Bringing an end to the second round of group-stage fixtures, Sunday's batch of games promises to hugely impact the fortunes of those bastions in Groups G and H.
The United States, buoyed by their opening 2-1 victory over Ghana, take on Portugal in the late kick-off, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. hoping to bounce back from their demoralising 4-0 defeat to Germany.
Meanwhile, Belgium face Russia in Rio de Janeiro with the objective of sealing their place in the round of 16—a win would be enough to ensure Marc Wilmots' side of qualification—while South Korea play Algeria in what could yet be a table-altering matchup.
Read on for kick-off times and schedule for Sunday's proceedings, along with preview and predictions of how the action will pan out.
|Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Home||Away|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||Belgium||Russia|
|8 p.m.||3 p.m.||South Korea||Algeria|
|11 p.m.||6 p.m.||USA||Portugal|
Belgium vs. Russia
It wasn't until late in the second half against Algeria that the Red Devils really found their stride, but it's a testament to Belgium's strength in depth that substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens were the ones providing the ammunition for their 2-1 comeback win.
And it's a good thing that centre-back also happens to be a well-accommodated area in the roster, too, with the Associated Press revealing that captain Vincent Kompany is still an injury doubt for Sunday's outing:
Russia will be overjoyed if the Manchester City talisman were to miss out, but even then it would be far from the end of Belgium's chances, with the side evidently still finding their feet in major tournament surroundings.
Fabio Capello's use of a line-up often stacked with rounded midfield talent hasn't always proven fruitful in recent months, and if Belgium can get a handle on possession as they prefer, they're capable of shutting out a Russian team that at times looked limp during their 1-1 draw against South Korea.
Prediction: Belgium 3-1 Russia
South Korea vs. Algeria
Coming into the World Cup, these two sides will have been viewed by many as the Group H underdogs if two had to be chosen, but each team showed in the first round that they're capable of causing a rift in the odds.
DW Sports' Ross Dunbar praised the North African outfit for their opening performance, but he rightly adds that standards slipped as the game against Belgium wore on:
@MezahiMaher I thought Algeria competed strongly for 60-70mins. Counter-attack goal was unluky, dodgy shape. Overall, decent display.— Ross Dunbar (@rossdunbar93) June 18, 2014
One could say that South Korea suffered from the same issue, and after opening the scoring through Lee Keun-ho on 68 minutes, complacency allowed Russia's Aleksandr Kerzhakov to equalise just six minutes later.
Both teams boast their stars, Sofiane Feghouli and Nabil Bentaleb impressing for Algeria in stretches, while Son Heung-Min and Ki Sung-Yueng sit as some of South Korea's danger men.
That being said, Algeria showed against Belgium that they may have a stubbornness in defence that can often prove pivotal in the closer matchups such as this.
Prediction: South Korea 1-2 Algeria
USA vs. Portugal
After one match of 2014 World Cup action, hopes within the United States' camp will be sky high, their last-gasp 2-1 win over Ghana inspiring the notion that they may actually be capable of something big in this summer's competition.
As the official U.S. Soccer Twitter account states, Jurgen Klinsmann's side have had fairly recent fortunes against the European giants, too:
Portugal's capitulation at the hands of Germany was perhaps greater than anyone expected, and with Pepe, Hugo Almeida and Fabio Coentrao all missing, per Back Page Football, the United States won't receive many better chances to beat these foes:
Those absences will be telling in defence and attack, and provided the workhorses in Klinsmann's midfield can contain Ronaldo just as Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm did last week, the underdogs have a fighting chance, to say the least.
Prediction: USA 2-2 Portugal