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
If the Iranians can beat Bosnia convincingly on Wednesday, they might make it to the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time ever.
That’s one of five things we’ll be watching for and talking about Wednesday:
1. GROUP F SHOWDOWNS
Sitting at the top of the group, Argentina is guaranteed a place in the round of 16, while Nigeria will be battling to hang onto second place. If the Africans win, they go top of the group. If they pull off a draw, they get a point and hang onto second place. If they lose, they have to hope it’s close, and that Iran doesn’t score a big win over Bosnia.
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.
2. GROUP E MATCHUPS
Free for all:
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.
3. LUIS SUAREZ
The fangs come out:
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.
Group of Death – but whose?
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?
5. USA v GERMANY
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.
But Brazil’s dream of winning a World Cup on its own soil has survived.
Journalist James Masters contributed to this report.