South Korea v Germany
There’s so much to look out for in Kazan beyond whether world champions Germany can reach the last 16 after a slow start. They have never failed to get through the group stage, so a wobble here would feel like an earthquake in Berlin. The reality is they are likely to go through; so spend your time looking out for ‘masked man’ Sebastian Rudy who can play after an operation on his nose, as long he masks up. Worth watching the German bench, too, after the way their backroom staff behaved during an end-of-match ruck against the Swedes in Sochi. Oh, and is it the end for Mesut Ozil? If he’s left out again, it doesn’t look good for the Arsenal man…
Mexico v Sweden
Mexico, who love to play on a break, need a point to reach the last 16, but a victory would guarantee they win the group. Sweden know only victory can save their tournament, yet are defensively minded. Something has to give! If both games are draws, you might want to find a mathematician in the family to work it out. Qualification could be determined by goals scored. If Germany and Sweden’s records are identical, then the Germans go through due to their 2-1 win when the two teams played.
Serbia v Brazil
Keep an eye on the yellow card count in Moscow, certainly if it’s Serbia putting the boot in. They have had six players booked this tournament and all are in danger of being suspended for the last 16 if they get another. The world will be watching Neymar, but former Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho is actually the side’s most in-form player, with a goal in each of his last three matches, and has promised more long-range efforts. “ I think it’s a good weapon for us,” he said. A draw gets Brazil through but they’ll want to show swagger.
Switzerland v Costa Rica
While most people are praising Xherdan Shaqiri, Arsenal fans should cast their eyes over veteran defender Stephan Lichtsteiner, a new recruit at the Emirates. This will be his 10th World Cup appearance for Switzerland, a record, and it looks like he’s still influential. The Swiss need a point to go through, Costa Rica are playing for pride in Nizhny Novgorod, so there may not be many goals. That’s just as well, considering the Swiss got into so much trouble for the way they celebrated them against Serbia.
=========Tomorrow: Will Japan be able to handle the pressure?
Japan v Poland
Woeful Poland already know they are going home and Japan are surprise leaders in Group H, so the Samurai Blue are big favourites — which is not a tag they are used to. Will they cope? Keep a close eye on the Japan bench because they have more strength in depth than ever before. Keisuke Honda scored a stunning goal against Senegal as a sub and Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki wants to make the same impact. “You have to have a player like that if you want to win games and I feel like I too have to be that kind of player,” he said.
Senegal v Colombia
Chelsea and Man United fans must be wondering what’s going on when they watch Radamel Falcao because the striker, such a woeful flop in the Premier League, has been brilliant for Colombia and could be the key man alongside James Rodriguez in Samara. Senegal only need a point to go through, Colombia need to win. Look out for British journalists scribbling away in the stands and a random question about Harry Kane in English in the post-match press conference — because England could end up playing one of these in the last 16.
Panama v Tunisia
“Everyone says this will be a match to determine who finishes bottom of the group and we want to prove them wrong,” Tunisia’s Wahbi Khazri said before the tournament.
Sorry, Wahbi, but they were right. The viewing figures for this one — the no-points derby — could be on the low side given what it’s up against. But it could be fun. Panama looked pretty broken after being demolished by England and Morcoco haven’t won a game in a World Cup finals since 1978, so anything could happen.
England v Belgium
Are England a one-man team? We may well find out in Kaliningrad. This was meant to be the game of the round when the balls first came out but both sides are already through and both are talking about resting players. If captain Kane is on the bench it will be up to Marcus Rashford or Jamie Vardy to prove they can cope without him.
Mind you, they could be up against Belgium Ressies if Roberto Martinez is to be believed. Conspiracy theorists say the team that finishes second in the group has an easier run to the final. Don’t place your bets until the team sheets are out…