THE KNOCKOUT PHASE
The World Cup is finishing up group play today, with an off day before the knockout phase starts this weekend. While some powerhouses such as Spain and Italy have been eliminated already, there are plenty of talented players and teams to keep an eye on. Here are previews of the final group games and players to watch in knockout play over the weekend.
Group G, Today:
United States vs. Germany, Noon
Both the United States and Germany control their own destinies to win the group. The winner of the game wins the group and avoids Belgium, which is poised to win Group H. The loser has to get some help from the result of the Ghana-Portugal match to see if it advances. If the U.S. and Germany were to tie, both advance to the round of 16, with the winner coming based on goal differential, which would favor Germany. The key to this game: Can the back line of the Stars and Stripes contain the high-powered German offense?
Portugal vs. Ghana, Noon
As the U.S. and Germany are going for a Group G win, Ghana and Portugal will be trying to extend their World Cup lives. If this match ends in a draw, both teams would be eliminated. For either Ghana or Portugal to advance on a win, they would have to overtake the United States or Germany in goal differential. Germany sits at +4, USA is +1, Ghana is -1 and Portugal is -4.
Neymar (Brazil) vs. Chile
Neymar picked up two "man of the match" awards in the first three games he has played in this World Cup. At just 22, he has a knack for getting into open space, and has shown his incredible ability to put the ball in the back of the net. He has scored four goals in the three matches he has played, leading Brazil to the Group A title. He will have to continue to score at a high rate for Brazil to get past Chile, which has been impressive in its own right.
Robin Van Persie (Netherlands) vs. Mexico
Van Persie has been impressive on the pitch. He had to sit out the final match of the group stage due to collecting yellow cards in each of the first two matches for the Dutch. In the two games he did play, he scored three goals, including the goal of the tournament so far. His team plays Mexico, which nearly stole the group out of the hands of mighty Brazil but fell just short on goal differential. The Netherlands have a much more explosive offensive team when Van Persie is on the field, and will need the offense to get by Mexico, which scrapped its way to advance to the knockout stage.
- Andrew Albert