Match 9 - Switzerland V Ecuador - Sunday June 15, 12pm EDT
Match 10 - France V Honduras - Sunday June 15, 3pm EDT
Match 25 - Switzerland V France - Friday June 20, 3pm EDT
Match 26 - Honduras V Ecuador - Friday June 20, 6pm EDT
Match 43 - Honduras V Switzerland - Wednesday June 25, 4pm EDT
Match 44 - Ecuador V France - Wednesday June 25, 4pm EDT
Also benefitting greatly from FIFA's questionable ranking procedures were Switzerland, who were put into the first pot based on an extremely inflated ranking, the Swiss are still ranked 6th, in fact.
Switzerland have arrived at the World Cup Finals for the tenth time in their history, but have failed to advance past the quarter final stage, which they reached in 2006. In 2010, the Swiss beat eventual winners Spain, 1-0, but went home at the end of the group stage.
Switzerland secured their place in Brazil winning their group on the second to last matchday, but it was hardly an easy trip through qualifying, however, as they hit some bumps in the road on the way.
The Swiss won the first two matches, but tied 3 oout of the next 5, before winning the next 2 to secure advancement.
Viola fans will recognize several of the Swiss players, Stephan Lichtsteiner of Juventus, Gokhan Inler, Blerim Dzemaili and former Fiorentina players Valon Behrami of Napoli and some guy named Haris Seferovic.
Ecuador comes into their third World Cup as the last direct qualifier from CONMEBOL, finishing fourth, largely due to their home form, where they beat all comers, with the exception of Argentina, who drew in Quito. Ecuador finished level on points with Uruguay, but had a higher goal differential and avoided the inter-continental play-off.
Ecuador first appeared in 2002, exiting at the end of the group stage, but managed to finish second in 2006, finishing second in their group. England cut short thier adventure at that point 1-0 to send them home.
Antonio Valencia, Cristhian Noboa, Felipe Caicedo and Jefferson Montero are relative newcomers to the squad, but have pundits excited, Ecuador can also look to experience in Edison Mendez and Walter Ayovi.
France comes into their 14 appearance, on a bit of a roller coaster ride in the finals. After not qualifying in 1990 and 1994, France not only qualified in 1998, they won the whole enchilada, beating Brazil 3-0.
France followed that win up with a dismal performance in 2002, losing to Senegal, tying Uruguay and losing to Denmark to finish last in their group.
However, 2006 was to be much kinder to France. They tied Switzerland in their group opener, tied South Korea and beat Togo to finish second and advance to the knockout rounds. France then went on to beat Spain 3-1, Brazil 1-0 and Portugal 1-0, earning the right to face Italy in the final round. The match ended in regulation and extra time tied 1-1 and went to penalties, with the Azzurri triumphing 5-3. The game is well known for a head butting incident between Zidane and Materazzi.
2010 saw the French team back on the down turn, tying Uruguay, then losing to Mexico and South Africa to finish bottom of the group and home early.
France will be hoping that the rollercoaster continues and they can get back to the final match.
France finished second in their Qualifying Group, forcing a play off with Ukraine. Ukraine came out and dominated the first leg, 2-0 at home, but France rebounded to beat Ukraine 3-0 in Paris and earn the qualification.
France has one of the better keepers on the pitch in Captain Hugo Lloris and a defense of Patrice Evra(Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny(Arsenal) and Raphael Varane(Real Madrid). In the midfield, Paul Pogba from Juventus looks to make a big mark while forwards Karim Benzema(Real Madrid) and Olivier Giroud(Arsenal) will be looking to head the list for the Golden Ball. A big missing for the French team will be the absence of Frank Ribery, unable to make the cut due to injuries.
Honduras are coming into their third final appearance, their second in a row, ranked 33rd in the world. Honduras had a rough go in South Africa, losing to Chile and Spain before scratching out a scoreless tie with switzerland in the the final group match, which turned out to be the last match in the finals for honduras that time around.
Following their exit at South Africa 2010 and the departure of coach Reinaldo Rueda, Honduras appointed Luis Fernando Suarez as coach in March 2011. The new coach immiedately began to work with the Honduran youngsters and brought some of that youth to the senior squad
The result was a convincing performance in Round 3 of the CONCACAF preliminaries, with Los Catrachos winning the group from Panama on goal difference. They went on to earn the third direct qualifying slot from CONCACAF, with the high point being a defeat of CONCACAF giants Mexico.
Left-back Emilio Izaguirre was named Scottish Premier League Player of the Year for Celtic . He is joined by captain and goalkeeper Noel Valladares. Wilson Palacios, of Stoke City, is also a main player in the roster.
Ecuador really did nothing on the road in qualifying, which doesn't bode well for their hopes in Brazil, Switzerland should handle them on the first game day. I'm also expecting a France on thier game this time around and they should beat Honduras, setting up the big match of the group on match day 2, France v Switzerland. I'm going with the French to beat Behrami's Boys and win the group. Ecuador should beat Honduras in the "who cares" match. i think both Euro teams finish out the 3rd game day with wins and advance. France in first and Switzerland in second.
Match 11 - Argentina Bosnia-Herz. - Sunday June 15, 6pm EDT
Match 13 - Iran V Nigeria - Monday June 16, 3pm EDT
Match 27 - Argentina V Iran - Saturday June 21, 12pm EDT
Match 29 - Nigeria V Bosnia-Herz. - Saturday June 21, 6pm EDT
Match 41 - Bosnia-Herz. V Iran - Wednesday June 25, 12pm EDT
Match 42 - Nigeria V Argentina - Wednesday June 25, 12pm EDT
CONMEBOL qualifying leader Argentina come into Brazil for their 16th appearance, looking to win their third title and ranked as the 5th best team in the world. Since 1990, however, they have been unable to progress beyond the quarter-finals.
Most recently in 2010, Argentina swept all three group matches, beating Nigeria, Greece and South Korea and beating Mexico 3-1 in the round of sixteen, before bowing out after a 4-0 drubbing by Germany.
Argentina started qualifying slowly, with a loss and a draw in their first three matches, but Argie went on a 14 match unbeaten streak and clinched qualifying before the end of the stage.
Four time FIFA Ballon d'Ors winner (2009-2012) Lionel Messi is the undisputed leader of the Argentina national team and will be looking to score many goals to make up for his shut out in South Africa last time around. Along for the ride is Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is making their insugural appearance in teh World Cup Finals this time around and did so in fine fashion, scoring the 4th most goals in European regional qualifying (30) and only giving up 6 goals. That goal differential proved to be crucial as they wound up tied on points with Greece and that goal diff. earned them the direct qualification.
Bosnia-Herzegovina will be looking to the likes of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic up front, midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Zvjezdan Misimovic, and defender Emir Spahic and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
iran come into their 4th finals appearance ranked 43rd in the world. Iran have a win to their credit, a 2-1 defeat of USA, but only managed a draw in their last trip in Germany 2006 and went home after the group stage. Given the level of competition in this group, most likely even a draw will beyond Iran this time around.
Captain Javad Nekounam will lead the team onto the pitch in Brazil. Joining him will be former Osasuna team-mate Masoud Shojaei and Belgium-based striker Reza Ghoochannejhad, while Fulham man Ashkan Dejagah shores up the midfield alongside Andranik Teymourian.
Nigeria come into their 5th finals appearances looking to buck recent trends, which have seen them only garner 2 points in 6 matches in the last two tournaments, exiting at the end of the group stage each time. Previous to that, Nigeria had reached the knockout stages in their first two finals appearances.
Nigeria saw off minnows Ethiopia in their two leg play off to advance.
Nigeria have kept most of the players form their win in the 2013 edition of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Chelsea's John Obi Mikel is the main focal point while in goal, Vincent Enyeama is an important player. Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike are key parts of a deep attack, as well.
Argie Argie Argie. 3 wins and onto the next round for Argentina in my opinion, while Bosnia wins their other two matches to take second. Nigeria beats Iran for third
Match 12 - Germany V Portugal - Monday, June 16, 12pm EDT
Match 14 - Ghana V USA - Monday June 16, 6pm EDT
Match 28 - Germany V Ghana - Saturday June 21, 6pm EDT
Match 32 - USA V Portugal - Sunday June 22, 6pm EDT
Match 45 - Portugal V Ghana - Thursday June 26, 12pm EDT
Match 46 - USA V Germany - Thursday June 26, 12pm EDT
3rd on the list with 3 finals wins to their name, Germany comes into their 18th finals appearance looking for a 4th. Currently ranked 2nd in the world, Germany also have finished in 2nd place in the tourney 4 times, as well as 3rd place 4 times, including the last two tournaments. So if it comes to the last four and Germany is there, no one should be shocked.
Germany cruised through qualifying, with 9 wins and 1 draw, scoring 36 goals, tops for all European qualifying squads
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has managed to get fit in time for the first match, so he should be the starter. Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger are stalwarts in the line up; each has reached 100 caps but is still at their peak.
Mesut Ozil of Arsenal and Thomas Muller look to feature, while youngsters Andre Schurrle, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze could all see time.
Portugal comes into Brazil ranked 4th in the world. This is only their 6th appearance, but it's the 4th in a row. Portugal was sent out in 2010 by eventual champions Spain, 1-0 in the round of 16.
On paper, Portugal's qualifying group looked to be a two team race and in reality, that's exactly what it was. Russia and Portugal dominated play over Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg, but Russia made a 1-0 victory over Portugal in Moscow stand throughout qualifying and sent Portie to 2nd place.
For the second time in a row, Portugal then had to go through the play-offs in order to advance to the world finals, defeating Sweden 4-2 on aggregate. Guess who scored all 4 goals for Portugal?
Yah, of course, it was Cristiano Ronaldo and he still is the main focus for Portie, but his "supporting cast" is very much nothing to sneer at with Pepe and Bruno Alves in defense and Nani as well.
Ghana comes in for their 3rd finals appearance and are looking forward to what is likely going to be a rough ride this time around. Last two times around, however, Ghana wound up being the only African team to make it to the knock out rounds both times and even beat the USA to make the quarter finals 2010. So who knows, maybe the Black Stars can shock the world
Ghana advanced from a qualifying group comprised of 2012 African champions Zambia, Lesotho and Sudan and outscored their opponents 18 to 3. Ghana faced seven-time African champions Egypt in the play offs. Winning the home leg 6-1 pretty much settled the issue and a 2-1 loss in Cairo just made it official.
Lest anyone be tempted to take Ghana lightly, Ghana has a world class midfield, perhaps even one of the best with Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Coach Kwesi Appiah's task will be to get the forwards and defense to live up to the midfields standards.
13th ranked USA comes into their 10th World Cup looking up a very steep mountain. It's not insurmountable, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann probably would have preferred to join a group without two European giants, not to mention a Ghana squad that already has beaten the Americans in a World Cup, the last one, in fact.
USA qualified fairly easily for the final 6 team group in CONCACAF, called the Hexagonal. They started slow in the final group, but sorted it out to complete qualification with the most points in the region.
Big story of this tournament, at least in the USA, is the absence of Landon Donovan on the roster. Coach's Decision. Will probably be a big talking point for a long time to come.
Jozy Altidore, of Sunderland and Clint Dempsey will be looking to prove Jurgen right. Michael Bradley is the complete midfield player for USA, and Tim Howard is still World Class
Germany handles Portugal, but i think the second match is a draw for USA/Ghana. i think Germany and Portugal win the last two matches each and both advance, with Germany the group winner.
Match 15 - Belgium V Algeria - Tuesday June 17, 12pm EDT
Match 17 - Russia V South Korea - Tuesday June 17, 6pm EDT
Match 30 - Belgium V Russia - Sunday June 22, 12pm EDT
Match 31 - South Korea V Algeria - Sunday June 22, 3pm EDT
Match 47 - Algeria V Russia - Thursday June 26, 4pm EDT
Match 48 - South Korea V Belgium - Thursday June 26, 4pm EDT
12th ranked Belgium comes into their 12th appearance in Brazil in the group everyone else wished they had drawn into. This will mark Belgium's first participation since 2002.
In 2002, Belgium started group play with host nation Japan and were held to a 2-2 draw, followed up with a 1-1 draw with Tunisia. With it all on the line Belgium beat Russia 3-2 to advance. Sadly, advancing meant getting to play Brazil, who not only beat Belgium, but went on to win the whole tournament.
Belgium had a tough group in qualifying as they faced Serbia and Croatia, as well as Scotland, Wales and Macedonia. Belgium didn't blink and went through the schedule without a loss, 8 wins and 2 draws and earned the direct qualification.
Pretty amazing list of names Coach Marc Wilmots has to draw from: Nacer Chadli, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Defour to name a few.
Algeria comes into their fourth finals and it's a repeat visit for the Les Fennecs as they also appeared in 2010. High point of the 2010 tourney was a scoreless tie with England, but it was bracketed by losses to Slovenia and the United States
Algeria qualified with wins in five of six group matches over Mali, Benin and Rwanda. Algeria beat Burkina Faso on away goals in a two legged play off to qualify.
Madjid Bougherra is a key figure at the back, Sofiane Feghouli is an attacking midfielder, while Medhi Lacen is the defending midfielder. Islam Slimani is the most prolific option in attack.
Host of the next World Cup in 2018, 19th ranked Russia appears in there 10th tourney this time round. They last featured in 2002 but finished third behind Japan and Belgium in the group stage and took an early exit.
Russia beat out Portugal in qualifying to directly qualify and avoid a play off.
Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev only conceded 5 times in the final qualifying round but Fabio Capello’s relies most on a technically gifted and midfield with Victor Fayzulin. Captain Roman Shirokov will miss the tournament due to a knee ligament injury, but Aleksandr Kerzhakov will be looking to notch some goals.
South Korea will be looking to advance to the knock out stage for the third time in a row. Last tourney Uruguay beat them in the round of 16. South Korea has had a rocky go of it in qualifying, but a win or three in Brazil will wipe that clean out of their memory.
South Korea had a bit of a struggle to qualify, in a group with Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Lebanon to qualify. Korea finished second in the group to Iran.
Men to watch are: Son Heungmin, Koo Jacheol, Lee Chungyong, Kim Shinwook and Lee Keunho
I think this is an easy group for Belgium, 3 straight wins, so whomever wins on match day 1 between Russia and South Korea comes in 2nd and I say it's Russia.
Knock Out Rounds
Saturday, June 28
Match 49 - Group A Winner V Group B Second Place
Match 50 - Group C Winner V Group D Second Place
Sunday, June 29
Match 51 - Group B Winner V Group A second Place
Match 52 - Group D Winner V Group C Second Place
Monday, June 30
Match 53 - Group E Winner V Group F Second Place
Match 54 - Group G Winnner V Group H Second Place
Tuesday, July 1
Match 55 - Group F winner V Group E Second Place
Match 56 - Group H Winner V Group G Second Place
Friday, July 4
Match 57 - Match 49 Winner V Match 50 Winner
Match 58 - Match 53 Winner V Match 54 Winner
Saturday, July 5
Match 59 - Match 51 Winner V Match 52 Winner
Match 60 - Match 55 Winner V Match 56 Winner
Tuesday, July 8
Match 61 - Match 57 Winner V Match 58 Winner
Wednesday, July 9
Match 62 - Match 59 Winner V Match 60 Winner
Sunday, July 13
Match 63 - Match 61 Winner V Match 62 Winner