While it is commonly accepted that the first game of the Cup is important, I decided to check the results of the two Cups with 32 teams to test the notion's validity. In 1998 and 2002, only 1 team, or 3% of all 2nd Rd participants, lost its first game and still advanced. In that case, Turkey lost to Brazil who swept all the teams anyway. In a balanced group, it is even more unlikely that a team who loses the first game will advance. It is clear that we MUST get points off the Czechs. Furthermore, roughly 2/3ds of the 2nd round qualifiers won their first game while roughly 1/3 tied their first game. From a conditional perspective: Of the teams that won their first game (23 total), 87% advanced. Of the teams that tied their first game (18 total), 61% advanced. If you win the first game, you are a virtual lock to advance. In the 3 cases in which teams won their first game but failed to advance (all 2002), Argentina, Costa Rica and Russia present some interesting questions although there are too few data points to draw any meaningful conclusion. Again, in a very unbalanced group such as the one Costa Rica had with Brazil on one end and China on the other, winning the first match doesn't mean as much as it comes down to the rubber match (Turkey) and GD. Argentina was in a GoD so it's easy to understand why winning the 1st game could still yield difficulties. While you should attack and play to win in the first game, the bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with tying the Czechs or closing things down at the end of the game if we're tied and if there are too many chances created on both sides in a loose game. The risk of a loss at the end of the game isn't worth it when you can walk out with one.