World Cup 2014

World Cup: Top five must-see group matches in Brazil

Sixty-four games will be played in the 2014 World Cup. Forty-eight of those will come in the group stage. While some viewers will look to catch every single minute of the tournament, many will need to pick and choose the best games. To help you decide which matches are essential viewing, here are five games that should be at the top of every fan's schedule:

BRAZIL VS. CROATIA
Thursday, June 12, 4 pm ET, ESPN - match preview

  • The opening game of the tournament is always must-see TV. When it's Brazil, carrying the weight of a nation's expectations, hosting the tournament and featuring in that opener, it becomes an absolute can't-miss spectacle. And don't forget about Croatia, a team that isn't getting a great deal of buzz in the Americas coming into the big event, but one that may surprise the likes of Mexico and Cameroon with their talent.
  • COMPLETE GROUP A PREVIEW

Who will win in Brazil? Make your picks before 2:00 PM ET today!

SPAIN VS. NETHERLANDS
Friday, June 13, 3 pm ET, ESPN

  • This match will mark the first time the two finalists from the previous World Cup will face off in their first game of the following tournament. Spain, largely unchanged but older this time around, will take on a Dutch side that has changed coaches and a fair number of players on the roster from four years ago. Can the Netherlands gain some revenge this time, or will Spain make it two in a row?
  • COMPLETE GROUP B PREVIEW

UNITED STATES VS. GHANA
Monday, June 16, 6 pm ET, ESPN

  • You likely know the story by now -- Ghana have beaten the USMNT at the last two World Cups, and given the difficulty of Group G, the stakes of this game could hardly be higher for both countries. If the US can beat the Black Stars on the third try, it will be a huge boost for their prospects of advancing out of the group. If they can't -- well, it's probably going to be a bumpy ride for the Yanks.
  • COMPLETE GROUP G PREVIEW

READ: 4 years later, USMNT's Jozy Altidore takes aim at Ghana rematch

ITALY VS. URUGUAY
Tuesday, June 24, noon ET, ESPN

  • The first three games on this list are first group games for the respective countries. This one, in contrast, is the third Group D match for Italy and Uruguay, and chances are that at least one spot in the knockout round will be on the line. Coming into the tournament, these two countries are among those with the highest ceiling and the biggest chance to disappoint in Brazil. Which country will rise to the occasion here?
  • COMPLETE GROUP D PREVIEW

SPAIN VS. CHILE
Wednesday, June 18, 3 pm ET, ESPN

  • If Spain-Netherlands is the game everybody is talking about heading into the tournament, this one could very well prove most critical in the group standings. Chile are one of the dark horses of this World Cup, but they won't be able to back up any of that attention unless they advance from the group. Can the likes of Alexis Sanchez (who of course plays in Spain) and Arturo Vidal stand toe-to-toe with the reigning world champions?
  • COMPLETE GROUP B PREVIEW