Games to Watch: Final countdown to the World Cup

Games to Watch will be on hiatus during the World Cup. Here's the last edition before the tournament kicks off.

Costa Rica vs. Republic of Ireland

8:00 p.m. Friday

You’ll see plenty of familiar faces if you head down to PPL Park for this international friendly. Costa Rica’s World Cup squad includes New York Red Bulls defender Roy Miller, Fulham midfielder Bryan Ruiz and Olympiacos forward Joel Campbell. Ireland isn’t going to Brazil, but the squad still has Everton midfielder Aiden McGeady and Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane. But you’ll have to watch in person, as the game isn’t televised.

Mexico vs. Portugal

8:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN2, UniMás)

As the planet's best player, Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo is always in the spotlight. It’s especially bright right now, as the dynamic forward has been ruled out of this game due to knee and ankle injuries. Will he be healthy in time for the start of the World Cup? American fans are paying close attention, with the U.S. set to face Portugal on June 26.

With Ronaldo out, Manchester United’s Nani and Monaco’s Joao Moutinho have to step up. If they can’t - and if Ronaldo stays out - the Americans’ “Group of Death” will have new life.

Mexico, meanwhile, is coming off a 1-0 loss to Bosnia in Chicago. Gio dos Santos and Javier Hernández need to get El Tri’s offense in gear soon.

Spain vs. El Salvador

4:00 p.m. Saturday (Univision)

This may seem like a mismatch on paper, and with good reason. Spain is the defending World Cup champion and the two-time reigning European champion, while El Salvador didn’t even make the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The test for Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Diego Costa will come from what should be a very pro-Salvadoran crowd at FedEx Field, as the D.C. region is home to one of the world’s largest Salvadoran expat populations.

It will also be the first game in the United States for a Spanish player who has a lot more coming. Striker David Villa was unveiled earlier this week as the first signing for New York City FC, the newest MLS expansion team.

Nigeria at United States

5:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN, UniMás)

It’s the final game for the U.S. national team before it heads to Brazil. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will face lots of questions in this game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. What’s the best defensive combination? Can the four-man “diamond” midfield, led by Michael Bradley, control possession? And when will Jozy Altidore finally score? There isn’t much time left to find answers.

Ghana vs. South Korea

7:00 p.m. Monday (beIN Sport, beIN Sport Español)

The scene shifts from Jacksonville to Miami as the United States’ first World Cup opponent plays its last warm-up game. Ghana’s team is stacked with speed and power, most notably Schalke’s Kevin-Prine Boateng and Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah. There’s also veteran forward Asamoah Gyan, who scored the goal that knocked the U.S. out of the 2010 World Cup.

FC Dallas at Portland Timbers

10:00 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN2)

This is the last game before Major League Soccer takes a two-and-a-half week break for the World Cup’s group stage. It features two teams that seem headed in opposite directions.

Dallas has gone from hot to cold. Fabián Castillo, Blas Pérez and company lost just two of their eight games in March and April, but went winless in seven games in May. Portland, led by Diego Valeri and Maximiliano Urruti, has gone the other way. The Timbers were winless in March and April, then won three of five in May.

Croatia at Brazil

3:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN in English; Univision, WPWA 1590-AM and WMVB 1440-AM in Spanish; ESPN Deportes in Portuguese; in Korean)

At long last, the World Cup arrives. It will do so in spectacular fashion, as Neymar leads the host nation into the tournament’s opening game at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians. Fans at home and worldwide expect the Seleçao to win its record sixth straight World Cup, and for good reason.

Brazil's first opponent is Croatia, led by Luka Modrić and Nikica Jelavić. The team in the famed red-and-white checkered jerseys has a good chance to reach the knockout round, but it will be without one of its biggest stars in this game. Striker Mario Mandžukić is suspended after picking up a red card in the qualifying finale.