It's Day 7 of the biggest sporting event in the world, and after one week of Group play, teams will begin competing in their second of three opening round games as they position themselves for a spot in the 16 team knockout round.
Brazil and Mexico already played their second Group A game yesterday when they met in what was seriously one of the most exciting 0-0 draws you could ever see (as opposed to the nearly unwatchable 0-0 tie between Iran and Nigeria the day before). The atmosphere in the stadium, the skill and playmaking on the field, and a host of incredible saves by Mexico's goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the newly dubbed Fortress of Fortaleza, truly made the scoreless tie a beautiful game nonetheless. It was a great cap to probably the most interesting opening week in World Cup play that I can remember, highlighted by the great closing minutes win by our US team against their nemesis Ghana, and we can hope that today's games match the sort of play we saw in the World Cup's opening week.
The Netherlands and Australia, Spain and Chile, and Cameroon and Croatia will all be on display today, and we will know a lot more about the prospects for the 8 teams in Groups A and B by the end of the evening.
Here are the matchups, locations, times (Pacific time) and the networks for today's games.
Australia v Netherlands, Group B, Porto Alegre, 9am PT, ESPN
The Flying Dutchmen destroyed defending champs Spain in their opener, and they will get a decidedly easier test today against the Socceroos from Down Under. It will be interesting to see how much of that opening game performance by the Oranje was inspired by their heartbreak against Spain in the title game 4 years ago, and how much of it is because they are simply that good. Keep your eye on forwards Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie to see if they maintain their highlight play. As for Australia, they had a respectable effort in their opening 3-1 loss to Chile, and even though they have never lost to the Netherlands in international play, they don't figure to fare well against the mighty Dutch today. A loss today would all but mathematically eliminate them.
Spain v Chile, Group B, Rio de Janeiro, noon, ESPN
Chilean star Alexis Sanchez leads the attacking style of his country's best international selection ever, a team that many have pegged as a sleeper pick for a deep run in the 2014 Cup. They can clinch a berth in the knockout round with a win today, but they will have to get by an embarrassed Spanish squad that will have redemption on its mind. La Roja was exposed by the aggressive Dutch, and Chile can play the same attacking style, so expect to see some lineup changes for the Spanish to counter and maintain their own ball control style. These teams tied 2-2 in a matchup last September, Spain is desperate for a positive result today, and Chile will want to capitalize now with a final game with the Netherlands looming, so we should see an intense effort from both sides. This one will be fun.
Cameroon v Croatia, Group A, Manaus, 3pm, ESPN
With Group A foes Brazil and Mexico already netting a win and a tie apiece, the loser of this game will be the first team officially eliminated from the tournament. Croatia is the clear favorite in this one, and after a respectable effort, and controversial loss, against Brasil in the tournament opener, the Vatreni need the full three points for a win to stay in range of the two leaders for a spot in the quarterfinals. The Indomitable Lions have only one World Cup win since 1990 and they have Brasil left in Group play, so they will be highly motivated to get a result today. Unlike most of the coastal venues for the World Cup, Manaus site on the Amazon deep in the center of the country, so expect this one to be hot and humid.
This is your World Cup open thread for Day 7 in Brazil. Fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune.