Think of the group stage of the World Cup like the first two rounds of the NCAA March Madness. There are always upsets, huge upsets, and last-second winners.
A true fan of the game should try to watch every game of the tournament but that is often impossible to do. So here at Bleacher Report, we have picked the 5 games that are absolute must-sees.
Whether you are a soccer junkie or a first-time viewer of the game, you will not want to miss these 5 games. If you are a North Korean soccer fan, you may not want to look at this list.
Here is the list:
The EURO 2008 champion, Spain has become the “sexy” pick this year to win the World Cup. The Spaniards are coming into this tournament with all the confidence in the world and are looking to win their first-ever World Cup.
But history is not on their side. Spain always finds a way to choke in the World Cup, with their best finish ever being a fourth-place finish in 1950.
Despite their historical struggles at the World Cup, many have Spain winning the whole thing. So there is no way that Spain won’t be the winner of Group H, right?
Not so fast.
Spain’s first two games against Honduras and Switzerland should be a cakewalk. But in the final game of Group H, Spain will have to play a dangerous Chilean team.
Chile took second place in CONMEBOL qualifying, only one point behind top seeded Brazil. This underdog has a chance to shock the soccer world if it can pull off the upset.
This game could very well decide who is the winner and runner-up in Group H. That is very important because the runner-up in Group H will have to play the winner of the “Group of Death” (Group G) in the knockout round.
Group H is called the “Group of Death” but without question the deepest group is D.
The teams’ FIFA world rankings are: Germany–6, Serbia–15, Australia–20, and Ghana- 32. The worst team on paper, Ghana, made it to the knockout round four years ago and should get a huge boost playing on its home continent.
But the most important game of Group H is the very first one: Germany vs. Australia.
This game will set the tone for the entire group and will put one team in the driver seat for the rest of group play.
A three-time World Cup champion, Germany is consistently one of the best performers in the World Cup. The Germans finished second in EURO 2008 but the loss of Captain Michael Ballack will be a huge setback.
The “Socceroos” are one of the most inconsistent teams in the entire field. Australia needs to start this tournament off with a bang if they are to duplicate their deep run from four years ago.
Midfielder Tim Cahill and goalie Mark Schwarzer will be the key to the Socceroos' success in South Africa.
The opening match of this World Cup has the potential to be one of the most exciting games of the tournament.
The host nation, South Africa, will have a home field advantage that may never be duplicated. The Vuvelas will be blaring.
There has never been a host nation that did not advance from the group stage. And the “Bafana Bafana” don't want to become the first.
Mexico is coming into this tournament red-hot and is looking to make a deep run. The Mexicans have advanced out of the group stage in the last four World Cups, but have lost in the Round of 16 each time.
Everyone in the world outside of Mexico will be rooting for the host nation. Can Mexico crash the party?
North Korea may be the worst team in this entire field. If any of the other three teams in Group D allow a goal to North Korea, they shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the next World Cup.
Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast are three of the best teams in this entire tournament. Their FIFA world rankings are: Brazil–1, Portugal– 3, and the Ivory Coast–27.
Brazil is the favorite to win the World Cup with its all-star cast including: Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano, Maicon, and Lucio.
2008 FIFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo will have to pull out all of his tricks to get Portugal out of this group.
Despite losing its star, Didier Drogba, the Ivory Coast remains the best team in Africa and a dangerous team in the tournament.
Fans will enjoy every second of these four matches. Which team will not survive the “Group of Death”?
The most anticipated game of the group stage is the United States vs. England.
It doesn’t matter what country you’re from. Fans from around the world are excited for the second edition of the American Revolution.
Bob Bradley will be playing the role of George Washington. Fabio Capello will be King George III.
England created the game of soccer as we know it, and is home to the best domestic league in the world, the English Premier League.
The USA used to be just happy to make it to the World Cup, but now has much higher expectations.
The Americans pulled one of the biggest upsets in soccer history last summer in South Africa by beating No. 1 Spain. Can the Americans shock the world again?
Both teams will be missing key players do to injuries. English Captain Rio Ferdinand is out for the tournament with a knee injury.
American Charlie Davies was left off the roster because he apparently hasn’t fully recovered from a car accident.
Despite these marquee players’ absence, the game will be an instant classic. Set the DVR now.