BELGILE That made-up word combines Belgium and Chile, two of the most popular sleeper picks among fùtbol enthusiasts. Belgian forward Eden Hazard and his club team Chelsea, made an appearance last summer at Lucas Oil Stadium. Chile’s headliner is Arturo Vidal, a world-class midfielder, though his status for the group stage is up in the air following recent knee surgery.
BRAZIL The only other time Brazil hosted in 1950, it lost 2-1 in the final to rival Uruguay before a reported crowd of at least 160,000 at Estádio do Maracanã. Paced by 22-year-old Neymar, it’s very possible the Seleção – tops among all nations with five World Cup championships – add a sixth before their home crowd this time around.
CRISTIANO RONALDO Depending on whom you fancy, it’s the Portuguese forward or Argentinian sensation Lionel Messi that deserves the title of World’s Best Footballer. Frankly, it’s been Ronaldo’s year as he was designated FIFA’s Player of the Year in January, scored 31 goals in 30 La Liga games and guided Real Madrid to a Champions League title. After failing to score in the 2010 world tournament, 2014 could be Ronaldo’s shining moment.
GHANA-GERMANY Assuming the Germans top Portugal in Group G’s opener and the U.S. wins or ties vs. Ghana, this is a pivotal game for the Americans. A win over the Fighting Ronaldos by Die Mannschaft seals up Group G, which leaves the Americans hoping they face Germany’s B squad June 26 with advancement to the Round of 16 on the line.
ITALY-URUGUAY Depending on England’s form, this game could decide the top seed in Group D. There are some unlikeable players on both teams. The Italians are known for their defense – though it has slipped a bit lately – and also their flair for controversy, whether it be repeated match fixing in the stateside leagues or their flair for flopping. Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez, one of the best players in the world, is no stranger to bad news himself. Suarez used his hand to block a sure Ghana goal in the 2010 World Cup quarters, has been accused of racially abusing an African-born French defender and appeared to bite an opposing player in a 2013 game. On the other hand, Suarez was named the Premier League’s Player of the Year this past season, scoring 31 goals in 33 games.