World Cup 2014: The week ahead in Brazil

Now it gets serious, who will be able to secure those final second-round places? Miguel Delaney reports

Today

A day with a lot of international reputations at stake. Cristiano Ronaldo’s entire World Cup legacy could come down to it, but USA’s whole connection to the sport could be made concrete. Although the States have reached a semi-final in 1930 and quarter-finals in 2002, this tournament has an even more meaningful feel about it. Their estimated 20,000 fans are the second highest travelling contingent after Argentina, and John Brooks’s late winner against Ghana has already gone down as one of the country’s most historic football moments. They seem on the cusp of something redefining, and a win over a side like Portugal would be a different level altogether. There are suggestions Ronaldo (right) will defy medical advice to prevent that, and prove himself on this stage.

Man to watch: Ronaldo

Kick-off times Belgium v Russia (5pm, BBC1); South Korea v Algeria (8pm, ITV); USA v Portugal (11pm, BBC 1)

Tomorrow

The first day of the deciding group games, and we have two effective play-offs. Given that even a stuttering Brazil are almost certain to wipe away an imploding Cameroon, the real interest looks set to lie elsewhere. Croatia must beat Mexico to secure a place in the second-round. Chile must beat the Netherlands to avoid a last-16 tie with Brazil. Given the admirable bravery of the Chilean team, however, the feeling is they would fancy any challenge right now.

Man to watch: Alexis Sanchez

Kick-off times Netherlands v Chile (5pm, ITV); Australia v Spain (5pm, ITV 4); Cameroon v Brazil (9pm, ITV); Croatia v Mexico (9pm, ITV 4)

Tuesday

The only competitive interest in England’s game is whether Costa Rica can secure the point to top the group. By contrast, Uruguay-Italy is another effective knockout match, even if the Italians have the benefit of playing for a draw. That would probably not be the best approach, however, with the devastating form of Luis Suarez. As regards who those teams will face, Ivory Coast will hope to stave off Greece, to at least claim second in the group behind Colombia.

Man to watch: Suarez

Kick-off times Italy v Uruguay (5pm, ITV 4); Costa Rica v England (5pm, ITV); Japan v Colombia (9pm, BBC 1); Greece v Ivory Coast (BBC 3) 

Wednesday

How do Switzerland recover from a beating like the 5-2 at the feet of the French? Can Didier Deschamps’s team – and the rampant Karim Benzema keep building momentum? Can they actually win this tournament? Given that Spain are out, and there are no longer any guarantees that at least one team will reach a certain level of quality, it really is open. Honduras-Switzerland and Ecuador-France could have real repercussions for the knockout stages.

Man to watch: Benzema

Kick-off times Nigeria v Argentina (5pm, ITV); Bosnia-Herzegovina v Iran (5pm, ITV 4); Ecuador v France (9pm, BBC 1); Honduras v Switzerland (9pm, BBC 3)

Thursday

Eden Hazard said last week that he needs to score more goals to be properly considered alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo, as an  element of debate persists about why he is so good for Chelsea but not for Belgium. He has scored just six goals in 46 matches for the national side, a figure he more than doubled in just 35 league games for the Blues last season, having hit 14. A potentially decisive fixture against Korea would be quite a place to start banishing doubts.

Man to watch: Hazard

Kick-off times USA v Germany (5pm, BBC 1); Portugal v Ghana (5pm, BBC 3); South Korea v Belgium (9pm, ITV); Algeria v Russia (9pm, ITV 4)

Friday

The first rest day of the tournament, but all eyes will likely be on Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari as he faces the press. Given the pressure Brazil are under, opponents like Chile and Netherlands wouldn’t exactly soothe moods.

Man to watch: Scolari

Saturday

The World Cup gets serious. The sudden-death second round begins, and no one gets any second chances. Potential ties of Brazil-Chile and Colombia-Italy would raise the pulse of even a tournament as energetic and exhilarating as this.

Man to watch: Neymar

Kick-off times Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B (5pm, TBD); Winner Group C v Runner-up Group D (9pm, TBD)

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