The World Cup group stage is nearly over, but before we get to the knockout rounds, there's the small matter of working out who will head to the round of 16 from Groups G and H.
Germany, USA, Ghana and Portugal can all advance from the former section, but the odds are heavily stacked in the first two teams' favour. Belgium are through in Group F, but can still be joined by Algeria, Russia and outsiders Korea Republic.
Let's take a look at Thursday's upcoming fixtures before considering some predictions for the final set of group matches:
|World Cup 2014: Day 15 Fixtures|
|Date||Match||Time (BST)||Time (ET)||TV Info||Live Stream||Prediction|
|June 26||Group G: Portugal vs. Ghana||5 p.m.||12 p.m.||BBC 3/ESPN||BBC iPlayer/WatchESPN||2-2|
|June 26||Group G: USA vs. Germany||5 p.m.||12 p.m.||BBC 1/ESPN||BBC iPlayer/Watch ESPN||1-3|
|June 26||Group H: Algeria vs. Russia||9 p.m.||4 p.m.||ITV 4/ESPN||ITV Player/WatchESPN||1-1|
|June 26||Group H: Korea Republic vs. Belgium||9 p.m.||4 p.m.||ITV/ESPN||ITV Player/WatchESPN||0-2|
Group H Predictions
USA's Spirit Won't Get a Result, But They Will Advance
Jurgen Klinsmann has organised the United States into a compact, hard-working and spirited side. This was highlighted with an opening-match win over Ghana, and more famously, a memorable draw against Portugal.
Despite conceding a last-gasp equaliser to Silvestre Varela's header, the U.S. have plenty to get excited about. The team is working for their coach and appear fearless of opposition who possess star players and a sizable reputation.
Jermaine Jones has provided power—not to mention one stunning goal—from midfield. Clint Dempsey has showed the patience to delicately finish minimal chances, while Tim Howard has proved a rock in goal. For the most part, individuals are performing well, if you overlook the poor distribution of Michael Bradley, who is yet to exit first gear at the competition.
Even so, the United States face one of the toughest challenges in world football when they take on Germany. Granted, Joachim Low may opt to rest key players with qualification almost assured, but those coming in will also flaunt top quality. While it's likely Klinsmann's men will fall short of getting the point needed to progress, it's highly probably they will still advance.
Ghana, like Portugal, haven't shown the decisiveness to suggest they will capture three points when the two nations meet. Both teams have an affinity for conceding sloppy goals and missing key chances, suggesting we can expect plenty of strikes at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha.
Bleacher Report's Will Tidey describes a situation in which things could get messy:
We're predicting a loss for USA and draw between Ghana and Portugal. As such, the Americans will progress.
Group H Predictions
Algeria to Outlast Russia While Belgium Roll On
Belgium's qualification through to the knockout stages is complete, meaning Marc Wilmots can experiment with the likes of Adnan Januzaj and Divock Origi in their final group game. The latter netted a much-needed winner in a hapless team display against Russia, but three points is all that matters.
The Red Devils can deploy their second string and still overcome Korea Republic, knowing top spot still needs to be secured. Hong Myung-bo's side capitulated from the off during their 4-2 loss to Algeria, despite offering a couple of goals in the second half. The South Korean defence simply hasn't been able to deal with speed, power or long balls in this tournament, with some criminally suspect positioning across both matches.
While Belgium are more than likely to rack up a third win, the battle between Algeria and Russia is where the real drama lies. Vahid Halilhodzic's side played with boundless energy in their win over Korea, led by the excellent Yacine Brahimi and a monstrous defensive display from Rafik Halliche.
Algeria created chances, played with a high tempo and offered attacking numbers, something Russia are yet to achieve in the tournament.
Fabio Capello's team started slowly and have only gotten worse, ensuring they will find it difficult to beat opponents who have newfound confidence. This one will be tight, but don't bet against Algeria grabbing a draw to see themselves through.
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