The first half of the knockout stage at the 2014 World Cup is set, but there is still plenty of exciting action remaining in the opening round.
As we have already seen, the final matches in each group can feature incredible drama. Mexico defeated Croatia to advance in Group A, Uruguay scored a late goal to get a spot in the round of 16 instead of Italy and Greece used a penalty shot in extra time to get beyond Ivory Coast.
There are 16 teams that still need to play their final match of the group stage, and all but Bosnia-Herzegovina are still alive to move on in this tournament.
This will create an exciting final two days of play before the beginning of the next round. Here is a look at the complete group standings along with a breakdown of the matches you simply cannot miss.
Switzerland vs. Honduras
Although France have not yet clinched a spot in the next round, they will likely be winners of Group E unless they lose by multiple goals to Ecuador. Still, the more talented team in that matchup is likely to come away with a win and momentum heading into the knockout stage.
This would leave things open for one of the other teams in the group to make a move into second place and into the knockout stage.
Switzerland have the edge thanks to their last-minute win over Ecuador in the first match. Any points to go with a France win would be enough to put them into the next round.
Even Honduras have a chance to move on if they beat Switzerland, although they would have to make up quite a bit in the goal differential.
It will not be easy, but Carlo Costly still believes. According to the Associated Press (via Fox News), the forward explained, "We know it'll be a very tough match against the Swiss because we know their game well. We're still hopeful and we've got faith that everything will turn out well. That's what we're clinging on to."
Both matches will be extremely important, so fans will want to make sure they find a way to keep track of both on Wednesday.
Germany vs. United States
The United States were seconds away from securing a spot in the round of 16 and moving into first place in Group G. However, a late goal by Portugal forced a draw, leaving the Americans needing to play well against Germany in order to advance.
Still, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes in his squad's ability to win, via Franco Panizo of Soccer By Ives:
We’re going to build on all the good things that we did today and take all these things into the Germany game. Hopefully we can avoid then the things that didn’t go so well, which were not many, and continue that path. I think the spirit is very, very good. We are full of confidence. We made it a little more difficult now with having another game to play to qualify, but we knew from the beginning that’s going to be a tough group to go through and we are right there. We have one foot in the door. We’ve got to walk the second foot in there and get it done.
All the United States need is a single point, which is exactly the same situation as Germany. One would think this would lead to a secret agreement, but apparently no deal has been made, according to Nesha Starcevic of the Associated Press.
This works out well for both Portugal and Ghana. The two sides only have one point through two matches, but one of the two can put themselves in good position with a dominant win.
Then again, none of this matters unless there is a positive result in the match between Germany and the United States. Even without a deal, you can be certain neither side will be too aggressive if things are close late in the match.
Algeria vs. Russia
Belgium have already secured a spot in the next round and will likely win the group as long as they can come away with any points against South Korea. With elite talent and growing confidence, they should have no problem earning a win.
This means that the second spot in the group will come down to Algeria and Russia. Algeria have three points thanks to their 4-2 win in the last match and will only need a draw to move on. On the other hand, Russia can pass them in the standings with a win.
The problem is that earning a victory will not be easy for a squad that has only scored once in its first two World Cup matches. That goal came from Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has only come on as a substitute in the first two contests.
Based on his recent play, this might be a mistake, according to WhoScored.com:
Alexander Kerzhakov: Has now scored 4 goals in his last 200 mins of action for club and country #rus— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 17, 2014
No matter what the strategy is, Russia will have to be aggressive against a team that does not need to score at all to win.
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