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5 things: What to watch for Sunday at the World Cup

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Sun June 15, 2014
<strong>Neymar (Brazil):</strong> One of the youngest players for the host team has a nice resume, including a stint with Real Madrid's youth team before signing his first professional contract at 17. Despite a mediocre debut this past season with powerhouse Barcelona, the 22-year-old has 31 goals in 48 appearances for Brazil and was controversially left off the 2010 World Cup team. Expect him to find the net, especially when you consider his wildly talented supporting cast. Neymar (Brazil): One of the youngest players for the host team has a nice resume, including a stint with Real Madrid's youth team before signing his first professional contract at 17. Despite a mediocre debut this past season with powerhouse Barcelona, the 22-year-old has 31 goals in 48 appearances for Brazil and was controversially left off the 2010 World Cup team. Expect him to find the net, especially when you consider his wildly talented supporting cast.
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32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
32 players to watch during the World Cup
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Argentina's Lionel Messi will take the field for the first time in Brazil
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina will start play in its first World Cup
  • Action starts in Rio de Janeiro -- host of the World Cup finals, the 2016 Olympics

How are you celebrating the World Cup? Join the global conversation on CNN's Facebook Pulse

(CNN) -- You might expect Sunday to be a day of rest in a predominantly Roman Catholic country like Brazil.

But the World Cup offers as good a reason as it gets to make an exception.

There will be three contests -- in Brasilia, Porte Alegre and Rio de Janeiro -- on what will be the fourth day of the prestigious football tournament. Each of them pits a team from Europe against one from Latin America.

Here's a look at a few things to watch for:

Spotlight on Lionel Messi

Germany's Mario Gotze scores the goal that would decide the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze, a late substitute, scored the goal in extra time as Germany won 1-0. Click through the gallery to see all the goals scored in the World Cup. Germany's Mario Gotze scores the goal that would decide the World Cup final Sunday, July 13, in Rio de Janeiro. Gotze, a late substitute, scored the goal in extra time as Germany won 1-0. Click through the gallery to see all the goals scored in the World Cup.
Goooal! Keeping score at the World Cup
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Photos: Every goal from the World Cup Photos: Every goal from the World Cup
Gervinho of the Ivory Coast, left, celebrates scoring his team's second goal with teammate Didier Drogba during the World Cup match between the Ivory Coast and Japan at Arena Pernambuco on June 14 in Recife, Brazil. Ivory Coast defeated Japan 2-1. It was the third day of the tournament, which is being held in 12 cities across Brazil. See Saturday's best photos Gervinho of the Ivory Coast, left, celebrates scoring his team's second goal with teammate Didier Drogba during the World Cup match between the Ivory Coast and Japan at Arena Pernambuco on June 14 in Recife, Brazil. Ivory Coast defeated Japan 2-1. It was the third day of the tournament, which is being held in 12 cities across Brazil. See Saturday's best photos
World Cup: The best photos from June 14
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World Cup: The best photos from June 14 World Cup: The best photos from June 14
Meet soccer's most bankable star
Supporting your World Cup team in style

Lionel Messi is one of a kind.

At 26 years old, all he's done is win four consecutive FIFA Ballons d'Or, given annually to football's best player. And he's done it on one of the best club teams, Barcelona, in the world.

But on the sport's biggest stage, Messi has yet to deliver.

On Sunday, when his Argentine team faces Bosnia and Herzegovina, Messi will get another chance at a World Cup title. Many see this tournament as his best opportunity yet, given that he is in his prime and the event is being held in his native South America.

France copes without Franck

Going into this year's World Cup, many tapped France as a favorite. The biggest reason: Franck Ribery.

He was the best player on the world's best club team, Bayern Munich in 2013 -- when it won the Bundesliga and even more prestigious Champions League. As such, there was good reason to think Ribery could help lead his native France to the promised land.

Until, that is, the 31-year-old was ruled out of the World Cup due to back issues. So does that mean France is out of contention?

We might get a good gauge on that answer Sunday, when Les Bleus open Group E play with a matchup against Honduras.

Are you ready, Rio?

Rio de Janiero is two years away from welcoming the world, as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

What better way to warm up than with the Olympics' closest competition for the world's biggest sporting event?

World Cup play kicks off in Rio on Sunday, with the Messi-led Argentinian squad facing off with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

That means thousands of Cariocas (a reference to Rio residents) will pack into the iconic Maracana stadium; the even luckier ones, someone might argue, could be on the city's world-famous beaches, like Ipanema and Copacabana.

Whatever excitement there is Sunday, though, should pale in comparison to what unfolds on Sunday, July 13, in the same stadium.

That's when the World Cup final takes place.

And -- if Brazilians' prayers are answers -- the host team will be there, slugging it out for the championship.

Latin American teams are rolling

Europe boasts being the birthplace of football.

But this year, Latin America has not only hosted the World Cup, it's virtually owned it -- with Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica having won their tournament openers.

The only Latin team that didn't win was Uruguay. That's because it got beat by Costa Rica. Plus, it can always take solace in the fact it won its last World Cup in Brazil, albeit 64 years ago.

Latin American teams will get three more chances to continue their run Sunday: starting with Ecuador against Switzerland, then with Honduras taking on France, and, lastly, with the Argentina matchup.

A new country, a real chance

Twenty-five years ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina didn't exist. In the years after its 1991 declaration of independence from Yugoslavia, it was more or less a war zone.

Peace came later in the 1990s, paved by the Dayton Agreement. So did some normalcy. And, with that, so did football -- including a fledgling national team that seemed to get better as the years went by.

Bosnia and Herzegovina narrowly missed out on a 2010 World Cup berth. This time, it will try to get out of a group that includes Argentina, Nigeria and Iran.

Slated as 21st in the FIFA world rankings -- just behind Mexico and ahead of other World Cup contenders like Algeria, Ivory Coast and Ecuador -- Bosnia is looking to make history not just by showing up, but by advancing.

As coach Safet Susic said -- according to the broadcaster B92, as reported by Bleacher Report: "We are not going to Brazil simply as tourists or to take notes. We want to succeed."

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