RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 15: Winston Reid of New Zealand celebrates scoring the first goal for his team during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between New Zealand and Slovakia at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 15, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Hell of a slate of games today. The "prime time" game, in relative terms, features the best team to see action today; all the same, the stakes are highest during the two morning games.
6:30 CT, ESPN: Slovakia v. Paraguay (Group F). People may complain, deservedly or otherwise, that seeing both Group F games end in ties is "boring" or "un-American" or whatever pejorative term they feel like attaching to something they don't instinctively understand. But with Group F featuring two 1-1 ties in the first round of play, we have an even more tense situation today. At this point, nobody has a tiebreaker advantage over anybody else--not even fifth-ranked Italy over cupcake New Zealand (more on that later). And with the Paraguayans and Slovaks both similarly ranked (31st and 34th, respectively), a win in this game has enormous implications.
9:00 CT, ESPN: Italy v. New Zealand (Group F). Meanwhile, the Azzurri are defending champions, and they've got a rather embarrassing tie with Paraguay to their name as we speak. They need to send a message against a plucky New Zealand side. Will they send that message by sending the ball into the box, then flopping their hair around for theatric effect as soon as a Kiwi so much as breathes on them? Yes, but as Hayden Fry always taught us, dance with the girl that brung you. And if New Zealand manage another tie... look out.
1:30 CT, ABC: Brazil v. Ivory Coast (Group G). CIV aren't a one-trick pony, but normally, it wouldn't bother them very much if they were. Problem: that pony is Didier Drogba, and he's trying valiantly to fight through a broken right arm. And considering what happened to Drogba in Champions League, his side's in a world of trouble. And yet, Brazil needs to deliver on the threat instead of coast on it, and CIV has the gumption to squeeze 90 minutes out of the Brazilians. And if they deliver on that 21% win probability that SPI gives them, well well; the Group of Death will finally live up to its moniker.
Anyhoo, usual rules of game threads apply: no porn, no discussion of piracy; if you can't watch the game on TV, there are legal online streams at ESPN3.com. Beyond that, the topic is verboten.