Watch out! These matches may stop your heartbeats

Watch out! These matches may stop your heartbeats

Watch out! These matches may stop your heartbeats

What makes every World Cup a sporting spectacle is the delicious clashes it offers.

After going through the qualification hurdle over a two-year period, 32 teams rise to the top with several minor armies getting their ammunition ready to battle it out with the major powers.

While the big boys tend to have a go at each other in the knock-out phase, some of them will be fighting it out in the group phase itself, thanks to FIFA’s ranking-cum-geographic based draw, making for interesting viewing early on.

While the draw appears kinder towards hosts Brazil and Argentina, it’s not a pretty picture for reigning champions Spain, runners-up Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Italy, England and Uruguay.

Let’s have a look at some the important group stage clashes that could set the early tempo. 

June 13: Spain vs The Netherlands 

(12.30 am IST on June 14)When the draw for the World Cup was made last December, one clash that had everyone eating out of their hands was this one – a replay of last year’s World Cup final. How often does that happen? }

Four years ago at Soccer City, this clash was dubbed as a perfect final -- the creators of Total Football versus the current practitioners of tiki-taka -- before turning into a complete anti-climax.

The Dutch dumped artistry for physicality as a wrestling match ensued. The Spaniards, caught unaware, fought bravely though before landing the knock-out punch deep into extra-time.

With dangerous Chile and Australia being the other two teams in their group, this clash has the trappings of another slobber-knocker.

June 14: England vs Italy 

(3.30 am IST on June 15).You may have to push your weekend party to the wee hours because you would want to be sober when this opening clash from the Group of Death starts.

Apart from these two Europeans heavyweights, this Group also contains Uruguay which means one of the former world champions will have to take the early flight back home.

Under Cesare Prandelli, Italy are not the same side that sat back and provoked the opposition before hitting them on the counter.

They like to advance despite conceding plenty while England have a squad bursting with exciting young talent seeking to make a strong impression on the global stage. It will be interesting to see who draws first blood.

Hopefully, it’s not a repeat of the drab 0-0 draw they had dished out in the Euro 2012 quarterfinals where Italy escaped on penalties.

June 16: Germany vs Portugal 

(9.30 pm IST)The best footballer in the world against a team that has some of the world’s best players is how this contest can be summed up.

Having won the Ballon d’Or and Champions League in a spectacular season, Cristiano Ronaldo will be spearheading his side against a mighty German team boasting a wealth of creative talent.

Andre Schuerlle, Mario Goetze, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schwiensteiger, Thomas Meuller, Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski… the list is almost endless.

Throw in keeper Manuel Neuer, the Germans form a great package and they would be itching to give Portugal the first taste of their medicine.

But ask Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic what Ronaldo is capable of!

June 17: Brazil vs Mexico 

(12.30 am IST on June 18)While many have backed Brazil to top the group without much hassle, Mexico is one team that is capable of churning out some unpleasant music to the Samba boys.

Having squeaked their way into the Finals after an inconsistent run in the qualifiers, Mexico have since shown good consistency under new coach Miguel Herrera, losing just one of their last six friendlies.

Following their opener against Croatia, the match will offer Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari a chance to further test his wares. 

June 19: Uruguay vs England 

(12.30 am IST on June 20)This could be the clash that may present a somewhat clearer picture on the fortunes of both the teams.

Considering Uruguay beat Costa Rica in their opener, they may want to take maximum points from this contest ahead of their final tie against Italy.

England, no matter how they open against the Azzurris, would also be seeking a win to strengthen their claim.

The sight of Luiz Suarez, if fit enough to play, going against his Liverpool mates Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge should be a treat.

A goalline save from Suarez, one can only imagine what the maverick may do.

June 24: Italy vs Uruguay

 (9.30 pm IST)What a way to climax the Group of Death.

The two arrive to this mouth-watering contest knowing exactly what they need to do to advance.

The Italians have rarely booked an early trip back home and with 2006 World Cup-winning veterans Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon playing in, perhaps, their final World Cup, they wouldn’t want to bow out ingloriously.

Uruguay, losing semifinalist in South Africa 2010, have their own ambitions at a country where its side caused one of the storied footballing events – The Maracanazo – decades ago.