World Cup 2014 draw: The 10 best matches of the group stage - including Uruguay v England, Brazil v Croatia and Spain v Netherlands

Our pick of the matches to look forward to in Brazil

Friday 06 December 2013 20:51
Getting into the spirit
Getting into the spirit

Brazil v Croatia (June 12 Sao Paulo, 2100)

It'll be worth tuning in just to mock the opening ceremony which will precede the opening match of the World Cup. Hosts Brazil will expect to get off to a winning start against a team that qualified through a play-off against Iceland. This should give fans an early indication of whether Neymar and Co can handle the pressure of a home tournament.

Spain v Netherlands (June 13 Salvador, 2000)

This repeat of the final from the 2010 World Cup is perhaps the most exciting game of the group stage. That match was decided by Andres Iniesta's extra-time winner, but it was perhaps best remembered for the brutal way Netherlands approached the game as they tried to literally kick Spain off the park. Will we see a repeat of those tactics? Either way, it's doubtful Howard Webb will want to officiate this one again.

Ivory Coast v Japan (14 June Recife, 2300)

The Africans will look to lay a marker down in their first match of the tournament, but Japan, containing Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa and Mainz’s Shinji Okazaki will be no pushovers.

England v Italy (June 15 Manaus, 0200)

England start their campaign with a daunting match against Italy. In the quarter-final at Euro 2012, Roy Hodgson's side managed to take them all the way to penalties - but justice was served when the Italians progressed. England haven't beaten them in five attempts.

Uruguay v England (June 19 Sao Paulo, 2000)

England's second match will be against Uruguay. The game may be six months away, but already there's little doubt that Liverpool striker Luis Suarez will somehow manage to take centre stage. Whether it's for the right or wrong reasons we'll have to wait and see.

Switzerland v France (June 20 Salvador, 2000)

These European neighbours meet in a group which also contains Ecuador and Honduras. It's deemed the easiest of the eight but this game will be crucial to both sides' hopes of progressing. France have some incredible talent at their disposal with the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri among their options. They could be brilliant to watch - that is if they haven't all fallen out with each other by then.

Germany v Ghana (21 June Fortaleza, 2000)

The sibling rivalry between the Boateng brothers continues when Germany, featuring Jerome, and Ghana’s Kevin-Prince face off in the group stage. This fixture also took place in 2010 World Cup group stage – Germany won 1-0 thanks to a Mesut Ozil effort.

Nigera v Argentina (21 June Cuiaba, 2300)

The teams meet yet again. In the last World Cup, Argentina defeated Nigeria 1-0 in Johannesburg in their first Group match. Gabriel Heinze scored the only goal of the game then, but Victor Moses, Shola Ameobi et al will be aiming for a different result this time round.

Belgium v Russia (22 June Rio de Janeiro, 2300)

Can Fabio Capello work his magic against the high-flying Belgians. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne to name but a few will hope to make the former England head coach suffer.

USA v Germany (26 June Recife, 1700)

A case of divided loyalties for Jurgen Klinsmann, as the USA manager, takes on his home country. The legendary striker scored 38 goals in 80 appearances for Germany between 1990 and 1998. This time around, however, he only has eyes for the stars and stripes.

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