A whopping 10 days of 2014 World Cup action are in the books, but many nations are just getting started finding out where their fate lies in Brazil.
Some shocking storylines have already unfolded throughout the first week-and-a-half of play. England and Spain have both been eliminated from advancing after just two matches—meanwhile, Costa Rica have turned heads by winning two opening matches against Uruguay and Italy in Group D to secure their spot in the knockout stage.
Heading into Day 11, the United States will finally be put to the test against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to see whether Jurgen Klinsmann's side can muster up any sort of points heading into the finale against Germany. Belgium look to further distance themselves in Group H against Russia, while Algeria and South Korea battle.
Let's break down everything you need to know for the upcoming Day 11 matches.
|Belgium vs. Russia||H||12 p.m.||ABC||Rio de Janeiro|
|South Korea vs. Algeria||H||3 p.m.||ABC||Porto Alegre|
|USA vs. Portugal||G||6 p.m.||ESPN||Manaus|
Belgium vs. Russia
After getting off to a slow start but coming out with three points, Belgium now take to the pitch against Russia—a team coming off an even slower start in Group H.
The Russians looked doomed for an early defeat after goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev allowed the ball to bounce off his palms and into the net. But they recovered and found an equalizer to salvage one point against South Korea.
It will take a different focus for Russia to beat group favorites Belgium, as Denis Glushakov shared:
Meanwhile, Belgium rallied late to beat Algeria, but they're certainly hoping to push earlier and find more success in the first half against Russia. Eden Hazard showed flashes of dominance, and Marouane Fellaini scored a quick goal after substituting on, giving Belgium's coaches even more options.
In the end, Belgium are far deeper and more talented than Russia, and if that becomes apparent, they won't be able to keep up.
Prediction: Belgium 3, Russia 1
South Korea vs. Algeria
Even though they're the two least talked about teams in Group H, there's still a great opportunity available for both South Korea and Algeria to make a surge up the group heading into the final matches.
Belgium lead the group with three points, South Korea and Russia sit at one point while Algeria have none. If the Belgians beat Russia like they're favored to, then the winner of this matchup will be in sole possession of second place after two matches.
South Korea have more points, but Algeria showed their grit against Belgium, leading the World Cup title sleepers at half and putting them on the ropes in their opener. They should have no trouble keeping South Korea off the scoreboard and finding a few goals of their own to make a statement in Group H.
Prediction: Algeria 2, South Korea 0
USA vs. Portugal
The U.S. men's national team fought tooth and nail with Ghana for a crucial three points to open up play in Group G—the "group of death." But it would be all for naught if they fail to get a result against Portugal.
The USA put themselves in great position after one game, and they received some help from Portugal—who lost 4-0 to Germany in their opener. Any sort of points would allow the Americans to keep their points lead heading into the final match against the Germans.
But it will be much, much easier said than done with Ronaldo at the helm, which U.S. defender Matt Besler alluded to in the days leading up to Sunday:
Ronaldo will be the main focus of the American defense just as he was against the Germans, and Klinsmann will likely use similar tactics of being physical and using multiple defenders to block him off.
How will USA/Portugal end?
The Americans showed that they can beat teams with superior skill in the opener against Ghana, and they could certainly show that again versus Portugal. But even without Pepe (red card), Hugo Almeida and Fabio Coentrao (injuries), Nani and Ronaldo alone will be a handful for the U.S. back line.
Conceding at least once is inevitable for the U.S. against Ronaldo, but there's no doubting the Americans have both momentum and form on their side heading into this battle. If they can get some breaks and play strong defense, they'll sneak out with the ever-important draw.
Prediction: USA 1, Portugal 1
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