After four long years of waiting, the World Cup is finally here. And while the tournament is guaranteed to be packed with miraculous upsets and insane comebacks, there’s always a fair share of lopsided losses and ties destined to turn off casual American fans. With the Group Stage kicking off today, it can be tough to know which games are must-watch and which match-ups are far from essential viewing. Here are three Group Stage matches that absolutely can’t be missed, regardless of which bandwagon you have decided to hop on.
Portugal vs Spain (6/15 at 2 pm EST)
Cristiano Ronaldo remains one of the two best players on earth, but at 33-years-old, this may be the superstar’s last shot at winning the coveted World Cup for Portugal. Portugal has a loaded roster and, by winning the Euro tournament in 2016, the team proved they aren’t afraid to step up when the lights are brightest.
Before they can punch their ticket to the Finals, however, Portugal will have to survive their opening match against Spain, one of the deepest and most talented teams on the planet. If either of these sides hope to make a deep run, they’ll need to establish themselves as a force early. Expect this game to feature a ton of offense and have the feel of a must-win game, as the winner will have the clearest path to winning Group B.
Peru vs Denmark (6/16 at 12 pm EST)
This game does not feature the star power or history of other matchups, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting 90 minutes. Why? Because of the stakes. Peru and Denmark are both trying to make it out of Group C, which is widely believed to be one of the more stacked in the tournament. With France as the clear favorite to win the group, and Australia expected to fall short, it’s likely that Peru and Denmark will be battling for that second qualifying slot.
It also doesn’t hurt that these are two of the more underrated teams in the World Cup, and both have a chance to make some noise outside of group play. Expect a hard-fought game between two squads that know a loss would be nearly impossible to overcome.
Germany vs Mexico (6/17 at 11 am EST)
As the reigning World Cup champ, Germany enters this tournament with a huge target on their back. Every team is going to put their best foot forward trying to unseat the king. But if any country is up for pulling off a repeat, it’s the dudes of Deutschland. The team remains one of the tournament favorites and, arguably, no country has a higher ceiling than Germany.
One of Germany’s early and most challenging tests, however, will be against Mexico, a country desperate to make a deep run after being eliminated in the round of 16 in the last six World Cups. This is arguably the best roster Mexico has fielded in a decade, led by superstar midfielder Andrés Guardado, and their consistency and depth should help them give Germany a real challenge.