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World Cup Group Games Worth Watching

Sean SinicoMay 10, 2006

With 48 games kicking off over 15 days, the World Cup group stage can leave even devout soccer fans wondering when to tune in and when to take a break. DW-WORLD.DE has made a list of the games that shouldn't be missed.

Seeing all the group games means a lot of time in front of the TVImage: AP

Group A

Germany vs. Costa Rica, June 9

The fates were smiling on Germany during the World Cup group lottery in December, nearly guaranteeing their advancement to the next round with Group A games against Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador. Germany are likely to rack up the goals against Costa Rica, but the majesty of the 2006 Germany World Cup's opening game still makes it one to watch.

But if you're looking for on-the-field action instead of pageantry, turn in to the Germany-Poland match on June 14. This is the game that will play a huge role in deciding which Group A teams advance into the second round, and large numbers of neighboring Poles are expected to give the German fans a run for their money in terms of team support.

Tor für Schweden
Sweden and England meet regularly on the international soccer stageImage: AP

Group B

England vs. Sweden, June 20

Both teams will be hoping they've already qualified for the knock-out rounds before meeting in Cologne, but even if that's the case, don't expect either side to hold back. Group B's second place team is likely to face Germany in the round of 16. England haven't beat Sweden in 38 years and their chances at turning that around took a dip when striker Wayne Rooney broke his foot in April.

Both teams are confident of their chances ahead of the tournament. England fans know their side has other stars, like …., to help pick up some of the offensive slack, while the Swedes, recalling their surviving of the 2002 World Cup "Group of Death," can count on their team's ability to punch above their weight in international tournaments.

Fußball - Argentinien Olympiasieger
Argentinian fans want more players to celebrateImage: dpa

Group C

Netherlands vs. Argentina, June 21

Debatably the most anticipated match of the group stage, this is the pair-up that made observers at the December group lottery in Leipzig draw in their breath with delight. The two teams from formidable soccer nations are both looking to add a new layer of polish to their reputations and a win in Frankfurt would certainly do it.

While a loss would leave either team with a bit of explaining to do to their fans who are beginning to wonder if they'll ever live to see their team in the World Cup final ever again, an impressive result would help the winning side convince people at home that they do, in fact, deserve admiration they still receive.

EM 2004 Spanien gegen Portugal Fußballfan
Portugal is a favorite for the round of 16Image: AP

Group D

Portugal vs. Mexico, June 21

Mexico was FIFA's top seed for Group D, but that's not keeping experts from naming Portugal the favorite to advance. The pair of teams is also set against Iran and Angola, two sides that aren't expected to pose much of a threat, so the match in Gelsenkirchen will decide who gets the lighter of the round of 16 opponents.

Portugal's 11 have, however, been given a special incentive to use the game to get into shape for the next rounds -- the Portuguese Soccer Federation is offering national team players their biggest-ever bonus if they win the tournament.

Fußball Italien-Deutschland
Italy can hear the second round callingImage: AP

Group E

Czech Republic vs. Italy, June 22

There are no pushovers in Group E, which also features the USA and Ghana, making every match crucial for all four teams, but it's the Czech Republic-Italy game in Hamburg that could have the largest influence on the group. A win for either team would nearly ensure its advancement, but a draw here and bookmakers will be left with a difficult time setting odds for any of the teams. Make sure to see the Czech Republic take on the Azzurri and count on a close result in all the Group E matches.

Japanischer Fußballfan beim Fußballspiel gegen Rußland
Japan was impressive in front of a local crowd at the 2002 World CupImage: AP

Group F

Croatia vs. Japan, June 18

The battle for second place can also be exciting -- just ask anyone who has ever been stuck in a group with Brazil. Barring any major upsets against the reigning World Champions, the winners of this game in Nuremberg will be well on their way to the second round, as Australia, pleased to have finally qualified for a World Cup finals, is unlikely to pose a serious threat to second place.

If you can only pick one Group F game to watch, then this is the one. Don't worry about missing the Brazilian magic -- you'll see plenty of it in the knock-out rounds.

Zinedine Zidane stolzgeschwellt
France's Zinedane Zidane said he'll retire after the 2006 tournamentImage: AP

Group G

France vs. Switzerland, June 13

Group G is proof that first impressions can be deceiving. France is the hands down favorite, but Les Bleus proved they know how to disappoint by dropping out of the 2002 Cup without a goal, and Switzerland proved to be a handful for the French side in qualification, with both the matches ending in draws.

Playing close to home, watch for the Swiss, who edged past Turkey on goal difference in the qualifier play-off, to be one of the surprise teams of the 2006 World Cup.

EM 2004 Spanien gegen Portugal Spiel
Spain is slowly getting used to coming up short in international soccerImage: AP

Group H

Spain vs. Ukraine, June 14

Serial underachievers, Spain will have to use their opening group match against Ukraine, who despite making their first trip to the finals were one of Europe's most impressive qualifiers, as a springboard for the two other contests with Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. After a long absence, Ukrainian captain and star forward Andriy Shevchenko will relish the chance of making the Iberians sweat out another international competition.