Now that you've had a night to feel all the feelings you might have about the United States scoring two good goals - specifically, arguably the best shot of the tournament from Jermaine Jones followed by a well-worked team goal eventually bundled over the line by Clint Dempsey - to come from 1-0 down, only to then concede with essentially the last touch of the game and go from "through to the round of 16" to "likely needing to get a result against Germany, who also needs to avoid defeat," and now that I've dragged this sentence out to Faulknerian length, let's think about today's games.
It's the first set of double games, where each group starts at the same moment to avoid skullduggery or generally unethical play (that's a link that matters quite a bit in terms of German soccer history and the current circumstances in Group G). Today, we see Groups A and B decided:
Kickoff Time: Noon EDT
Venue: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
TV/Streaming: ESPN2 and UniMas are your TV options if, for some reason, you choose to watch this meaningless game over what is likely to be a goalfest. WatchESPN will also have it, and since they have a feature that allows multiple games to stream at once, that might be the best bet.
Cliff's Notes: What is there to say here? Spain - that's defending World Cup and twice-defending European Cup champions Spain - will still be looking around wondering what just happened, while Australia far exceeded their very limited roster but is still out with two losses already. Look for both teams to rotate plenty of players in so that the guys who have earned it with hard work at training get to say they played in a World Cup. Sure, this game doesn't matter, but that particular honor sure as hell does.
Who Should I Root For? Is Tim Cahill still a New York Red Bull? Yes. Is Black and Red United still a D.C. United blog? Yes. Cahill is suspended, but you should barrack - in Australia, the verb "root" means something quite different - for Spain anyway.
Netherlands vs. Chile
Kickoff Time: Noon EDT
Venue: Arena Corinthians, São Paulo
TV/Streaming: ESPN and Univision on TV, WatchESPN online. Watch this game, it should be an excellent one.
Cliff's Notes: Both of these sides have won twice, and both have scored plenty of goals in the process. The Dutch, playing a "back five" that is more of a very attack-minded 3412, have banged in eight goals. They're basically trying to make up for 2010's anti-soccer approach. Meanwhile, Chile plays a similar system and bombs forward with the same sort of speed and vigor. Both of these teams want to win by outscoring their opponent rather than smothering them en route to 1-0.
Even without the suspended Robin van Persie, this should be a spectacle. Neither team will want to face Brazil, who barring an absolute shock should finish atop Group A later this afternoon, so there will be little room for slacking off or simply accepting the order of things. Even if coaches Louis van Gaal - who is seen as likely to revert to a 433 thanks to a concussion suffered by defender Bruno Martins Indi - and Jorge Sampaoli rotate some players through their team, the idea will be to go get the win.
Who Should I Root For? I don't know what to tell you here. This particular Dutch team can't help but surge forward. Even Nigel de Jong is keeping the attempts to literally murder his opponents to a polite minimum. Chile, meanwhile, has decided the best way to get their best technicians on the field includes playing without actual center backs: Gary Medel and Francisco Silva are natural midfielders, and Gonzalo Jara is an attacking right back. That's the sort of game this will be. Root for the poor goalkeepers, who will probably feel a bit like the GKs who got the honor of being shelled in East vs. West MLS All-Star games of the past.
Kickoff Time: 4pm EDT
Venue: Estádio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasília
TV/Streaming: ESPN2 and UniMas are the TV options, WatchESPN online or surreptitiously setting your cell phone in such a place at your desk that people can see your computer monitor but not the screen of your phone. You would never spend twenty minutes trying to get it just right, factoring in reflections off of other glass objects. No, you're a focused worker who can be counted on to not watch soccer at work. Right.
Cliff's Notes: Cameroon has been quite disappointing thus far. It's one thing to lose in a group with three superior teams; it's another to routinely drop your outside midfielders back so your 4141 turns into a 6121. It's also pretty disappointing to see scenes like the one near the end of their last match, where Benoit Assou-Ekotto headbutted teammate Benjamin Moukandjo. The two have apparently cleared the air thanks in part to Samuel Eto'o's intervention, but still.
Meanwhile, I've buried the lede. Brazil is through with a draw, but a loss would actually let Mexico and Croatia get past them if those two sides tied. Thanks to Croatia's goal explosion against Cameroon, that set of results would see Croatia's goal difference stay at +2, while Brazil's would drop to +1 or worse. As such, expect
Gene Hackman Felipão to play a very strong side. That said, starters Neymar, Thiago Silva, and Luiz Gustavo (as well as Ramires, who will probably appear in every game whether starting or off the bench) are all carrying yellow cards, so if Brazil gets a 2-0 lead you can expect subs to be made on avoiding future suspensions. Yellow cards are now wiped clean after the quarterfinal stage, so Brazil needs to keep those four players out of trouble.
Who Should I Root For? In my last World Cup open thread post, I told you I have a soft spot for Cameroon. However, this tournament would be badly diminished with Brazil somehow going out this early. There is also the danger of an already angry society having to endure what would be arguably the most shocking group stage exit in World Cup history. Maybe we'd all be better off with Brazil winning here.
Kickoff Time: 4pm EDT
Venue: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
TV/Streaming: ESPN and Univision if you're watching on TV, WatchESPN online
Cliff's Notes: This is weird to say, but it's Mexico's ability to keep clean sheets that have put them in a position to actually win this group rather than merely advance. Guillermo Ochoa did his best Tim Howard impression against Brazil to preserve a 0-0 draw, which means that El Tri will be through to the round of 16 as long as they don't lose today.
Croatia, meanwhile, trounced a ten-man Cameroon side the day after Brazil-Mexico to keep themselves in the discussion. With Mario Mandzukic back from suspension, the Croats have something that Mexico just isn't very good at coping with: A big target man who works hard and scores headed goals. We know this because we've been using it against them for like 15 years now. Croatia could theoretically get through with a draw here, as we covered in the previous segment, but we all know that theoretical is never going to become real. For the Croats, this is a win-or-go-home game. For those of us who do not own a Mexico or Croatia jersey, it should add up to fun.
Who Should I Root For? Is Mexico still Mexico? Yes. Do they still have Rafa Marquez, who has done this and this and this, in their ranks? Yes they do. It is a moral requirement that you hope for Mexico to be eliminated via a Marquez own goal.