As the second full week of the 2014 World Cup nears its conclusion, group play is almost over, but there are some big games to watch for during Day 14 and a couple of things to expect.
Just two days and eight matches of group play remain, with the round of 16 set after Thursday's games. The knockout round will begin on Saturday, with Brazil taking on Chile to start things off. But before that match, there are still a number of teams fighting for the top-two spots in their respective groups.
With that being said, here is a look at the fixtures and kick-off times for Wednesday's action, followed by a couple of predictions for the games.
Day 14 Fixtures
|F||Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran||12 p.m.||ESPN2|
|F||Nigeria vs. Argentina||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|E||Ecuador vs. France||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|E||Honduras vs. Switzerland||4 p.m.||ESPN2|
Day 14 Predictions
France and Switzerland Advance From Group E
Through the first two matches for each team, no one has been able to clinch a spot in the knockout round in Group E. However, based off of the matches on Wednesday, it looks like France and Switzerland will be the two teams to move on to the round of 16.
France is a clear choice to advance for obvious reasons. They've already won their first two games by a combined score of 8-2, hardly struggling to take down Switzerland or Honduras. With a six-goal differential, it's almost a guarantee that France advances, unless they somehow get blown out by Ecuador on Wednesday.
Former midfielder Patrick Vieira has been impressed so far from France, and he believes that this team is good enough to make a deep run.
A fantastic team performance from #france. You can see Benzama's talent-he was the main man. If he continues like that, they go a long way— Patrick Vieira (@OfficialVieira) June 20, 2014
After France, it looks like a two-way race between Ecuador and Switzerland for the second spot in Group E, but the Swiss have the better matchup. Ecuador are playing this strong France team, while Switzerland are playing Honduras, a team that has only scored one goal in the two matches they've lost.
Despite the tough 5-2 loss to France, Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld likes his team's chances against Honduras, and feels that they can do better than that loss indicated.
"Everything is in our hands," Hitzfeld told the Associated Press. "We still have a good chance of qualifying. It was a bleak day for us. We were not able to show our true potential"
Given the matchups on Wednesday, expect France and Switzerland to be preparing for big games in the round of 16 next week.
Lionel Messi Will Break Through Nigeria's Defense
Despite an impressive defensive effort through their first two games, Nigeria are going to have a very hard time defending Lionel Messi on Wednesday, and the superstar should be able to break through for at least one goal.
In their first two games against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran, Nigeria haven't allowed a single goal, but then again, neither of those squads have the talent that Argentina have. Along with Messi, La Albiceleste have players like Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain that can attack the goal.
Messi is coming off a game where he was the hero for Argentina, scoring the only goal against Iran in stoppage time to give his team their second win of the World Cup. He was obviously thrilled with the goal, but he still feels like his team can keep getting better.
"Today’s victory was really important because now we’re confident and we have peace of mind,” Messi told Paul Hayward from The Telegraph. “If we hadn’t won today the game against Nigeria would have been different. We know we must keep improving so we can reach our potential.”
After coming to Brazil with just one career World Cup goal, Messi has now added two in two games, and he's now looking to add a third against Nigeria. According to WhoScored.com, Messi has been the second-best player in the World Cup so far, posting a 9.06 match rating, while France's Karim Benzema is in first with a 9.3 rating.
Even against a strong defense like Nigeria's, Messi is just playing too well right now, and he should be able to come up with another goal on Wednesday.