 2-1 win, after suffering a hamstring injury. Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel reported the 24-year-old's status for Sunday remains in limbo:
Altidore underwent an MRI at a local hospital on Tuesday after pulling up lame while chasing a long ball just 20 minutes into Monday's tournament opener. He went down in a heap and barely moved before being carted off on a stretcher, visibly in tears. Team USA has not yet received the results of the test.
The United States has to keep its foot on the gas in this matchup. It's possible Jurgen Klinsmann's squad is content with a tie, knowing that still gives them a five goal advantage over Portugal with just one match remaining in the group stage.
However, it's precisely because Portugal starts off so far behind that the US can't afford to take things easy. Klinsmann didn't endear himself to American fans when he said, during a press conference in Brazil, that it is "not realistic" for his squad to win the World Cup, but he sang a much different tune speaking to Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News:
"We’re here, we’re here," Klinsmann told Bondy. "We’re not going to Manaus to defend a 1-1 or a nil-nil. We go there and want to win this game."
The ball is very much in Team USA's court, but a loaded Portugal squad with Cristiano Ronaldo isn't going to go down without a fight. This match has all the makings of an epic battle, as long as Altidore is able to play in some fashion.
Group D: England (0-0-1, 0 Points) vs. Uruguay (0-0-1, 0 Points), Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
It's safe to assume that with the side's win over England in the opener, that Italy has the inside track on taking Group D. With respect to Costa Rica, there's a reason that squad was getting no love before the World Cup.
That leaves the England-Uruguay match as the most crucial tie remaining in the group. England manager Roy Hodgson appears to have learned a lesson after his team's 2-1 loss against Italy, as it it is speculated Wayne Rooney will move back to his natural position on Thursday afternoon, via Sportive23.
Uruguay and England both entered the World Cup with high expectations, but the loser of this match is going to face an epic uphill climb to even have a chance at getting into the knockout round.
Group A: Croatia (0-0-1, 0 Points) vs. Mexico (1-1-0, 4 Points)
There was a time when Mexico didn't even look like a World Cup squad. The club won two of 10 qualifying matches and went through three managers in 2013 before settling on Miguel Herrera.
Yet the first two matches of this World Cup have shown that the Mexico squad warranted a lot more credit than anyone was giving them. Specifically, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has been a superstar with no goals allowed against Cameroon and Brazil.
It was the latter performance that caught the world's attention, with Adrian Melville of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) admitting he underestimated how effective the Mexican goalie was going to be:
Ochoa landed 10th in my goalkeeper power rankings before the World Cup, and while he led Ligue 1 with 147 total saves for a shell-shocked Ajaccio team, there was still a question of Mexico manager Miguel Herrera choosing him as the team's starter leading up to the tournament.
From a purely dramatic standpoint, the match between Croatia and Mexico doesn't compare with the US vs. Portugal or England vs. Uruguay, yet a win here will put Mexico in the knockout round.
Considering how strong Ochoa has been in net for Mexico thus far, this squad could end up being one of the sleeper teams to make a run at the World Cup. That's a minor miracle given where they were at in the qualifying stage.
Mexico does have to find offense somewhere, with just one goal in two matches, in order to be a real threat to make a deep run in Brazil. However, Ochoa's presence makes a lot of the deficiencies disappear.
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