There is something so gloriously magnificent about the World Cup that once it begins you seemingly cannot look away. Perhaps, it is a case of absence making the heart grow fonder, but when world football's four-year cycle comes full circle later this month, you will find yourself glued to the TV screen at ungodly hours watching even the most mundane football match.
Because, hey, it's the World Cup.
Amidst this thankless task of sifting through the dreary fixture list to find games, which has the potential to be spectacular, you will perhaps strike gold on a number of occasions. Most times though, you will strike duds, because lets face it, how exciting can a game with South Korea and Greece really be? But when you stay up and get the chance to watch a great game that others had passed on you will be rewarded. These will feel overly special – occasions where you can struggle bleary-eyed into work the next day, but still walk around with the air of a man who has witnessed something special because he chose to stay up when every other rational soul decided against it. Those moments though, are yours to choose.
At Star Lifestyle, we pick out the best of the best, the easy wins, and the matches you cannot miss if you are a football fan worth his salt. These are the highlight ties of the first round.
Spain V Netherlands
14 June, 1:00am: The World Cup will really click into gear with this game. What more needs to be said for this one apart from the fact that it will be a repeat of last year's World Cup final? The protagonists may have changed slightly, but the Dutch will be looking to exact revenge for their defeat in South Africa. The Oranje ambled through qualifying, under the guidance of future Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal, and with players like Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, pose more than a potent threat to a Spanish side seeking to defend their crown. Spain may be missing the inspirational Carles Puyol but they have discovered new stars like Koke and Diego Costa to add to an already formidable midfield of Xavi, Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets. The tie is sumptuous and honestly, there is no better way to spend the Friday night. As an extra perk, most of you don't even have to be at work the next day, so might as well get in on the Chile-Australia game at 4 am if you are feeling adventurous.
Italy v England
15 June, 4:00am: Make sure to sleep well into the afternoon of the Saturday because you are not going to want to miss this cracking tie in the early hours of Sunday morning. Work or school will beckon but watching Andrea Pirlo in full flight may just be worth the missed hours in the sleep log. England have a formidable following in these parts but so do Italy, and both sides will look to make a significant impact in this year's tournament. The Italians were in Brazil last year and under new coach Cesare Prandelli play a quicksilver brand of quick one and two touch football. They have an enviable forward line led by the maverick Mario Balotelli and the poacher Guiseppe Rossi. England come into this World Cup, unburdened by the golden generation tag but with talented players like Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana marshaled by Wayne Rooney. Expect plenty of fireworks to keep the more sleepy of you awake through to the morning.
Germany v Portugal
16 June, 10:00 pm: Nothing remedies sleep better than watching one of the two best players in the world in full flight. But the best thing is that for this cracker of a game you probably will not even have to. At 10pm on the Monday, this is the perfect game to watch along with friends. Three of the Portuguese squad have just won the Champions League as had many of the Germany squad the season just past. The players in this game will be stalwarts from Europe's most heady names like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Expect plenty of attrition, an inspired Cristiano Ronaldo and a Germany side whose creative freestyling won them so many fans last time around in South Africa. They are not quite as liquid and attacking as those days, but even while not at their best the Germans are a force to contend with.
Brazil v Mexico
18 June, 1:00am: May not look like a glorious tie on paper, but Mexico have in the past often troubled Brazil with their strong direct play. The team from the Americas will also face no demons from the weather and a Brazil team with hopes and dreams resting on the slim shoulders of the young Neymar will look to assert their authority in a World Cup on home soil. This sets this tie up perfectly and the atmosphere is set to be explosive. Brazil look a different team this time around, one with much more steel and a lot less elan, but none of that will matter if the World Cup trophy remains home past July. Luiz Felipe Scolari is a wizened expert and the Cofederations Cup triumph will be a good security blanket for a launching pad towards a record sixth triumph.