Italy's Giorgio Chiellini (L) and Leonardo Bonucci look on as their team mate Andrea Barzagli (R) fights for ball with Spain's Fernando Torres during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match at the PGE Arena in Gdansk, June 10, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Juan Medina)
The first international break of 2014 will take place on Wednesday and will feature a plethora of entertaining matches. Here are the most anticipated matches of Wednesday.
USA vs. Ukraine
Soccer is important, but there are more important things going on in the world. It will be interesting to see if this game actually happens. If it does it will offer the people of Ukraine a respite from an otherwise uncomfortable political situation.
It will be interesting to see how Jurgen Klinsmann's side plays against a European side that has looked increasingly better over the years. The Americans made a statement a few months ago against Bosnia and Herzegovina with a four-goal comeback from a 2-0 deficit. This team needs to build some confidence ahead of arguably the hardest group in the World Cup.
South Africa vs. Brazil
Bafana Bafana will not be at the World Cup, but the team looked great in a recent friendly win over defending Champions Spain. Brazil is another team that recently beat Spain and it will be interesting to see what Neymar and company can produce against a team that plays with unrelenting speed and aggression. This should be a fun offensive matchup.
Germany vs. Chile
Germany is arguably one of the best teams in the world while the Chileans are up and comers that should be major contenders for this year's tournament if they can get out of Group B. Chile has shown its ability to take down top sides; it tied Spain 2-2 in a fall friendly and destroyed the English at the Wembley Stadium a few months later. This will be a great test for Germany as it will have to take down other South American sides with similar pace in the actual tournament. This game should let us know whether Chile is a real contender or still has a long way to go.
France vs. Netherlands
These two sides have underperformed in recent years and this match should allow fans of both sides know where they stand ahead of the World Cup. The Dutch have Arjen Robben, who is playing some of his best soccer with Bayern Munich while the French have Karim Benzema at his best. This match would be far more interesting if Franck Ribery were among the players on the pitch but it seems that he will have to miss this round due to injury.
Spain vs. Italy
The two sides have had an interesting history. Spain struggled to beat Italy for most of its existence but has won three of the last four matches; granted two of those wins came in penalty shootouts. Spain defeated Italy in penalties in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals. The teams then drew 1-1 in the first game of the Euro 2012 group stage; Spain destroyed the Italians 4-0 in the final of that same tournament. Last summer the two met in the Confederations Cup semifinals in a match that was dominated by the Italians but ended with a victory for Spain in penalties. This match should let the world know if Spain is still a superpower or whether Italy has taken over as the better side.
Other interesting matches: England will face Denmark in an attempt to regain some respect on the world stage after some embarrassing efforts in recent months. Portugal and Cameroon, both World Cup participants, will test their respective mettles; same goes for Ecuador and Australia. Belgium and Ivory Coast should also allow viewers to gauge how prepared these two sides are for the competition.