The 2014 World Cup group stages will conclude on Thursday, before fans get their first chance of catching their breath, with the knockout stage already kicking off on Saturday.
Event organisers have saved the best for last—all of the teams playing on Thursday still have a chance of making the round of 16, and only Belgium have already wrapped up qualification.
Thursday could be the most dramatic day of action at the 2014 World Cup so far, so let's have a look at the full schedule for Matchday 15, complete with TV and live stream info:
|Time (ET)||Time (BST)||Match||TV Info||Live Stream|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||Portugal v Ghana||ESPN||WatchESPN/BBC iPlayer|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||USA v Germany||ESPN2/BBC1||WatchESPN/BBC iPlayer|
|9 p.m.||4 p.m.||South Korea v Belgium||ESPN/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player|
|9 p.m.||4 p.m.||Algeria v Russia||ESPN2/ITV4||WatchESPN/ITV Player|
Portugal v Ghana
Both of these teams are dependent on the result of the other match in Group G, but regardless of what happens in Manaus, these teams have to start by winning and winning big.
Germany and the USA currently have a three-point advantage and superior goal differences, so Ghana and Portugal need both goals and all three points themselves.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal's star player and captain, no longer believes in a positive outcome, as reported by Sky Sports, via FoxSports.com:
Maybe we're an average team.
It would be a lie to say that we are a top team. We have a very limited team and we are not at the best level. This does not enable you to beat top teams. There are no miracles. We knew we would have a tough group, with perhaps teams better than us.
I never thought we could be world champions, we have to be humble and know our level. I'm not a hypocrite, I never thought we could win the tournament.
The formula for both of these teams is surprisingly similar—speed on the wings, with the wide players given space by winning the midfield battle. Ghana were able to do just that against Germany's vaunted midfield, and the 2-2 draw they played out was a direct result of this.
Portugal haven't had such luck, but the superior individual quality of their players means goals can come at any given time. They're going to need plenty of goals to even dream of the next round, so expect Portugal to attack the Ghanaian goal early and often.
USA v Germany
A draw would mean advancement to the next round for both teams, but don't expect Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low to go into this match as if it's a friendly scrimmage. Yes, both teams won't take any unnecessary risks late in the match, but that doesn't mean they won't play to win.
The runners-up in Group G will most likely face Belgium in the next round, and while the Red Devils haven't looked overly convincing so far, they're talented enough to be one of the teams you'd like to avoid in a single head-to-head.
The one thing that has defined Team USA during this World Cup has been their resilience. They've so far faced every challenge head-on, and now they'll be going up against their toughest opponents yet.
Germany will come out swinging, looking for an early goal to give themselves some space and breathing room. If the Yanks can survive the early onslaught they're likely to face and overcome some of the nerves, they'll be in a great position to get the result they need.
Most importantly, they shouldn't play for said results. As we saw against Ghana, Germany aren't invincible, and they're not comfortable going up against an opponent willing to go toe-to-toe with them in midfield. The USA need to use that to their advantage and play Die Mannschaft like a team worthy of going to the next round.
South Korea v Belgium
South Korea's young, inexperienced team looked surprisingly solid on the defensive end against Russia. They played fearless, displayed good passing and didn't make too many mistakes. At the time, pundits figured perhaps they'd been all wrong about this team.
They weren't. Russia were unable to up the pace in that match, and when Algeria shifted gear against the Koreans, their defence was badly exposed. Korea don't have a bad team, but they struggle against quicker wingers and overall athleticism.
Going into a match with Belgium, that's a bad omen. The Red Devils have lacked synergy so far this tournament, but their individual quality has come through for them whenever they needed it to.
Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens are exactly the kind of players Korea will struggle with, and Kevin De Bruyne seems to be growing more and more comfortable in a central role.
The Belgians have already qualified and could rest one or two key players, but they'd rather avoid a date with Germany in the next round. The bench is deep enough to carry them past a South Korean team, who have no choice but to press forward to avoid elimination.
Algeria v Russia
This could have been the tie of the day if it hadn't been for the fixture between Germany and the USA. Both of these teams fell victim to late goals in losses to Belgium, but while Russia were unable to get past South Korea, the Algerians showed the world they can more than defend.
A draw will most likely see the Algerians through to the next round, but they can't afford to revert back to their ultra-defensive mindset. The team looked so much better playing freely against the Koreans, and one single Russian goal could be enough to eliminate the Desert Warriors.
Fabio Capello has refused to start Alan Dzagoev in back-to-back matches, and the midfield maestro turned things around off the bench against Korea before not getting enough time to do the same against Belgium.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov also didn't get the start against South Korea, and he ended up scoring the equalising goal. Unsurprisingly, pundits feel like Capello got his tactics all wrong—twice. The Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt is one of them:
Capello's having another good World Cup then— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) June 22, 2014
Algeria's defence was rock-solid against Belgium (for the most part), and Russia could use Dzagoev's brilliance in contributing to the buildup play and playing through balls. Capello most likely won't start him again, and the question is how long he'll wait before introducing him this time.