United States' Clint Dempsey shoots and scores the opening goal during the Group G World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil on June 16.
On Friday, if someone had told you that Argentina would struggle to score a goal against Iran on Saturday, or that Germany would draw 2-2 against Ghana on the same day, you might have called that person crazy.
But that was the tense reality of the World Cup on day 10 of the event in Brazil. Only after a legendary goal in the final minutes of the match by Lionel Messi did Argentina find a victory. It was also a victory that proved that while Messi is easily the best soccer player in the world, Argentina is going to need more than luck to make it in the knockout round.
Later, in a battle that turned out to be much less one-sided than expected, Germany (the favorite to win) and Ghana clashed, with the match ending in a draw.
With more heavyweights set to meet on Sunday, what stories will further develop in Group G and Group H? Let's look at what you should expect for Sunday's matches.
Belgium vs. Russia
Belgium is largely believed to be one of the World Cup's dark horses. With a new, gifted generation of Belgian players emerging from almost 12 years of being nonexistent on the national stage, a 2010 Germany story — a youthful team showing promise and exceptional talent — could very well be in the cards for Belgium.
This game will determine an advancement out of Group H. Based solely on the teams' opening matches, Belgium should be the favored winner. Russia failed to find anything substantial in their game against the Korea Republic, whilst Belgium found the keys to a win when it mattered in the second half versus Algeria.
And in a Belgium win, you'll want to watch for two substitutes turned Belgian legends. If the domination of the CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) league is one emerging storyline of this World Cup, the deadly potential of the correct substitute is another.
In Belgium's match on Tuesday, substitute Marouane Fellaini came in at the 65th minute and scored the Belgian equalizer goal at 70th minute. Soon after, a spirited Belgian sub in Dries Mertens who took the pitch in the 46th minute later scored in the 80th minute for the win. So it'll be interesting to see if Belgium decides to start Mertens and Fellaini after they proved to be vast upgrades for Belgium in a comparatively lackluster first half.
Korea Republic vs. Algeria
Depending on how the Belgium vs Russia game ends, the Korea Republic has a chance at advancing out of their group with a win over Algeria.
It'll be difficult though because Algeria — although ultimately losing — didn't keel over against Belgium. They showed early signs of life against Belgium, until Fellaini and Mertens came in during the second half.
With their 1 point from a 1-1 draw against Russia and a better goal differential than Algeria, the Korea Republic has the best shot at making a run for the second seed, but a shot that requires Russia — a favored winner — to lose to Algeria. But favorites in this tournament are hardly certain winners, and fans in Seoul will come out in droves to see their team make a miraculous run out of Group H — instead of a flight home.
USA vs. Portugal
And then there's the marquee match of the day.
Group G was supposed to be Team USA's "Group of Death," but with the exception of Germany, they've shown the most life.
Naturally, Portugal's success weighs largely on Cristiano Ronaldo's shouldersNaturally, Portugal's success weighs largely on Cristiano Ronaldo's shoulders — carrying his team out of group stages, like he carried them through the World Cup qualifiers. If the USA plays like they did against Ghana on Monday, it's a very real possibility that Portugal will overwhelm the U.S. squad. Lightning rarely strikes twice, and though the USA team plays with heart, you can't rely on game-changing, last minute goals — by substitute John Brooks no less — to beat Ronaldo when he's on his game.
On the opposite side of the pitch, Jozy Alitdore is out in this game against Portugal with a strained hamstring. In his absence, various members of the USMNT will be charged with insuring a win. The U.S. offense will entirely be led by Clint Dempsey, especially if midfielder Michael Bradley repeats his performance against Ghana. Bradley — often noted as controlling the pace of Team USA's offense — was just nonexistent.
That being said, USA's defense proved to be formidable. Tim Howard, as usual, is a wall and has had one of the best keeping performances in the tournament — up there with Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa. Helping Howard out will be Jermaine Jones who really showed up and was the highlight of an otherwise tired USA defense.
Lastly, let's look at the future of Group G. If USA comes out blazing and bests Portugal, they will earn a spot into the knockout round and contest first when they face Germany in their last match of the group stage.