Today’s matches may prove decisive for many teams as they seek a berth in the knockout round of the World Cup.
Belgium faces Russia at noon EST at Estádio Maracanã in festive Rio de Janeiro. Chilly relations between Brussels and Moscow over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine serve as the political backdrop to the Belgium vs. Russia line-up. Belgium defeated Algeria 2-1 in its first match while Russia tied 1-1 with Korea. Belgium has the slight edge going into this match.
Korea takes on Algeria at 3:00 p.m. EST at Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. Korea tied Russia 1-1 in its first round match while Algeria lost to Belgium 2-1. Korea and Algeria have only met once before with Korea winning 2-0. Korea is the favored team today.
The United States plays Portugal at 6:00 p.m. EST at the controversial Arena Amazônia built in the rainforest city of Manaus.
USA, USA, USA!
Sunday’s last match of the day will have Americans paying attention to "soccer" once again after the US defeated Ghana 2-1 in its first match of the Cup. The US shocked Portugal at the 2002 World Cup, defeating them 3-2. This time around, both teams will be short of key players. US striker Jozy Altidore will sit out with a hamstring injury he picked up in the match against Ghana and Portugual defender Pepe will be out after receiving a red card for headbutting Thomas Muller in his sides 4-0 loss to Germany. A win over Portugal Sunday would take the US team to the Group of 16. Nate Silver has predicted a 63 percent chance of the US advancing to the next round.
The Monitor’s correspondent in Brazil, Stephen Kurczy, writes about the controversy surrounding the new stadium the US and Portugal will face off in.
“For now, excitement around the USA-Portugal match here in Manaus is overshadowing the challenging road to get here: three workers died while building the much-delayed Arena da Amazônia, and the long-term viability remains in question to building a $300 million soccer stadium in an isolated jungle city lacking a serious sports culture,” Kurczy writes. “No matter: Manaus is rolling out a red-carpet deep in the Amazon jungle.”
For players and coaches, the controversy has been focused on the heat in Manaus - just 214 miles from the equator. On Friday, a Brazilian court ordered FIFA to enforce water breaks for players when the heat-humidity index topped 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit).
FIFA said that no World Cup match so far has had temperatures higher than 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) in the heat stress index.
The first two matches of the day will be shown on ABC and the US vs. Portugal match will air on ESPN. The matches will also be streamed online on the Univision website.