World Cup Schedule 2014: Fixture List, Kick-off Times, Live Stream Info, Venues – Bleacher Report
With less than a week to go until the big kick-off in Brazil, World Cup fever has now well and truly gripped the planet.
Fans worldwide are meticulously planning how and where they’ll watch the drama unfold in South America, with countless alarms set to keep up with the action even in the craziest of hours.
As we wouldn’t advise you missing any of the 2014 World Cup, below is a guide to where you can relax and soak in the group stage action with an in-depth look at two of the biggest opening fixtures.
England vs. Italy (June 14)
There was once a time when England fans backed their side to win every single major tournament that they entered, though decades of disappointment have led to expectations being lower than the nation’s penalty shootout success rate.
However, this year there’s a quiet bit of confidence on English shores, with Roy Hodgson’s star-studded line-up hoping to make a good account of themselves in Brazil.
England’s Group D campaign gets underway with a mouth-watering clash in Manaus as they take on Italy.
Arena da Amazonia is situated in the heart of the Amazon rainforest and holds up to 39,118 spectators, per FIFA.com, with an atmosphere expected to be even hotter than the overwhelming climate.
Both England and Italy will likely struggle in the humid Amazon region, which is the last thing that the Azzurri need given their recent woes.
According to SoccerWay, Italy haven’t won any of their last seven internationals, dating all the way back to September 2013.
Though they do face Fluminense on Sunday and should find a way past the Brazilian outfit, heading into the World Cup on such form will be worrying for Cesare Prandelli and Co.
Following Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with minnows Luxembourg in Verona, Prandelli insisted that he isn’t panicking and can still see Italy enjoying a strong campaign—per FIGC, via FIFA.com:
We completely made a mistake in marking their corner kick and Luxembourg took advantage and scored. I need to test some of the solutions we had been practising in training, especially in midfield. It is something I needed to do and I don’t think it was a failure.
I’ve seen interesting things. We knew that we weren’t going to be sharp considering the hard work the team has undergone in recent days. We have to improve but we leave for Brazil knowing that we can have a great World Cup.
A great World Cup would mean disposing of England in their opening fixture, but with the Three Lions looking good of late, that could be a difficult task.
Hodgson’s men have lost just two of their last 15 matches, per SoccerWay, and though they didn’t perform brilliantly against Ecuador on Wednesday, the experimental side still emerged with a 2-2 draw.
With Honduras to come for England in Miami, Italy and the English will likely be heading into their match in Manaus with opposing levels of confidence.
With the correct team selection, potentially involving a forward trio of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, England will have the power to beat Italy even in the uncomfortable conditions.
However, the Italians are a very tough team to beat, and though they haven’t won since September, they have also lost just one match in that time. It’s going to be like a game of chess in the rainforest, but England just have the right moves to win.
Prediction: England 2-1 Italy
Croatia vs. Mexico (June 23)
With the race for progression from Group A looking very one-sided in favour of Brazil, the battle for the runners-up spot will see Croatia take on Mexico on June 23.
Arena Pernambuco is the setting for the crunch clash, situated in the middle of the historical football city of Recife.
As the home of Brazilian clubs Nautico, Santa Cruz and Sport, football is Recife’s second language, making it the perfect setting for such an important clash.
Though Croatia will be fancied to qualify given the talent in their ranks—the likes of Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic—the Mexicans are more than capable of producing a strong campaign.
Let’s not forget, they performed admirably in the 2010 World Cup, only to come up against an inspired Argentina side in the knockout stages, and they come into the tournament off the back of some promising form.
Their loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday was their first in eight matches according to SoccerWay, with Miguel Herrera’s free-flowing style of football making Mexico a dangerous outfit.
However, Croatia aren’t the kind of side to just lie down, and their striker Eduardo told FIFA.com that the Croats are planning on Group A progression:
The objective is to reach the knockout phase. If that can be accomplished, we will already be facing a ‘final’ against either the Netherlands, Spain or Chile, which are all really dangerous teams.
And if Croatia get through this round too, we can go on to emulate the France 1998 performance [when they reached the last four] or go even further.
We are full of confidence and have the complete backing of the media and the fans. It is really positive for us because they recognise that we have a strong generation of players, one of the best in our history.
We need to confirm that this is true, go as far as possible in the tournament and try and surpass the achievements of the ’98 generation. We’ll do everything in our power to accomplish this.
Though a tricky match against the winners of Group B will await either Mexico or Croatia, winning in Recife will fill them with endless confidence going into the match.
It’s going to be an incredibly tight game, that much is guaranteed, but Mexico may just have enough to see them over the line.
Prediction: Croatia 0-1 Mexico
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