The 2018 World Cup has brought plenty of drama, and today’s slate of games could well keep the trend going. Costa Rica is hoping to make another surprise run deep into the tournament, but they face a pretty tricky opponent in Serbia. Later in the day, Brazil will begin their shot at redemption against Switzerland, but the game that has everyone going is Mexico’s game against the 2014 champions from Germany.
Costa Rica vs. Serbia
What to watch for: We’ve come to expect the Ticos to be characteristically difficult for opponents. Their 541/343 hybrid formation and their thoughtful counter-attacking style of play are hallmarks, and they’ve never had so many players playing at the highest levels of the game.
And yet, it feels like this tournament is a year or so too late for them. Six players in their squad are 32 or older, and most of them are attacking players. While they got through qualifying fairly easily, they were hardly impressive, finishing with a 4W-4D-2L record and relying on a solid defense rather than being anything special going forward. There are assumptions out there that they can put together something similar to 2014’s run, but it’s mostly the same players, just four years off their prime.
Serbia, on the other hand, averaged 2 goals per game in qualifying directly from UEFA’s group D, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic leading the way with 6 goals in 10 games. While this isn’t a particularly gifted Serbian team, they’re a pretty decent bet to find their way through a group that doesn’t have an obvious weak team.
Location: Cosmos Arena (Samara)
Kickoff time: 8:00am Eastern
Available TV: Fox, Telemundo
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Telemundo (direct link to the stream)
Germany vs. Mexico
What to watch for: This should be a very fun group, and this game may be the most fun game it produces. El Tri has a long history of playing up when facing a favorite early in World Cups past, and Germany is still Germany. However, with Mexico looking hardly convincing in their pre-tournament friendlies (including some absolutely dire play from Javier Hernandez), Germany should be considered heavy favorites today.
How can Mexico spring an upset? They’re going to need to be extremely sharp on the break, where Hirving Lozano can thrive, and they need a better collective defensive performance than they’ve had in quite a while. They also need to be athletic; if you see Rafael Marquez getting a start at 90 years old, you can prepare your “Juan Carlos Osorio tinkered himself into an embarrassing defeat again” takes before kickoff.
Location: Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow)
Kickoff time: 11:00am Eastern
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, Telemundo
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Telemundo (direct link)
Brazil vs. Switzerland
What to watch for: The Swiss are probably up against it today, I’m not gonna lie. Brazil will surely be desperate to bury memories of their 7-1 debacle back in 2014, and despite having an aging crop of defenders, they’re listed as the current favorite to win the tournament by bookies worldwide. They’ve got Neymar, they’ve got Marcelo, they’ve got two regulars in the Barcelona midfield (Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho), and their only real weakness appears to be inexperience in goal.
Switzerland, meanwhile, only just squeaked past Northern Ireland to get into the tournament via UEFA’s playoff round, and their only high-end goalscoring threat is winger Xherdan Shaqiri. The emphasis for them will, as it seemingly always is on big occasions, is to stay compact and look for set piece opportunities. That’s probably not enough to get them a result today, but that might not really put them off too much. Their fate in this group probably has far more to do with their results against Costa Rica and Serbia, so don’t be shocked if their response to falling behind 1-0 is to keep doing what they’ve been doing.
Location: Rostov Arena (Rostov-on-Don)
Kickoff time: 2:00pm Eastern
Available TV: Fox Sports 1, Telemundo, NBCSN
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Telemundo (you get it by now)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.