Today inaugurates the first round of the "knockout stage" in the 2014 World Cup! Things kick off with Brazil vs Chile at Noon (EST) on ABC. The round of 16 finishes this Tuesday at 4PM with the USA vs Belgium Match. After that the World gets Two days to catch their breath before the quarter finals kick off next Friday and Saturday. I am planning on making predictions for each round of the knockout stage and offer a brief analysis of each game. Below I will take us through all eight round of 16 matchups in order.
Notice: The USA vs Belgium prediction is at the bottom of page. I'm doing my predictions in the order the games are being played and the USA plays their round of 16 game last.
Brazil vs Chile
As stated above, the round of 16 kicks off with Brazil vs Chile. Brazil finished atop of group A against Mexico, Croatia, and Cameroon. Chile finished second in group B against the Netherlands, Australia, and Spain. This game has all the makings of a high octane thriller! Chile only know one way to play and that is: ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! Brazil on the other hand are tournament favorites and loaded with plenty of firepower themselves!
Brazil wins 4 – 3
While Chile looked good in group B let's face it, they beat an Australian team with little talent and a Spain team that did not show up to the tournament. Brazil on the other hand beat a very underrated Croatian team, should have beaten Mexico (Where it not for the remarkable display in goal by Ochoa) and handled Cameroon. I think this game will be exciting and high scoring but Brazil will win in the end!
Colombia vs Uruguay
This is another game that could shape up to be a riproarin' time! Uruguay is a tournament team that knows how to win (especially in the knockout stage). Colombia on the other hand has been scoring goals at will this tournament and will look to exploit a slow Uruguay defense. Look for this game to get chippy (Uruguay will be upset over Suarez ban) and high scoring. Don't be surprised to see lots of cards and goals from this fixture!
Colombia wins 3 – 2
While Uruguay may have more talent around the field I think they ultimately shoot themselves in the foot in this game and have to play with a man down for most of the second half. Colombia will absorb pressure and punish the Uruguayans on the counter-attack twice!
Netherlands vs Mexico
Keeping with the trend, this game has all the ingredients for goals! The Dutch (Netherlands) love to attack and play fast paced soccer. They went 3 – 0 in their group and show little sign of slowing down! Furthermore, the reintroduction of Robin van Persie into the starting 11 bodes well. This being said, one cannot count out the Mexicans who almost won group A against Brazil and Croatia. This Mexican team who only qualified with the help of the USA is now booming with confidence and could prove to be a real threat to the Dutch!
The Netherlands win 2 – 0
The Mexican's World Cup will once again end in the round of 16 for the sixth straight time! I think the Dutch will go with a back four in defense which has served them well when they've used it and keep the Mexicans from scoring. On the other end of the pitch it will be too much for the Mexican defense to stop the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, not to mention the emergence of the young Dutch prodigy Memphis Depay!
Costa Rica vs Greece
Well, if you're going to skip a game in the round of 16 this is definitely the one to skip. No one expected either Costa Rica or Greece to be in the tournament at this point and unfortunately it doesn't look like that means good television. While Costa Rica has been a revelation thus far in the tournament putting up impressive performances against both Uruguay and Italy they are set to meet the mighty brick wall of Greek soccer. Inspired by the battle of Thermopylae, this Greek team will plan to place 10 players behind the waves of Costa Rican attack and kill the game. I kid you not, the Greeks will play for a penalty kick shootout if they can.
Costa Rica wins 1 – 0
Costa Rica will surpass their previous record of making it to the round of 16 in 1990 and make it to the quarter finals of the World Cup for the first time. It will be a grind for them to breakdown the Greeks who will "park the bus" in front of their own goal but I think in the end the Costa Ricans will be able to do it
France vs Nigeria
Both teams making it out of relatively easy groups (France "E", Nigeria "F") this game is somewhat hard to tell. France is definitely the more talented team and should beat the Nigerians handily, however, Nigeria did put up a solid performance against a tournament favorite in Argentina in their last group game. This game looks to be a pretty solid match up where goals be at a premium for both teams.
France wins 2 – 0
France should carry most of the run of play in this game a create a majority of the chances. Look for Nigeria to sit back and absorb the French attack while trying to create chances for themselves on the counter attack. That being said, I think the game remains close for a long time until France puts in a goal in the last 25 minutes. This force Nigeria to play a more open style of play which will give France an opportunity to seal the deal with a late goal.
Germany vs Algeria
This one is about as straight forward as they come on paper! Germany should win big! Algeria gets to the knockout phase from possibly the weakest group in the tournament (group H) where both Russian and South Korea disappointed greatly whereas Germany looked very powerful all throughout the group of death (other than falling asleep after scoring in the Ghana game).
Germany wins 4 – 1
While the nature of this World Cup has been upsets and surprises I don't expect any such things in this match up. The German machine will prove way too much for an Algeria side which has never made it out of the group stage before!
Argentina vs Switzerland
This game is a difficult one to tell and could turn out to be quite a boring affair. Argentina was a pre-tournament favorite but honestly wouldn't still be alive had it not been due to their talisman Leo Messi (who is quite a talisman to have!). Switzerland on the other hand, despite the dismantling at the hands of France, have a strong midfield that could be troublesome for the Argentinians to deal with.
Switzerland wins 1 – 0
I guess you got to stir the put somewhere! If Argentina can't get their stuff together (They gave up two goals to Nigeria!) then they are just looking to get knocked out. On paper Argentina should be a "shew in" to the semi-finals. However, thus far in the tournament they have not impressed in a very easy group. Teams have watched the tape and know how to stop Messi from impacting the game other than a few moments of brilliance. I think the Swiss will get a goal (maybe from a set piece) and then hold off the Argentinian assault for the rest of the game!
Belgium vs USA
Here we are! USA vs Belgium! Well, the USA did it; they advanced from the "Group of Death" leaving Portugal and Ghana in their wake! The question is, "Can they keep it going?" Let's be honest, Belgium are far more talented than the USA on paper (Belgium is arguable the most talented team in the tournament!) but as we have seen in the USA's run thus far, talent isn't everything. Belgium is young and lacks experience, the USA, while also young, has a very solid core of experienced players in Howard, Bradly, and Dempsy. Expect the USA to absorb Belgium pressure much like they did against Germany and look to play on the counter attack! Belgium (though talented) isn't nearly as methodical as Germany and the USA will be much more rested by Tuesday so look for the USA to look much better than they did against Germany.
USA wins 2 – 1
As an American, I cannot not predict a USA victory! With rumors of Jozy Altidore's return to the lineup I think the stars & strips might just be able to pull out a victory and advance to the quarter-finals in Tuesday's matchup. I expect if this result does come about then the winning goal will be late in the game, perhaps even in OT! I don't know if I'll be able to handle the pressure but I guess that's what being a fan is all about!
Enjoy the games and GO USA!!!