World Cup 2014: Best group stage matches to watch

By Thomas Oakey of IES | Buda Mendes/Getty Images
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Ten crucial matches from the group stages

A guide to the key fixtures at the Group Stages of the 2014 World Cup See Gallery

As each country makes their final preparations for the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, click or swipe the images above to view the most crucial fixtures.  

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Brazil vs. Croatia

Group A
Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

The opening game at the 2014 World Cup gives fans a chance to see how Brazil handle the role of hosts, as they take on a Croatian team that qualified for the competition via the European play offs. Brazil’s star players like Neymar will hope to impress early against a Croatia side spearheaded by Bundesliga-winning striker Mario Mandžukić.

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Spain vs. Netherlands

Group B
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

Group B delivers an early treat as Spain and the Netherlands meet in a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final. A much-transformed Dutch team will be out for revenge for their 1-0 defeat in South Africa (pictured), though they’ll have to find a way past a Spain team that have not conceded a goal in their past four World Cup fixtures.

Rex Features
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Argentina vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina

Group F
Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

Pre-tournament favourites Argentina meet dark horses Bosnia & Herzegovina in Group F’s opening fixture. The Albiceleste’s attacking force of Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Lionel Messi and Ángel di María (pictured, left to right) will hope to start well with an early victory, though Alejandro Sabella’s side will be wary of their opponents' attacking abilities: striker Edin Džeko scored 10 goals to help his side top their qualification group.

Rex Features
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Germany vs. Portugal

Group G
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

This year’s Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will captain Portugal against Germany, another of the pre-tournament favourites. The Germans have performed strongly in the group stage of the previous three World Cups - winning seven, drawing one and losing only one of their nine matches.

Kyodo News/Newscom
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USA vs. Ghana

Group G
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador

The Round of 16 fixture between Ghana and the USA in 2010 was one of the most exciting games of the tournament, with Asamoah Gyan’s extra-time goal (pictured) securing the Black Stars a famous win. Expect a similarly competitive and intriguing match this time as both nations begin their 2014 campaigns.

Mauricio Duenas/EPA
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Spain vs. Chile

Group B
Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

After a particularly difficult opener against the Netherlands, Spain’s defence of the World Cup faces another difficult test as they take on the impressive Chile in their second fixture.  The South Americans qualified third from the CONMEBOL region, while winger Alexis Sánchez (left) will be eager to shine against his Barcelona teammates in the Spanish side.

Victor R. Caivano/AP Photo
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Colombia vs. Ivory Coast

Group C
Estadio Nacional, Brasilia

Even without talismanic striker Radamel Falcao, Colombia appear to have the firepower to succeed in Brazil, with Carlos Bacca (pictured) and Jackson Martínez scoring 50 goals between them last season. Their biggest rivals in Group C appear to be Ivory Coast, whose ageing golden generation will fancy their chances of progressing from the group stages for the first time.

Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters
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Uruguay vs. England

Group D
Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

Uruguay and England meet in their second group stage match. The result could be decided by how well Uruguay's Luis Suarez (pictured) performs as he recovers from injury. England's defenders know him well: he was the 2013-14 Premier League top scorer.

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Ecuador vs. France

Group E
Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro

France will hope to improve on their woeful 2010 World Cup with a strong performance in the group stages in Brazil. However, without injured winger Franck Ribéry, their progression from Group E is by no means assured. In their crucial final game, Les Bleus face Ecuador, whose familiarity with the climate might give them an advantage.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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South Korea vs. Belgium

Group H
Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

With young players such as Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku (pictured) excelling at club level, Belgium have been relentlessly tipped to do well in Brazil this year. They went through qualifying unbeaten, but facing experienced World Cup campaigners South Korea will bring a new challenge to Marc Wilmots’ squad, which has just one player with any World Cup experience – defender Daniel Van Buyten.