It’s arrived, at last: the World Cup, a tournament watched by 3.2 billion people four years ago in South Africa. With the 2014 tournament being held in football’s heartland, Brazil, it’s likely more will tune in this time, and we’re all in the obligatory frenzy for information on who’s going to win as we set up fantasy teams and boast among our peers in tipping competitions.
Social media is abuzz with every conceivable World Cup-related hashtag, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter is so excited, he stated at this week’s FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo that football could one day become an inter-planetary sport.
But while Herr Blatter worries about rockets and universal domination – he needs something new having sewn up global variety – your only concern should be which matches you must not miss in the first week or two of this month-long football extravaganza.
SBS is showing every match live and exclusive across its free-to-air television, online, mobile and radio channels in Australia, so you’ll have absolutely no trouble finding access to all 64 matches. But it’s an overwhelming schedule, so here are six must-see contests for you to plonk in your calendars, and of course sick-day reminders.
Must-See Match No.1
Brazil vs Croatia (Group A)
Why: Well, it’s the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, and they’re always good to watch. Not only that, but host Brazil is likely to have a huge crowd willing it on. The best thing is, Croatia is no easy-beat. Fresh from a defeat over the Socceroos last week, barely getting out of first gear, it should be confident of an upset over the host nation.
Players to watch: Neymar (Brazil) Luca Modric (Croatia). Neymar and Modric are club rivals, too, playing for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
When to watch:Friday 13 June at 5.30am AEST (6am AEST kick-off).
Must-See Match No.2
Spain vs Netherlands (Group B)
Why: Not only is this a repeat of the 2010 final in South Africa, which Spain won, but both Spain and Netherlands are in Australia’s Group B. Spain doesn’t look to be the force it was four years ago but it wil be fascinating to see how it shapes up in what is a really tricky opener for both sides. The Dutch, until 2010, were famous for internally combusting during major tournaments. After getting so close to nirvana four years ago, it will be desperate to prove the doubters wrong, starting here.
When to watch:Saturday, 14 June at 4.30am (5am AEST kick-off).
Must-See Match No.3
Australia vs Chile (Group B)
Why: An obvious pick, as this is the Socceroos’ first match of the 2014 World Cup. The talk can end, and we can finally see if the naysayers are right, or if Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has foxed us all. Will the green and gold deliver a famous first-up win against one of the dark horses of South America? Who knows? With Chile’s star man Arturo Vidal struggling with injury, the cards are already falling in the Socceroos’ favour. But the pace of Chile across the park will prove a stern test for Australia’s inexperienced defence, one it must pass if it’s to realise dreams of a spot in the round of 16.
When to watch: Saturday, 14 June at 7.30am (8am AEST kick-off).
Must-See Match No.4
England vs Italy (Group D)
Why: Probably the pick of the group fixtures, two European giants go up against each other in this one. It’ll be a tight affair, no doubt, with neither side giving an inch. One goal could be enough, and defeat for either side will be met by apocalyptic headlines of doom. Likewise, victory will likely stir either nation’s press into a frenzy, and wild predictions of a World Cup victory. England’s last was in 1966. Italy’s was 2006, the year it put Australia to the sword in the round of 16. Added to all this, the match is being played in Manaus, probably Brazil’s hottest host city. Who copes best with the oppressive climate will certainly have a bearing on the result.
When to watch: Sunday, 15 June at 7.30am (8am AEST kick-off).
Must-See Match No.5
Germany vs Portugal (Group G)
Why: Methodical Germany is a tournament specialist. If it’s not winning World Cups, it’s going very close. Portugal, on the other hand, is like a baby Brazil, full of talent, yet thus far unable to crack the biggest prize in the game. With Cristiano Ronaldo at the tip of its spear, we can expect some fireworks, but Germany will do everything in its power to shut down the world’s best player. Germany has lost a big player in Marco Reus, but still boasts some awesome talent of its own. A cracker awaits.
When to watch:Tuesday, 17 June at 1.30am (2am AEST kick-off).
Must-See Match No.6
Uruguay vs England (Group D)
Why: Uruguay, which won the first World Cup in 1930, has a squad now capable of doing the same, if things go well. And in Luis Suarez, Los Charrúas has one of the world’s best strikers. Top scorer in the English Premier League for Liverpool, Suarez will be keen to put a few past his club team-mates and captain Steven Gerrard, who make up the bulk of England’s side. If England loses to Italy, this match will be a must-win. Uruguay will still have to play the Azzurri after this one, too, so will be keen to grab a vital three points. It’s a definitely a big game.
When to watch: Wednesday 25 June at 1.30am (2am AEST kick-off).
All the games are on SBS ONE, SBS HD and online. Commentary is also available on SBS Radio.
Toby Forage is Executive Producer at SBS Sport Online. He’s on Twitter: @foraggio
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