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Which final World Cup group stage games should you watch?

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There are 16 games left, some much better than others.

Germany v Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

This, friends, is a sad day. This is the day the World Cup moves from three games a day to four, which sounds like it should be excellent. Except for the fact that we have two simultaneous pairs of two, for petty little reasons like “fairness” and “stopping collusion” and all that nonsense.

Hard to believe Football Christmas comes with a built-in diet plan, but here we are. But do not fret. SB Nation Soccer is here to tell you which games you can safely ignore, and which you need to be putting on your television. Or your laptop, while you watch the other one on your phone. Or have beamed into your dominant eye. However you choose to feast.

Group A: Uruguay vs. Russia

Strictly speaking, you should be watching Uruguay and Russia play off for first place in the group, which will likely mean a last 16 game against Spain rather than Portugal. And it will be interesting to see if Russia can keep up their surprising and entertaining form against a team that loves defending. But we reckon you should keep an eye on Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia, just in case Mohamed Salah decides to try and win the Golden Boot in a single game.

Group B: Spain vs. Morocco

Fundamentally, this is a question of taste. Portugal against Iran is more competitively significant, since both teams are in with a chance of going through. However, we strongly suspect that this game may be a deeply frustrating experience, in which Portugal will faff around impotently on the edge of the Iranian box for hours and hours and hours, before Ronaldo bounces one in off his abs.

Spain vs. Morocco, on the other hand, should be gorgeous. Spain have got Isco and David Silva, while Morocco are play ambitious, delightful football at top speed. Admittedly, they have yet to score. But it’s some very pleasant build-up. Anyway, even though the Moroccans are already out, we reckon this is still worth your time. Spain need at least a point, and could do with some goals as well. Treat yourself. Unless you’re into that other thing.

Group C: Australia vs. Peru

Generally speaking, you should always watch the team that needs to win. This means Australia, who take on already eliminated (but forever in the last 16 of our hearts) Peru. However, France vs. Denmark means Christian Eriksen vs. Paul Pogba, so we won’t mind too much if you decide to ignore us completely.

Of course, Australia’s endeavour may not matter at all. If France and Denmark draw then they both progress, in first and second place respectively. Both nations will be happy with that. We’re not suggesting a stitch-up, but if that game is level as the clock wears on, it might dwindle away into a whole lot of not very much.

Group D: Argentina vs. Nigeria

Now, this group. This group. Croatia are through, almost certainly in first place, and Iceland haven’t really looked sharp enough to discomfit Modric & Co. And that’s handy, because you get to devote your undivided attention to Argentina vs. Nigeria.

Alternative title: The Assassination of Lionel Messi/Jorge Sampaoli by the Coward Jorge Sampaoli/Lionel Messi.

Alternative title: What Willy Caballero Did Next!

Alternative title: The Greatest Escape Since Houdini!!!

Anyway, Argentina need a win but are a mess, while Nigeria, after a disappointing start, slipped into the goalscoring groove against Iceland. And there should be a lot more space behind Argentina’s wobbly-as-hell defenders than there was against the Scandinavians. We could see a mighty footballing nation humbled; we could see a wounded big beast roar back. Either way: proper World Cup.

Group E: Brazil vs. Serbia

An easy choice here. Brazil have so far been a bit of a disappointment, syrupy-slow in the face massed defences and unsympathetic refereeing. Serbia, meanwhile, have looked by turns impressive and idiotic, and their last minute brainfade against Switzerland has left them a point behind Neymar and friends.

So, how will they match up? In Mitrovic, Milinkovic-Savic, and Tadic, the Serbs definitely have the attacking bustle to cause Brazil problems. And they certainly won’t be shy when it comes to bothering Neymar’s delicate ankles and even-more-delicate temper. If Brazil click, they’ll be fine. If they don’t, it could get squeaky.

Group F: Germany vs. South Korea

This is an easy decision to start with. You’ll want to watch Germany, because Germany’s strange, lurching defence of their title has been appointment viewing. But this is a group where all four teams can go through, so stay alert. Follow the storylines. And hope that you don’t end up stuck in World Cup limbo, forever flicking from game to game moments after every goal.

Group G: England vs. Belgium

Nothing much on the line here: England and Belgium are both already through, and while they’ll both be trying to top the group, they won’t mind too much if they end up in second place. Should still be fun though, as a few squad players get a chance to press their case for a start. Also, there’s a strong suspicion that neither of these teams can really defend. Let’s find out together!

Group H: Colombia vs. Senegal

To be honest, this would be the answer even if it were a meaningless game: two of the most entertaining teams in the competition will be playing in front of two of the most joyous sets of fans. Happily, it also matters. And it’s really hard to call, since Colombia have apparently remembered how to play. Which is exactly what we want from the last games of the first round. It’s just a shame that one of these teams might end up going home.