RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — It's the last day of the group stage at the World Cup, and seven teams are still vying for the last three spots in the Round of 16.
While most teams are either on their way home or preparing for the knockout stage, there's still everything to play for in the finely balanced Group G, where all four teams still have a chance to go through.
The biggest matchup of the day pits the United States against Germany in a game that could put both teams through and will determine whether the Ghana-Portugal game has any real significance.
The only team that can afford to relax a little is Belgium, which has already advanced to the knockout round after winning its first two matches. The Belgians still need a point against South Korea to top Group H, though, while Algeria could claim the other spot with at least a draw against Russia.
Here are the main things to watch for Thursday:
NO FRIENDLY TRUCE
When the U.S. takes on Germany, it's one of those rare games when both teams will be happy with a draw. Just don't expect either team to play for one.
Both countries have four points in Group G and a draw would put both through to the next round, with Germany as group winner on goal difference. Germany, though, badly wants to beat its former coach and star player Jurgen Klinsmann, who is now in charge of the U.S. team. The Americans, meanwhile, need a win to avoid Belgium in the next round. Add in the fact that five players on the U.S. team have German mothers, and there's no shortage of plot lines that go beyond just the result.
Klinsmann said "I don't think that we are made for draws," while Germany defender Mats Hummels said it would be "highly unsportsmanlike" not to go for a win.
Venue: Recife. Kickoff 1 p.m. local time (noon in New York, 5 p.m. London, 1 a.m. Tokyo)
HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW?
Cristiano Ronaldo's World Cup campaign has been more notable for his changing hair styles than his football performances. For Portugal to have any chance of advancing, though, the world player of the year will have to come up with something really special against Ghana.
Portugal needs a big win coupled with a decisive result in the U.S.-Germany game to have a chance of going through to the knockout stage. However, its 4-0 loss to Germany means its poor goal difference will be difficult to overcome — especially if Ronaldo continues to struggle as he has the first two games. The Real Madrid star has been held scoreless in Brazil, but did set up the Portuguese last-gasp equalizer for 2-2 against the Americans with a perfect cross deep into injury time. He received more attention for his haircut in that game, which included a zig-zag design shaved into the right side of head. On Wednesday he was sporting a new look again in training, although it remains to be seen if it brings him more luck on the pitch.
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