Calling the second week of the World Cup a roller coaster ride would be an understatement. Late-game goals — or more accurately, last second goals —became a theme, and the first team to secure a spot in the Round of 16 was one that nobody could have predicted.
Early on in the week, Mexico played host team Brazil to a 0-0 draw, with Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa making some improbable saves, one off a header by Neymar that looked destined for the back of the net before Ochoa got a hand on it. Spain, the defending champion of the last three major international tournaments, was eliminated in a 2-0 loss to Chile, and a tough England squad fell to a stunning performance by Luis Suarez, who scored two goals in a victory for Uruguay. And Costa Rica shocked international soccer fans with a 1-0 victory over Italy, becoming the first team to make it to the knockout round in an extremely difficult group.
Iran played more than 90 minutes of flawless soccer against powerhouse Argentina, but Lionel Messi scored in the 91st minute, the first of two thrilling finishes this weekend. The other came at the end of yesterday’s US-Portugal game. Read more about that stunner here.
If you missed the numerous edge-of-your-seat thrillers this past week, don’t worry. The final games of the group stage are coming up, and there will be no shortage of excitement. Here are some games to keep an eye on.
Mexico vs. Croatia — Monday, June 23, 4 p.m.
These two teams are separated by just one point in the standings, and assuming Brazil beats Cameroon this game will decide who else moves on from Group A. The Mexican team has been playing brilliantly, but Croatia proved that it has offensive firepower in a 4-0 victory over Cameroon. The Croatians also have a chip on their shoulders after a controversial loss to Brazil in week one, and would like nothing more than to advance alongside the host team.
Italy vs. Uruguay — Tuesday, June 24, 12 p.m.
Not many soccer aficionados predicted that only one team from this matchup would be moving on to the knockout stage. But the beauty of the World Cup is that it is so unpredictable, just as it is nearly impossible to guess the winner of this match. Uruguay will need Suarez to play as he did against England in order to move on, and Italy has to hope that its methodical offense can stay effective.
United States vs. Germany — Thursday, June 26, 12 p.m.
Group G has certainly lived up to its name as the Group of Death. All four teams in the group will be fighting for their lives next week, and the US can clinch a trip to the next round with a win or a tie in this game. Should the US lose, though, their fate will depend on how Ghana fares against Portugal on the same day. Klinsmann has been sending all the right young players into the game at all the right times so far, and the work of the American substitutes should be integral once again, especially without Jozy Altidore in the lineup.
Algeria vs. Russia — Thursday, June 26, 4 p.m.
Group H has flown under the radar because Belgium proved its prowess as the top team. But the second spot is up for grabs, and these two teams will be fighting for it come Thursday. Algeria got a big 4-2 win over Korea this week, and Russia played Belgium tough, with a goal in the 88th minute proving to be the difference. There are no guarantees in this match, and the winner will stay alive.
What match are you looking forward to in the third week of World Cup action? Let us know in the comments section below!
For more World Cup coverage, check out SI Kids' Guide to the 2014 World Cup!
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