The 2014 World Cup will wrap up a group stage for the ages on Thursday, and it should be a fine finish as six of the eight teams playing are yet to secure a spot in the round of 16.
The United States, Ghana and Portugal will all be looking to advance from Group G and join Germany in the knockout round.
In Group H, Algeria faces off against Russia for the right to follow Belgium through. South Korea has less than a 1 percent chance of beating Belgium and advancing, according to FiveThirtyEight's World Cup forecasting feature.
Here is the updated schedule for tomorrow's matches, the knockout round and three players to track on Day 15.
|2014 World Cup—Round of 16 Schedule|
|June 28||Brazil vs. Chile||12 p.m.||ABC|
|June 28||Colombia vs. Uruguay||4 p.m.||ABC|
|June 29||Netherlands vs. Mexico||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|June 29||Costa Rica vs. Greece||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|June 30||France vs. Nigeria||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|June 30||Winner Group G vs. Runner-up Group H||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 1||Argentina vs. Switzerland||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|July 1||Winner Group H vs. Runner-up Group G||4 p.m.||ESPN|
|Day 15 Schedule|
|G||Germany vs. United States||12 p.m.||ESPN|
|G||Portugal vs. Ghana||12 p.m.||ESPN2|
|H||Algeria vs. Russia||4 p.m.||ESPN2|
|H||Belgium vs. South Korea||4 p.m.||ESPN|
(Note: a full World Cup schedule can be found at FIFA's official website.)
Players to Watch on Day 15
Michael Bradley, United States
Michael Bradley has been an absolute rock for the United States, with 12 goals in 88 caps since 2006. However, he appears to be crumbling just when his team needs him most.
Bradley had an uncharacteristically poor performance in the United States' win over Ghana. He was dispossessed three times, completed just 81 percent of his passes and didn't make any key passes according to WhoScored.com.
ESPN Stats & Info did point out that Bradley did a much better job of connecting with teammates against Portugal:
However, his late turnover gave Portugal the possession that led to its last-second, game-tying goal.
Teammate Jermaine Jones was optimistic about Bradley's ability to focus on the game at hand.
"Sometimes maybe you don’t have the best day, but that’s happened a lot of times with me, too. The point is that he has to step on, and whatever happens, we have the chance for the next game," said Jones, as per Sam Borden of The New York Times.
Germany will overwhelm the United States if it dominates play in midfield. Bradley's indefatigable spirit will need to be combined with improved overall play for the Stars and Stripes to have a chance in this one.
Andre Ayew, Ghana
Ghana needs a win and some help from Germany to escape the clutches of group-stage failure. Andre Ayew is the Black Stars' best shot at powering home a late goal against Portugal.
Ayew couldn't have found a better time to find the range for the national team. He scored the team's lone goal against the United States, and his thumping header sparked Ghana in the second half of its game against Germany. Bleacher Report UK has the highlight for the latter goal:
As WhoScored's Twitter account notes, Ayew hadn't delivered for Ghana in quite some time:
His combination play with the likes of Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari has been excellent in this World Cup. Their intelligent passing was key to Ghana firing off 10 shots on target against Germany.
Ayew is a threat to win an aerial duel or make a powerful, well-timed run into the box. Portugal must keep track of Ayew if the Selecao want to have any shot at moving on to the next round.
Yacine Brahimi, Algeria
Algeria is on the brink of moving on to the round of 16 thanks to its creative engine in midfield, Yacine Brahimi.
Brahimi was part of the attacking force that propelled Algeria to a 4-2 win over South Korea. He scored the team's fourth goal in that game with some brilliant combination play between him and his teammates.
Brahimi was absent from the lineup against Belgium, a game where Algeria struggled to muster any attacks from the run of play. He also showed great spirit against South Korea, as noted by ESPNFC's Maher Mezahi:
He will have to be careful with his energetic style, as he did commit three fouls against South Korea, as per WhoScored.com.
He's not afraid of Russia's ability to leapfrog his country and promises his team will come out strong on Thursday.
We played some very attacking football against Korea and we need to repeat that against Russia,” said Brahimi, via The Independent's Raf Casert. “It won’t be easy but it wasn’t easy [against Korea] either and that didn’t stop us from keeping our calm and playing some good football.”
Algeria will definitely need to create a goal or two in order to keep pace with Russia and move on to the next round; Brahimi will almost surely be involved.
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