Two full weeks of the 2014 World Cup have provided fans with a little bit of everything—incredible goals, shocking upsets and outstanding individual performances. With group play winding down, the drama and excellent play is only going to go up from here.
That uptick in intensity should be on full display on Day 15. Both Group G and Group H will take center stage with advancement on the line.
Here's a look at the full schedule for the day:
|Team 1||Team 2||Time (ET)||TV|
|Korea Republic||Belgium||4:00 p.m.||ESPN|
Group G figures to be the most intriguing. All four sides remain in the hunt for a knockout-round berth and the sense of urgency each team exudes should reflect that. Here's a look at the latest group standings followed by predictions and odds for all the matches set for Day 15:
United States vs. Germany
This match was a Silvestre Varela header away from being extremely anticlimactic. Had the United States side pulled off a 2-1 victory over Portugal, the Stars and Stripes would already be planning for the knockout round.
Unfortunately, American fans can't celebrate just yet. The most likely scenario is that both sides in this match advance. ESPN's Numbers Never Lie provides the specifics, but this is going to be a well-contested match.
Soccer Power Index pct to advance (Group G): Germany 99.7% #USMNT 75.8% Ghana 19.1% Portugal 5.4%— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) June 23, 2014
As the odds suggest, Germany is a heavy favorite to win the match. Especially because the United States will be missing a key player from their attack. ESPN FC reports that Jozy Altidore will once again be unfit to play, as was the case against Portugal:
Still, fans can expect both sides to be going for the win here. Although a draw would put both clubs into the next stage, United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann has assured fans there will not be a prearranged draw on Thursday, per USA Today:
Prearranged or not, there's a strong chance this match ends in a draw. Both sides will be looking to put their best foot forward, but with both sides playing Ghana and Portugal to draws in their recent matches, it just might happen again.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Ghana vs. Portugal
A draw for the United States and Germany would officially put both Ghana and Portugal out of the running for advancement. But with both matches kicking off at the same time, you can be sure that thought won't enter either of the sides' minds.
After an abysmal opener against Germany, Portugal find itself in the most difficult position. The European side not only has to win to have a chance at advancing, but they would also need to make up a five-goal differential between themselves and a losing United States side.
Ghana, however, finds themselves with a much easier task. The Black Stars still have to win, but they only have a two-goal differential to make up should the United States lose to Germany. Also, it should improve team morale that the squad convinced the government to pay their appearance fees up front, per Bleacher Report UK:
Given their admirable effort against the Germans in their 2-2 draw, expect them to make one final push to get into the knockout round.
Prediction: 2-1 Ghana
South Korea vs. Belgium
Group H will conclude group play for this incarnation of the World Cup and once again, all four sides have a shot at advancing.
Belgium has already secured a spot in the knockout stage. All the European side is left to do now is win the group. That objective can be completed with a win or draw against South Korea in this match or a loss and a win from Russia against Algeria.
Looking at what both sides have done in the tournament, it's more likely they clinch the group on their own. As the Playoff Guru points out, Asian sides have not had the best of luck in this year's World Cup:
Asia's brutal World Cup continues, now 0-8-3 with 1 match left. No AFC team will make it to the last 16.— The Playoff Guru (@ThePlayoffGuru) June 25, 2014
Meanwhile, Belgium look like the only nation capable of doing damage in the knockout round. They've won the first two matches and will be looking to make a clean sweep.
Prediction: 3-0 Belgium
Algeria vs. Russia
If Belgium gets the result that nearly everyone expects, Algeria vs. Russia will be a true play-in match. The winner will be headed to the knockout-stage regardless of goal differentials and other tiebreakers.
That bodes well for Russia, who will enter the match as Vegas' favorite to come out on top. However, it's Algeria who has actually looked better on the pitch.
The African side has looked impressive in the attacking third and put four goals on South Korea after losing to Belgium by just one goal.
If Russia is to cash in on that favored status and advance to the next round, they'll need to turn things around quickly.
Prediction: 2-1 Algeria
All odds via OddsShark.com.