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Start times for every match and how to watch

Kevin Baxter

For the first time, the FIFA World Cup is being played in the Middle East for a fall tournament highlighting soccer’s best.

The U.S. men’s national team looks to defy the odds and pull off a World Cup holiday shocker with a win over the Netherlands in the round of 16 on Saturday. After playing to draws against Wales and England, the U.S. defeated Iran 1-0 on Tuesday to punch its ticket into the next round.

Mexico, hit hard by injuries and issues within its federation, was eliminated from the World Cup on Wednesday despite a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in its group-play finale.

Here’s a look at Thursday’s World Cup matchups:

Japan vs. Spain

Where: Khalifa International Stadium

Time: 11 a.m. PST

TV: Fox, Telemundo, Peacock Premium

The buzz:Heading into the final day of group play no one in Group E has clinched a spot in the round of 16. The group winner is almost certain to come from this game, however, since Spain leads the table by a point over Japan.

The Spanish had the most dominant performance of the tournament so far in its 7-0 win over Costa Rica, becoming the first team in World Cup history with an 81% possession rate and the second team to record more than 1,000 passes. It then stumbled against Germany, getting outshot in a 1-1 draw.

Still, a win here and Spain wins the group while a draw clinches it a spot in the next round. A loss and a Costa Rica win, however, would send the 2010 champions home.

Japan played a solid game to beat Germany in its opener, then outplayed Costa Rica only to lose on Keysher Fuller’s goal — the Ticos’ only shot on target — in the 81st minute. As a result, Japan must beat Spain to assure itself of a place in the second round. A draw could also suffice, depending on the results of the other game.

Costa Rica vs. Germany

Where: Al Bayt Stadium

Time: 11 a.m. PST

TV: FS1, Universo, Peacock Premium

The buzz:Germany has won just once in five World Cup games since taking the title in 2014 and are last in the group table, yet it can still advance to the second round with a win. Anything short of that, however, and it goes home short of the round of 16 for a second straight World Cup.

Germany piled up 37 shots, 13 on goal, against Japan and Spain but scored just once from the run of play, picking up a single point.

Costa Rica, which has the dubious distinction of being the only team in World Cup history to lose one game by seven goals then win the next, moves on with a victory — and would win the group if Spain-Japan ends in a draw. It would also advance with a draw if Japan loses. That’s remarkable given that the Ticos have taken four total shots and put just one on goal in the tournament.

World Cup TV schedules

Note: Groups A, B C and D have completed all scheduled group matches.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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