World Cup 2014: Which days should you book off work?
The World Cup may be in Brazil, but the time difference does suit UK audiences, to a degree.
The group stages feature three games per day, with kick off times at 5pm, 8pm/9pm and 11pm UK time. FIFA typically tries to cater for the European TV audience, but since so many of us are lucky to get out of work at 5pm, then face an hour fighting through the traffic or the crowds on a stuffy train before we get home, there is some serious football to be missed in those 5pm games.
Weekends help out the working fan a little – the potential second-round match-up between Brazil and Spain or Holland, scheduled for 5pm, falls on a Saturday, as does a potential 5pm quarter-final clash between Argentina and Belgium or Portugal.
However, for those teatime games you really don’t want to miss, you’ll want to book yourself some afternoons off work. So, when January brings you a fresh batch of holiday entitlement, plan your World Cup afternoon delights before your colleagues get in there first – or before real life threatens to ruin your football fun.
We sat down with Sky Bet’s excellent interactive guide to the World Cup group stages to work out exactly what games should be dates in your diary…
June 16: Group G, Germany v Portugal
One of the biggest games of the group stages, this will go a long way towards deciding the fate of Group G. The Germans will be favourites, but Portugal have the match-winning wildcard that is Cristiano Ronaldo.
June 17: Group H, Belgium v Algeria
Belgium present perhaps the most interesting prospect of the World Cup: a team full of talented youngsters and a relatively favourable draw means many will have Belgium as a dark horse bet – but they’ll need to start strongly in what is, on paper, their easiest group game.
June 20: Group D, Italy v Costa Rica
Before the group draw was made, this fixture might not have sparked much interest. However, with England likely need to help from Costa Rica to get out of Group D, this is a must-see.
June 23: Group B Finale, Australia v Spain and Holland v Chile
In the interests of fairness, the final group games take place simultaneously. Group B is likely to be a tight group, so see which one of Spain, Holland or even Chile (sorry Australians) steals top spot and avoids a likely second-round meeting with Brazil.
June 24: Group D Finale, Italy v Uruguay and Costa Rica v England
Do we need to say anything here? Judgement Day for Roy Hodgson’s England, who are likely to need a result from this match.
June 26: Group G Finale, USA v Germany and Portugal v Ghana
While 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and Holland being drawn together drew gasps, and England groaned when the Three Lions were lumped in with Uruguay and Italy, Group G is the real ‘Group of Death’. Don’t be surprised if all four teams still have a shot at the second-round on June 26.
July 1: Winner Group F v Runner-up Group E
We can expect Lionel Messi’s Argentina to boss Group F, and this second-round tie could see them face off against Switzerland or Ecuador – but maybe – just maybe – it’ll be France.
July 4: Quarter Final 2
Obviously there are a lot of permutations for the quarter-finals, but if things go as expected this one could well be France v Germany, which is never a match to be missed.