France vs. Honduras (Group E)

After a thrilling first match of Group E, the pressure is on the French to pick up three points against lowly Honduras in Porto Alegre. Casual fans will be expecting a cruise for France, who won the World Cup and European Championship back-to-back in 1998 and 2000. For a number of reasons, though, Honduras might present a serious problem for the Europeans.

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England vs. Italy (Group D)

Two former World Cup champions meet in the second match in Group D. To the casual fan, this may seem like a matchup between the two favorites to go through, like yesterday’s lopsided Spain vs. Holland match. But Uruguay, having come third in the 2010 World Cup, will have other ideas, and neither Italy nor England has been terribly consistent in recent years. Rather than watching two sides feel each other out with an eye in the future, we might have the opportunity here to watch an exciting, consequential match between two old footballing powerhouses.

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Uruguay vs. Costa Rica (Group D)

The first match of Group D is our second match of this massive Saturday. South American powerhouse and two-time World Cup champions Uruguay take on the “Ticos” of Costa Rica. The other two teams in this group play later; they are England (one World Cup) and Italy (four World Cups), which means Costa Rica can rightly feel aggrieved to have been drawn into this difficult group. They may present some problems for their three opponents – if only because they’re not a widely recognizable bunch and they usually put up a mighty defensive wall.

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Colombia vs. Greece (Group C)

Saturday’s first match (out of FOUR!) features Colombia and Greece, two teams that will be hoping to escape from a group full of parity, if not quality. There’s no real powerhouse nation here, but Japan and Ivory Coast feature terrific athletes and technical capability. Greece may be the weakest team in the group on paper, but they looked like one of the weakest teams in the tournament when they shockingly won Euro 2004, too. They’re always defensively solid and play with intense pride. Colombia are bursting with skill, but are missing some key players through injury, including star striker Radamel Falcao. Still, it should be fun to watch players like key player James Rodriguez, on whose movement throughout the game you should keep an eye.

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Spain vs. Holland (Group B)

Game Two of today’s football bonanza is a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, an occasion not remembered so much for the beauty of its football as for the savagery of the Dutch side that day. Even when they don’t turn outright violent, big matches are often marred by the overly cautious approaches of all involved. Today, however, should be a watchable encounter; this is the first game in Group B, so there’s less to lose.

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Mexico vs. Cameroon (Group A)

The second day of World Cup 2014 action begins with the second match from Group A. Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 in yesterday’s opening match. Now, Mexico and Cameroon face off, and both will feel encouraged by Croatia’s defeat yesterday. The sense in group A, reasonably, is that everyone is playing for second place after Brazil. We should see an open, exciting match, since both teams now see three points as a springboard to the second round.

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Brazil vs. Croatia (Group A)

Today is the first day of the 2014 World Cup! This edition of the world’s most beloved sporting event starts with a bang, as two excellent footballing nations square off. Croatia, despite its population of only about five million, took third in the 1998 World Cup in France and regularly supplies players to the world’s top teams, such as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Brazil really needs no introduction; the nation that has won more World Cups (five) than any other is famous for the quality of its futebol even outside soccer circles.

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Talley’s World Cup Watching Guide

I’m an experienced watcher of soccer/football/futebol. If you’re not, I’m going to upgrade you right now. Here’s how I’m watching and what I’m watching for.

The Football

Counterintuitively, an important part of the World Cup is actually the ball. Without the ball, it’s hard to understand what’s going on. If you’re new to the game, you’ll probably just watch the ball the whole time. That’s fine. There will be plenty of on-the-ball skill in this World Cup. Experienced fans: Don’t forget to pay attention to the ball.

The Tactics

Seasoned football fans will probably be looking out for the tactical plans of the involved teams. The best way to learn about strategy in general and these 32 teams in particular is to read Zonal Marking, an excellent website that has just finished a comprehensive, team-by-team tactical rundown. Try following the activity of the two player’s ZM has picked out as each team’s key actor, and you’ll be surprised how well you begin to see the shape of the rest of the team.

The Commentators

Critiquing commentators is the typical football fan’s favorite extracurricular activity. We glorify in Ray Hudson’s flights of fancy and despair at Taylor Twellman’s grating inanity. Who can forget Adrian Healey’s famous call as Holland destroyed France in 2008: “It’s a Dutch Oven, and the French…are toast”? A good commentating team can make a match much more enjoyable. A bad commentating team can do the same, if they’re comically rather than offensively bad. But beware such commentators as Eric Wynalda and Gus Johnson. Just turn it off.

Here’s a pretty good review of the commentators involved this month. The first game is Ian Darke and Steve McManaman. Enjoy – they’re among the best out there. Here’s the commentary schedule for the rest of the Cup.

What To Drink

Your drink must match your team. Check out this unofficial list of national drinks and get your fandom and fundom on the same page.

What To Wear

See above. Your clothing must also match your national team. If you can’t afford the real thing, just get the colors right.

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