15 Must-Watch Matches in the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup

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15 Must-Watch Matches in the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup

15 Must-Watch Matches in the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup
Jerry Lai - USATODAY Sports

The 2014 World Cup is still months away, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start getting excited about what’s to come. Over the span of a month, we’ll see 64 matches between some of the world’s best teams. Of course, not all matches are created equal; some are far more intriguing than others. Obviously, all soccer fans wish they could watch every match of the World Cup, but that isn’t always possible, so we’ve decided to pick out the matches hardcore soccer fans and even casual fans must be sure they watch this summer.

We know that not all of the groups in the tournament field are created equal, as a few of the groups are far better than the rest, and many of the games we’ve highlighted come from the most powerful groups. Of course, we’ve also made sure to pinpoint notable rematches from previous World Cups, regional and traditional rivalries, and matches that will be important in deciding which teams advance to the knockout stage in some of the most competitive groups.

Overall, this tournament does appear to lack transcendent matches that truly stand out above the rest and will capture the attention of fans all over the world, but there is definitely no shortage of matches that will pique the interest of soccer fans. Obviously, it’s best to see every match of the world cup, but just in case you can’t make it to a television for every one, here is a helpful list of the games during the group stage that you won’t want to miss.

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Brazil vs. Croatia

Brazil vs. Croatia
Joe Camporeale - USATODAY Sports

This is the first match of the tournament, so obviously that makes it a very special occasion for soccer fans. It'll also be fascinating to watch how the Brazilians play at the start of the tournament, as both the hosts and the favorites to win the tournament. A fast start for Brazil will get the fans going and strike fear in the tournament's other favorites, while a slow start for Brazil would add to the pressure the team faces.

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Spain vs. Netherlands

Spain vs. Netherlands
Witters Sport - USATODAY Sports

This will be a rare occasion, as the two teams that played in the final match of the last World Cup will begin the next World Cup by facing one another. It's also a matchup of two of the top European teams and two tournament favorites, and because it's the opening match for each team, the result will be critical with Chile lurking as the sleeper of the group.

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Ghana vs. USA

Ghana vs. USA
Facebook.com/GhanaFootballAssociation

This is a rematch of the last two World Cups, with both matches ending with the U.S. being eliminated and Ghana advancing. The Americans will be hoping to exorcise some demons when they play the Black Stars, but it won't be easy against a talented Ghana team. Of course, both sides find themselves in the group of death, and with this being the opening match for each team, the result is of the upmost importance.

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Ivory Coast vs. Japan

Ivory Coast vs. Japan
Matt Kryger - USATODAY Sports

Group C is one of the more wide open groups, and both of these teams are hoping to seize that opportunity and advance to the knockout stage, so this will be an important opening match for both sides. It's also a rather interesting clash of styles, as the Ivory Coast is big and physical while Japan is smaller and more technical. Second place in the group could be on the line in this match, so neither team can afford to easy into the tournament, they'll need to go for it right from the start, which should make for an entertaining match.

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Germany vs. Portugal

Germany vs. Portugal
Presse Sports - USATODAY Sports

Not only is this a great European rivalry, but it'll also be a very telling match. The Germans are one of the tournament favorites, so we'll see early on whether or not they look the part. Meanwhile, Portugal has one great player, but whether or not they have enough to keep up in the group of death should be apparent by how competitive they are with Germany in their opening match.

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Brazil vs. Mexico

Brazil vs. Mexico
Christopher Hanewinckel - USATODAY Sports

If anybody is going to challenge Brazil in Group A, it's going to be Mexico. If El Tri can play up to their potential, it should make for a rather compelling match against the Brazilians. Also, if Mexico doesn't get three points from its first match, there will be a lot of pressure on them to get a result against Brazil. Finally, the Mexicans play in the World Cup the way they played in qualifying, this game could get ugly, especially if the Brazilians are playing well, and that would provide endless enjoyment for American fans that would like to see Mexico fall flat on their face.

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Argentina vs. Bosnia

Argentina vs. Bosnia
Joe Camporeale - USATODAY Sports

The world doesn't know that much about Bosnia, as they qualified out of a tough but unimpressive group, so this'll be a chance to learn something about a team that may be an up and coming European side. This will be their inaugural World Cup match, so it should be interesting to watch, especially since they'll open up the tournament against Argentina, a team that is loaded with talent and a favorite to go far in the tournament.

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Germany vs. Ghana

Germany vs. Ghana
Steve Mitchell - USATODAY Sports

This game, like just about every game in the group of death, is one you'll want to watch. The quality of both sides is extremely high and should make for a compelling match. Moreover, Ghana's athleticism can give top European teams fits, which means this may be the group game that could trip up Germany the most.

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Italy vs. Uruguay

Italy vs. Uruguay
Presse Sports - USATODAY Sports

These two teams played an entertaining game last summer in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and they're bound to do it again. This is the final group game, so if both teams haven't assured themselves a spot in the knockout stage yet, it'll be meaningful for both sides, especially with England likely to get three points against Costa Rica in the other game. Assuming the English can handle the Ticos, Italy and Uruguay will be the match you want to watch with the two matches being played simultaneously.

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Belgium vs. Russia

Belgium vs. Russia
David Richard - USATODAY Sports

This game is a little under the radar, but these are two European sides that may be able to surprise some people, and with South Korea also being a team that thinks it can do some damage in a wide open group, this is a critical match in Group H. If Belgium is as good as people think they are, they should be able to handle the Russians, as we won't learn much from their opener against a weak Algeria side, so this should be a good chance to learn about Belgium and whether or not they can be a factor later in the tournament.

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Switzerland vs. France

Switzerland vs. France
Twitter.com/FFF

This could be the deciding match in Group E, as both France and Switzerland are favored to advance. Even if both teams end up advancing, there's great incentive for each to attempt to win the group, as second place in Group E will likely face Argentina in the Round of 16, so both teams will want to win this match.

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Spain vs. Chile

Spain vs. Chile
GEPA/USA Today Sports

Both of these teams know how to put the ball in the back of the net, so this match could be endlessly entertaining. Also, with three quality teams in Group B, neither team can afford a loss, especially Chile, as they'll have the Netherlands in their final group game. Moreover, Chile was once part of the Spanish Empire, so this is one of the few games in this World Cup that has colonial ties, which always adds another dimension to the matches.

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Colombia vs. Ivory Coast

Colombia vs. Ivory Coast
Presse Sports - USATODAY Sports

These are two teams with a lot of talent but a history of underperforming at major tournaments, so something will have to give now that they're playing each other during the group stage. There will be a lot of talent on both sides, which should make for an interesting and meaningful match in a wide open Group C.

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England vs. Italy

England vs. Italy
Witters Sport - USATODAY Sports

This will be a great opening match for both sides, and it'll give the winning side a huge lift. The Italians have the more talented team, but England is well suited to compete with them, and both teams should be able to push forward and attack, which should make for an entertaining match.

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USA vs. Germany

USA vs. Germany
Kirby Lee - USATODAY Sports

Assuming the Americans are still in contention heading into their final match, this is the game to watch. Jurgen Klinsmann has both played and coached for Germany in World Cups, with great success, but now he'll be coaching against his homeland. Klinsmann will be professional, but all eyes will be on him anyway, as it'd be impossible for him not to feel somewhat conflicted.

The Soccer Gods smiled upon us and gave us a matchup like this with a seemingly endless amount of story lines. On top of that, it's happening on the final day of the group stage and in the group of death, which could make it the most compelling match of the first round.

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