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The Group Stage endeth

This is terrifying.
This is terrifying.
Matthias Hangst

12 days after it began, the World Cup Group Stage is winding down.  Everyone in the World Cup has already played two games apiece; now it's down to one last game.  For some teams, a spot to the Knockout Rounds is on the line.  For others, that spot has already been clinched and it's just about jockeying for position in those rounds.  And for others, this is their last game at the World Cup and it's just a matter of pride.

This morning sees the final matches in Group B, with Australia and Spain being two of those aforementioned teams playing for pride -- the desire of not going home with an ignominious 0 points earned on their World Cup ledger.  The more interesting game by far is Netherlands v. Chile, with both teams battling for first place in Group B.  That's important because the winner of that the group (likely) avoids a showdown with Brazil in their next match (instead they'd face either Mexico or Croatia, eminently preferable foes).  That game should be a doozy.

I say "likely" up above because Brazil hasn't technically clinched the top spot in Group A; Mexico is actually level with them on points at 4.  But Brazil has a superior goal differential (+2 to +1) and faces a weaker opponent this afternoon (winless and goalless Cameroon); the odds are still very good on Brazil finishing top of Group A, barring the craziest result yet at this World Cup.  The other game this afternoon, between Croatia and Mexico, is far more intriguing.  Mexico can advance to round two with a win or a draw, while Croatia needs a win to move on.  That means Mexico should be able to play more conservatively and focus on defense, an approach that served them well against Brazil last week.  Either way, bring on the fun.


Netherlands v. Chile (11 AM CT, ESPN and WatchESPN, Jon Champion and Stewart Robson)
Australia v. Spain (11 AM CT, ESPN2 and WatchESPN, Daniel Mann and Kasey Keller)

Croatia v. Mexico (3 PM CT, ESPN and WatchESPN, Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno)
Cameroon v. Brazil (3 PM CT, ESPN2 and WatchESPN, Adrian Healey and Efan Ekoku)

The usual rules apply.