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5 things: What to watch for at the World Cup on Thursday

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Team USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann tweeted a form letter for employees to give their bosses.
Team USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann tweeted a form letter for employees to give their bosses.
  • NEW: Uruguay striker Luis Suarez banned for nine matches for biting Italian opponent
  • Take the day off to watch the match, Team USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann urges
  • Ghana suspends two star players over allegations of physical and verbal abuse
  • Even Israelis backed Iran's underdog World Cup run

(CNN) -- It's time for Team USA to put up or shut up in Brazil. Beat Germany, or at least eke out a tie, and the Americans go through to the knockout stage. Lose, and they open themselves up to the possibility that their World Cup 2014 run ends in the group stage.

That's one of five things we'll be watching for and talking about Thursday:


Could be quiet in the office

First came the trash talk between Germany and the United States -- at the United Nations, of all places! Now Team USA's German-born coach Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to rally fans stateside. The game starts at noon ET, right in the middle of the workday, so Klinsmann tweeted a form letter for employees to give their bosses.

"I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause," Klinsmann deadpanned. Between Klinsmann's own account and that of the U.S. men's national team, it was retweeted nearly 40,000 times in the first six hours after the coach tweeted it.


Clock ticking on Suarez

He bit a guy four years ago and got banned for seven matches. He bit a guy last year and got banned for 10. And now world-class striker Luis Suarez is accused of biting another guy Tuesday during Uruguay's vital match against Italy.

He went face-first into Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder late in the match, no question. But were his fangs out? Chiellini yanked his shirt down to show what he says are tooth marks. Suarez responded that it was just a normal collision. Now world soccer's governing body is deciding what happened.

If it rules that Suarez did bite Chiellini, it could ban him for up to two years. The decision is due Thursday.

UPDATE: Three bites and he's out -- FIFA rules that Suarez did engage in unsportsmanlike conduct and banned him for nine matches and four months, starting immediately. That puts Suarez out of the World Cup, but it's significantly less than the maximum punishment he could have faced. He is barred from all soccer-related activity, even entering a stadium, and has to pay a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (about $111,000.) Suarez can appeal.


He shoots, he scores

The race is on to be the tournament's top scorer, with the winner getting the Golden Boot. Will it be Lionel Messi, who has given Argentina magical winning shots in their last two games? Or hometown favorite Neymar? They're not the only ones in the race. Germany's Thomas Mueller scored a hat trick in his first match, while Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri did the same in Wednesday night's game against Honduras.

And it's not only the tournament's top teams that have great strikers.

After Nigeria's Ahmed Musa became the first player from his country to score more than once in a World Cup match, his fans are ready to put him up against the best in the game.

And don't forget there's more to the game than scoring goals. Check out this FIFA app for comparing two players and see how your favorite stacks up.


Planeload of cash

Ghana battles Portugal on Thursday for one of the last places in the knockout round, but it's not prepared to do it just for the sake of national pride.

Media reports say a planeload with more than $3 million in cash was sent from Ghana to Brazil after the Black Stars apparently complained they hadn't been paid their appearance fees since the start of the competition.

The country's president personally intervened to make sure the money came through, according to the country's Football Association.

But hours before Thursday's match, Ghana suspended two of its star players, claiming Kevin-Prince Boatang verbally abused the team's coach and that Sulley Muntari physically attacked a member of the country's Football Association.

Good news for struggling Portugal?


Middle East unity

Iranians weren't the only ones rallying behind Team Melli at the World Cup. As the underdogs fought for a place in the knockout stage, an Israeli spotted this in a bar in Tel Aviv.

Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina dashed Iran's hopes. Bosnia's 3-1 victory means both teams go home.

Journalist James Masters contributed to this report.

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