ESPN released its television schedule for the 2014 World Cup a long time ago. The good news? All the games are on television, streaming and unlike, say, the Winter Olympics — every match will be shown live. More good news, the WatchESPN app is usually reliable even in times of heavy traffic.
One downside? Although the times are improved from the last couple World Cups, the majority of the matches take place during the workday on the East Coast with starting times of 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. — the latter making for some excellent early-summer Happy Hour viewing. If you want to make the most of the tournament, you’re going to have to be judicious with your use of sick days and personal days. (Or you could burn off your entire vacation and be day drunk watching soccer for a month, which sounds fun to me.)
Here’s my advice on which Group Stage games you’ll want to make plans to watch at the nearest watering hole or comfortable couch or wherever you so choose. Fortunately two of the United States’ group games — Ghana and Portugal — are 5:30 kickoffs, including a Sunday afternoon start vs. Portugal. I’ll assume if you care about soccer, you’ll find a way to watch the US/Germany game on June 26 at 11:30 a.m., so it’s not going to be listed, either.
That leaves these as the five Group Stage games, in my most humble opinion, it’s worth coming up with a sudden, timely case of the “stomach flu.”
It’s a rematch of the 2010 final, although it likely won’t include another Nigel de Jong kung fu attack. It definitely will include penalty of great WAGs. (Yay!) The one downside here is if both teams play it close to the vest, looking to avoid a loss rather than playing for the win. Even so it’s on a Friday afternoon and perfect way to start the weekend smorgasbord of soccer that includes a quadruple-header Saturday. Remember: laughing at all things Arjen Robben never gets old.
* Monday, June 16, Portugal vs. Germany, 11:30 a.m., ESPN
The United States gets these two European powers later in the Group Stage, so it’s probably a good idea to watch them square off against one another. Or look at it like this, the U.S. plays Ghana later in the day so might as well take the entire day off and make it a fun three-day weekend — or four-day if you called out on Friday. Loser of this match is already in a hole and opens up a winner for either Ghana or the U.S. to advance.
* Tuesday, June 17, Brazil vs. Mexico, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
A rematch of the 2012 Olympic final, albeit with much different teams. These two powers also played in the Confederations Cup this summer with Brazil smoking El Tri. Mexico is the U.S.’s top rival and Brazil is traditionally the best team in the world. This one seems self-explanatory.
* Wednesday, June 18, Chile vs. Spain, 2:30, ESPN
Call this a game worth checking out purely for soccer and less for the schadenfreude. Chile with Arturo Vidal leading the way might be able to give Spain some trouble. Given how that first game vs. the Dutch plays out, Spain could need all three points. If you draw your own homemade passing charts and heat maps, this is the game for you.
* Thursday, June 19, Uruguay vs. England, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani laying waste to England in the midday Sao Paulo heat? Sign me up. The hipster-approved Ivory Coast/Colombia game is earlier in the day, so it’s another reason to bail on work June 19.