World Cup: Monday’s matchups

Belgium forward Eden Hazard (10) attacks Costa Rica defender Cristian Gamboa (L) during the international friendly football match between Belgium and Costa Rica at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on June 11.
(John Thys / AFP/Getty Images)



Where: Nizhny Novgorod

Time: 5 a.m. PDT.

TV: FS1, Telemundo.

The buzz: Sweden didn’t ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic to reconsider his retirement from international soccer so its team in Russia is taking a collective approach rather than relying on one superstar. As a result Sweden leans heavily on defense and looks to forward Marcus Berg, who plays his club soccer for Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, to provide the scoring. It hasn’t always worked, with Sweden getting shut out in its last three games. Tottenham forward Son Heung-min will be the focal point of Korea’s attack but defending remains an issue: Korea has allowed two or more goals four times in its last six games.




Where: Sochi

Time: 8 a.m. PDT.

TV: FS1, Telemundo.

The buzz: Panama will be making its World Cup debut against a team many consider to be a tournament favorite and the Central Americans come in struggling. Panama scored just once in five World Cup warm-ups, which puts a ton of pressure on former Galaxy keeper Jaime Penedo, one of 12 current on former MLS players on the roster. Belgium, meanwhile, has lost just once in 20 games under coach Roberto Martinez and has an all-star lineup led by Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, forwards Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (forward) and Thibaut Courtois (keeper).


Where: Volvograd

Time: 11 a.m. PDT.

TV: FS1, Telemundo.

The buzz: The expectations for England are not high this summer but if the Three Lions get off to hot start, they could ride that momentum into the second round. That makes the opener an important game. With captain Harry Kane topping a list of five potent forwards, England can score but they are unsettled at the back. Tunisia has won one game in four trips to the World Cup, with that win coming in 1978. But the Africans have already beaten World Cup qualifiers Iran and Costa Rica and played Portugal to a draw this year. With star striker Youssef Msakni out with injury, the Africans will need a big effort from midfielder Wahbi Khazri and forward Anice Badri. | Twitter: @kbaxter11