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World Cup 2014: June 26, Napoli - style (aka DRIES DRIES DRIES)

Giuseppe Bellini

LAST DAY OF THE GROUP STAGE! Are you excited? By the time we reach the end of June 26, each and every place in the final 16 will have been determined.

Which is a little bit sad, because that means this amazing, frustrating, strange, fantastic, farcical World Cup is halfway over. But let's not think about that just yet, ok?

Here's a quick rundown of the past 24 hours

  • Lionel Messi showed us plenty of magic once more, scoring two goals and carrying Argentina past Nigeria in a 3-2 victory.
  • But Nigeria still advanced, because Bosnia and Herzegovina finally won a game, 3-1. They defeated Iran, giving Nigeria a boost into the next round.
  • France somehow couldn't score against Ecuador, playing out a goalless draw. That was enough to keep them top in the group, however, and send Ecuador out.
  • Honduras certainly did Ecuador no favors. They still didn't manage to score a goal, instead letting Xherdan Shaqiri run riot with a hat-trick. Switzerland won 3-0 and will advance to the next round
  • Ghana's chaos consumed them, resulting in $3m (cash) being delivered to the team's hotel ... as well as the news that Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari have been kicked out of the squad.
  • There's flooding in Recife, meaning it may be a struggle for fans, media, and even teams to get to the stadium on time for USA - Germany

The matches

Group Location Time (CET/ET)
United States vs. Germany G Arena Pernambuco, Recife 6 p.m./ noon
Portugal vs. Ghana G Estádio Nacional de Brasilia, Brasília  6 p.m./ noon
South Korea vs. Belgium H Arena Corinthians, São Paulo 10 p.m./ 4 p.m.
Russia vs. Algeria H Arena da Baixada, Curitiba 10 p.m./ 4 p.m.

Any Napoli players involved?

Yep! Group G is Napoli-free (poor decision on their parts) but Group H has two Napoli players available. Dries Mertens should continue to get the nod for Belgium, as Marc Wilmots has hopefully learned his lesson after the dreadful, dreadful first 45 minutes played against Algeria. He's been Belgium's brightest player, and it's been fun to watch a Napoli player lighting up the world stage like that.

Then there's Faouzi Ghoulam. He started Algeria's first game, but fingers were pointed, calling him responsible for Mertens' game-winning goal. Never mind that almost no one could've kept out Mertens' burst of speed, there's also room to fault Algeria's centerbacks, who were certainly out of position. It's a shame, because Ghoulam did well for much of the match. Let's hope we see him again.

How, exactly, can these teams advance?

Germany and the U.S. could well play out a low-key match, with both sides safe in the knowledge that a draw gets them through to the next round. But they both need to be careful: a USMNT victory puts them top of the group, leaving Germany to face the winner of Group H. There's also the fact that Portugal could well make up their paltry goal difference by kicking Ghana when they're down, so the U.S. will need to be on guard to avoid a loss.

Ghana are probably not going through, though. Sorry guys.

As for Group H, well, Belgium are through. But with just a +1 goal difference at the moment, a high-flying performance from Algeria could mean the Fennec Foxes take top. However, Algeria are likely to play it cautious, knowing that a draw is sufficient to get them through. South Korea, meanwhile, really need to thump Belgium (and hope Algeria don't win) in order to advance, while Russia can get through with a win (provided, of course, that South Korea don't actually thump Belgium)

How do I watch these games?

In Italy? You're on SkyGO or Sky Mondiale. In the US it's ESPN in English and Univision in Spanish, and both have online streaming platforms, while Canadians friends have CBC and the CBC Sports player. In the UK you can watch  ITV for the first match and BBC One for the rest of the day, or use the ITV or BBC players online. If you live elsewhere, check LiveSoccerTV for listings in your country.