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FIFA World Cup 2014: Preview and Predictions - round of 16

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A Winter's Tale

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After 136 goals in 48 matches, the group stage was arguably the greatest ever. Some big european teams have fallen, whilst 8 sides from the Americas and 2 from Africa have progressed. Other than Greece, the european teams have generally benefited from developing young footballers. The last includes a nice mix of teams from South America, Europe, Central and North America and Africa. Algeria and Greece have reached the last 16 for the first time, and there are sine other decent but other un fancied teams left in the competition. There are some South American sides such as chile, Colombia and Uruguay who can go all the way. Then there are the big teams who are all varied and all have their deficiencies. The favourites Brazil are hosts but despite not that great a side, they are looking to add to their glorious footballing history. Germany, who are a well balanced and organised team, once more should make into the latter stages, but they are looking to add to their successful history by winning their first major international trophy in nearly twenty years. Argentina, on South American soil, have some big stars in their team, and one of the great players Lionel messi will be looking to add a third world title for Argentina in Brazil. The Netherlands, the greatest nation never to win the World Cup for the first time with an unspectacular, but very efficient and well organised side. France, who have somewhat fallen since the 2006 World Cup final, it looks like they mean business and they will want to win a second World Cup. The golden generation of Belgian football, had brought the team into the last 16 of their first major tournament since 2002, they've been unspectacular but despite inexperience at this level, they can write themselves into the history books. The group stages provided a wonderful festival and celebration of football, but now we are into the defining business end of the World Cup where history is made. Half of the teams in the last 16 were at the same stage 4 years ago, and hopefully the knock-out stage delivers more goals, great goals and plenty of drama, excitement and defining moments.

Today sees a South American showdown with Brazil v Chile and Colombia v Uruguay, all looking for a place in the quarter finals. The first game is a highly-anticipated encounter between the hosts Brazil, against South American dark horses Chile.

Brazil have qualified into the second round of the World Cup for every finals except for 1966 and they are looking for a 6th consecutive appearance in the quarter-finals. Brazil, ranked 3rd in the world, qualified for the last 16 after beating Croatia 3-1, drawing with Mexico 0-0 and a 4-1 victory over Cameroon, scoring 7 goals (4 from Neymar, 1 from Fernandinho, Fred and Oscar) and conceded just 2. However, despite being such a difficult team to beat on home soil, this Brazilian team isn't the greatest in their history or in the 2014 World Cup and it shows. They know how to create big moments that win matches, but they aren't the greatest going forward, heavily relying on Neymar, and whilst they are stronger defensively than they are upfront there is always a mistake or two at the back. Their squad is made up with: [color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]6 from England (4 from Chelsea, 1 from Manchester City and Tottenham); 4 from Brazil (2 from Athletico Mineiro, 1 from Fluminense and Botafogo); 3 from Spain (2 from Barcelona and 1 from Real Madrid); 3 from Italy (1 from Napoli, Inter and Roma); 2 from Germany (1 from Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg); 2 from France (2 from PSG); and 1 from Russia (Zenit), Ukraine (Donetsk) and Canada (Toronto).[/size][/font][/color][size=4] The 5 times champions, will need to improve if they are to win on home soil, but perhaps the home advantage will seem through and that's why I expect them to win the tournament.[/size]

[size=4]Their opponents, Chile, has a squad made up of: [/size][size=4]5 from Chile (3 from Universidad de Chile, 2 from Colo-Colo) and Spain (Barcelona, Valencia, Sociedad, Osasuna, Celta Vigo); 4 from Italy (2 from Juventus, 1 from Atalanta, Calgiari); 3 from Brazil (Internacional, Palmeiras, Santos); 2 from England (Wigan, Nottingham Forest); 1 from Sweden (Malmo), Wales (Cardiff), Netherlands (Twente), Switzerland (Basel). They've qualified from the group stage for the 4th time in their history and are looking to at least go as far as they did in 1962 when they finished 3rd after losing to Brazil in the semi-finals. Ranked 14th in the World (their highest was 6th in 1998), they [/size]finished[size=4] second in group B after beating Australia 3-1 and the World Champions Spain 2-0 but lost 2-0 to the Netherlands on the final game. They scored 5 goals (from Alexis Sanchez, Charles Aranguiz, Jean Beausejour, Jorge Valdivia and Eduardo Vargas) and conceding 3. Chile have improved since the previous World Cup and they very much lived up to the hype of being dark horses - particularly in the manner of how they defeated Spain 2-0. They are an excellent side without the star names of Brazil. Sanchez and Vidal are crucial players, but as we've seen from them so far, it's the energy and intensity of the team that makes them such a great side. Despite having a small and at times vulnerable back three, their midfield rotates, presses and moves at a high rate and they are a team who are always looking to attack, and are a real threat to any team when they go forward. I suspect Chile will lose to Brazil once again, but this time Chile does have a better chance of an upset. If they do the unthinkable and beat Brazil, then they can go very far but if they lose as expected, then it certainly won't detract from the quality and entertainment this team has provided at the World Cup.[/size]

[size=4]The head-to-head record: In their last 12 games against Chile, Brazil are unbeaten with 10 wins and 2 draws since Chile last defeated them in a qualifier for the World Cup in 2000. The two sides have met 3 times at a World Cup with Brazil winning all three (4-2 in 1962, 4-1 in 1988 and 3-0 in 2010). In 68 meetings, Chile have only won seven times and lost on 48 occasions. Brazil and Chile last met on the 20th November 2013 as Brazil won 2-1 in a friendly. [/size]

[size=4]Brazil's only defeat in 24 matches was in last August against Switzerland, and Brazil are now unbeaten in 40 successive home matches, with their last defeat in August 2002 against Paraguay and the Cope America semi-final in 1975 was Brazil's last [/size]competitive defeat, losing 3-1 to Peru. In their last 4 World Cup matches against South American sides, Chile have been defeated and 1962 was the last time they won a knock-out game at the World Cup.

[size=4]I'm going for Brazil 3-1 Chile. It could be a very close and tight match but I expect goals to come for Brazil, probably in quick [/size]succession[size=4] in the second half, against a small and not the most solid defence in the World. Brazil will be a threat at set-pieces with their height advantage. And given the history of Brazil playing at home, and their superior record against Chile, then it's hard to see how Brazil can lose this despite their [/size]deficiencies and Chile's qualities. The atmosphere should be a big factor and Brazil should be organised enough to prevent Chile from doing much damage, and the pace of players like Neymar and Oscar should threaten Chile's defence. Brazil's defence isn't the greatest either, and Chile's brand of football should give the hosts a few problems, but not enough to go through.

The final match is an interesting encounter between Colombia and Uruguay. Two similar South American teams who are very decent international sides with some very good players, some weak points aswell. The two nations don't have as big a name as Brazil or Argentina, and Chile's style of football may have won more plaudits, but nevertheless, these two teams are dark-horses and can have a say on the outcome of the World Cup, and one of these relatively evenly matched sides will face another South American opponent in the quarter-finals.

Colombia, ranked 8th in the World (their highest came last year when they were ranked 3rd), at their first World Cup since 1998 have qualified for the last 16 for the second time in their history and they've never reached the quarter-finals. They emphatically finished top of Group C by beating Greece 3-0, Ivory Coast 2-1 and Japan 4-1, scoring 9 goals (3 from James Rodriguez, 2 from Jackson Martinez, 1 from Pablo Armero, Juan Cuadrado and Teofilo Gutierrez) and conceded just twice. Their squad is made up of: [color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans']6 from Italy (Milan, Inter, Napoli, Atalanta, Florientina, Calgiari); 4 from Argentina (3 from River Plate, 1 from San Lorenzo); 3 from France (Monaco, Toulouse, Nice), Colombia (Santa Fe, Athletico Nacional, Deportivo Cali); 2 from Portugal (Porto), Spain (Elche, Sevilla); from England (West Ham), Netherlands (PSV) and Germany (Hertha Berlin). Colombia have been impressive so far in the World Cup and you can see how they are considered dark horses. Despite an slow, but experienced, defence and the injury to star striker Falcao, Colombia have looked excellent going forward with some excellent footballers. James Rodriguez in particular has been impressive, and in my opinion he was the best player in the group stage with his goals, technique and positioning. This is a match Colombia should win to reach the last 8 for the first time in their history, but I think it's unlikely that they'll go any further.[/font][/color]

Uruguay (ranked 7th, their best ranking was 2nd in 2012), being the smallest nation competing at the World Cup, have had some sort of a golden generation in the past 4 years, reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2010 and winning the Copa America - well earned triumphs for their group of players. Their squad includes: [color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]5 from Italy (Juventus, Lazio, Parma, Bologna, Palermo); 4 from Spain (3 from Athletico Madrid, 1 from Espanyol); 3 from England (Liverpool, Southampton, West Brom), Brazil (Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Vasco du Gama); 2 from Portugal (Porto and Benfica); 1 from Uruguay (Nacional), Turkey (Galatasaray), Paraguay (Libertad), Japan (Cerezo Osaka), Mexico (Morelia), France (PSG).[/size][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4] The former two times World Champions, Uruguay have qualified into the second round for the 9th time in their history. It was a mixed group stage, finishing second in Group D after losing 3-1 to Costa Rica and beating England 2-1 and Italy 1-0. Reaching the last 16 is a decent enough achievement for a team how have excelled in the past four years, but are past their peak with ageing key players such as Diego Forlan. The big miss for Uruguay is Luis Suarez after his biting incident against Italy. His absence will probably mean that Uruguay won't go through, and if they do, then they won't go any further. Uruguay's performances in the group stage wasn't all that great, and they haven't been at their best in the past two years. Cavani up front doesn't seem to live up to expectations and Uruguay lack width and creativity - meaning they are less pleasurable to watch than some of the other South American sides. Defensively, on paper they aren't the best, but as a team they are clever enough to prevent teams from attacking and this trait could provide a tricky obstacle for Colombia.[/size][/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]In 1962, Colombia's first World Cup match was 2-1 defeat by Uruguay. During the past 10 years, Uruguay have won 6 out of 8 games against Colombia and Colombia's last victory was a 4-0 win in a World Cup qualifier in 2012. Since losing 2-0 Uruguay last September, Colombia are unbeaten in their last 10 games. [/size][/font][/color]
I'm going for a 2-1 victory to Colombia. Uruguay will be much weaker up front without Luis Suarez and Cavani won't be able to fill his boots. Uruguay will be difficult enough to break down, but ultimately I expect Colombia to be fairly dominant in possesion and more of a threat going forward with players like Cuadrado and Rodriguez making all the difference. Colombia, then should go on to play in their first ever World Cup quarter-final (most likely against Brazil and that's where their journey should end).

Netherlands, finalists in 2010, are ranked 15th in the World (previous best was 1st in 2011) and they have qualified for second round for the 8th time in their history (previous best was runners-up 1974, 1978 and 2010. Their squad includes: [size=4]10 from the Netherlands (5 from Feyenoord, 3 from Ajax, 2 from PSV); 4 from England (Manchester United, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Norwich); 3 from Germany (Bayern Munich, Schalke, Augsburg); 2 from Wales (Swansea), 2 from Turkey (Fenerbanche, Galatasaray); 1 from Italy (Milan) and Ukraine (Dynamo Kiev). They qualified as group winners by beating Spain 5-1, Australia 3-2 and Chile 2-0, scoring 10 goals (3 from Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, 2 from Memphis Depay, 1 from Leroy Fer and Stefan de Vrij) and conceding 3. Going into the World Cup, I expected the Netherlands to crash out the group stage but they've proved me wrong. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie have been excellent and the team (perhaps aided by their approach to football at youth level) has performed above the sum of the parts. There are deficiencies which have been evident at times but the Netherlands look in good condition to play Mexico. If they win, as they are [/size]expected[size=4] to then they should at least reach the semi-finals. [/size]


[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]Mexico, ranked 20th in the world (their previous best was 4th in 1998 and 2006), have qualified for the second round for the 8th and this will be their 6th consecutive round of 16 appearance - their best was quarter-finalists in 1970 and 1986.Their squad includes: 15 from Mexico [/size][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4](4 from America, 3 from Leon and Toulca, 2 from UANL and Cruz Azul and 1 from Santos Languna); 3 from Spain (2 from Sevilla and 1 from Espanyol); 2 from Portugal (Porto); 1 from England (Manchester United), 1 from Germany (Bayer Leverkusen) and 1 from France (Ajaccio). They finished second and unbeaten in group A, winning 1-0 against Cameroon, drew 0-0 against Brazil and beat Croatia 3-1, scoring 4 goals (Javier Herandez, Andres Guardado, Rafael Marquez and Oribe Peralta) and conceded just 1. Mexico have also been a surprise. They are incredibly difficult to beat with a 5-3-2 formation and a goalkeeper who's performing well. They are organised and play with lots of energy and pace which makes them appealing to watch and dangerous going forward. They might be slight underdogs against the Netherlands, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Mexico reach the quarter-finals.[/size][/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]In the last 4 meetings between the two sides, Mexico have lost three and drawn one. The only time the two teams met in the World Cup was in 1998 with a 2-2 draw in the group stage. [/size][/font][/color]

[size=4]I'm going for Netherlands 2-1 Mexico. This game will be played in very hot and humid conditions which will very much be in the [/size]favour[size=4] of the Mexicans. And without the hot conditions, Mexico will be a very difficult team for the Netherlands as they are very well organised, very difficult to breakdown and are dangerous going forward. There is a fair chance that Mexico could go through. But I think Louis van Gaal should get his tactics right, the star players and the team as a whole should do enough to negotiate a way into the quarter-finals.[/size]



[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]Costa Rica ranked 28th in the World (highest was 17th in 2003) have qualified for the second round for the second time in their history. Their squad includes [/size][/font][/color][size=4]9 from Costa Rica (4 from Herediano, 2 from Saprissa, Alajuelense, 1 from Cartagines); 3 from USA (2 from Colombus Crew, 1 from New York Red Bulls); 3 from Norway (Rosenborg, Aalesund, Valerenga); 1 from Belgium (Club Brugge), Spain (Levante), Sweden (AIK), Denmark (Copenhagen), Greece (Olympiakos), Netherlands (PSV), Germany (Mainz), Russia (Kuban Krasnodar). They finished top of Group D beating Uruguay 3-1 and Italy 1-0 and drew 0-0 with England, scoring 4 goals (Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Marco Urena, Oscar Duarte) and conceded just 1 goal. Costa Rica have been the surprise of the World Cup so far by [/size]finishing[size=4] top of a group containing three former Champions and all ranked in the top 10 in the World. Costa Rica have been mentioned by some to be a good international team and they are proving it. They are very difficult to beat with the only goal they've conceded being a penalty and they can be a threat going forward. They stand a good chance of beating Greece to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. [/size]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]Greece are ranked 12th ( with their highest being 8th in 2008 2011). They have qualified for the second round for the first time in their history. Their squad includes: [/size][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]9 from Greece (4 from Olympiakos and PAOK, 1 from Panathinaikos); 6 from Italy (2 from Bologna, 1 from Roma, Genoa, Torino and Verona); 2 from Spain (Levante and Granada), England (Fulham); 1 from Scotland (Celtic), Germany (Borussia Dortmund), Turkey (Kayserispor). They finished second in Group C, losing 3-0 to Colombia, drew 0-0 with Japan and beat Ivory Coast 2-1 scoring 2 (Georgios Samaras, Andreas Samaris), and conceded 4. A lot has been said about the Greeks and their defensive style, but I do admire how they are consistently a team ranked around the top 15 in the World and how difficult they are to beat. They are limited, but they try to make themselves a very difficult unit to breakdown with the chance of nicking a goal from somewhere. Reaching the last 16 for the first time is a great achievement but this should be as a far as they should go, but they do have a chance against Costa Rica. [/size][/font][/color]

[size=4]This is the first ever meeting for these two teams and I think Costa Rica will win 1-0. Greece will be very tough to breakdown and could score a goal or two, but they are [/size]fortunate enough to be here and finishing in the last 16 is roughly the level where Greece is at. Costa Rica could see their intensity levels drop after their performances in the group stage but they should stop Greece from scoring and they have enough quality upfront to score a goal or two and reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.


France, ranked 17th (they were top the rankings in 2001 and 2002), have qualified for knock-out round for 6th time - their best performance was winners in 1998. Their squad includes: 10 from England (3 from Arsenal and Newcastle United and 1 from Southampton, Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool); 8 from France (3 from PSG, 1 from Saint Etienne, Bastia, Lille, Montpellier and Marseille); 3 from Spain (2 from Real Madrid, 1 from Real Sociedad); 1 from Portugal (Porto) and Italy (Juventus). They finished top of Group E, beating Honduras 3-0 and Switzerland 5-2 and drew 0-0 with Ecuador, scoring 8 goals (3 from Karim Benzema, 1 from Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi, Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Valbuena), conceding 2. France was one of the best performing teams in the group stage and have surprised many. They were considered dark horses before the World Cup, but now they have a realistic chance of going far. They are a very well balanced team, very organised with an excellent shape. They can defend well, pass well and attack well which makes them a well-rounded team. Benzema is scoring goals and there are other players performing well such as Cabaye and Valbuena. They should be good enough to get past Nigeria, and they have quality to go all the way.

Nigeria are one of two African sides in the last (the first time this has ever happened) and they are ranked 45th in the world (their highest was 4th in 1994). They've qualified for second round for the 3rd time and will be looking to reach the last 8 for the first time in their history. Their squad includes: [color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans']6 from England (Newcastle United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Stoke, Norwich); 4 from Nigeria (Enugu Rangers, Warri Wolves, Sunshine Stars, Gombe United); 2 from Belgium (Waasland-Beveren, Cercle Brugge), Turkey (Caykur Risespor, Fenerbanche), Israel (Ashdod, Hapoel Be'er Sheva) ; 1 from France (Lille), Scotland (Celtic), Russia (CSKA Moscow), Spain (Almeria), Italy (Lazio), Ukraine (Volyn Lutsk), Netherlands (Heerenveen). Nigeria finished second in Group F, drawing 0-0 with Iran, beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 and lost 3-2 to Argentina, scoring 3 goals (2 from Ahmed Musa and 1 from Peter Odemwingie), conced[/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]ing twice. Nigeria won the African Cup of Nations a couple of years ago and their young, generally well-balanced and organised side has been hailed as one of the best in African football history and reaching the last 16 has justified that. And despite playing against the French, Nigeria should be a tough test as they are solid defensively and quite dangerous going forward, and some believe that they can reach the quarter-finals.[/size][/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]The only time the two sides met was in 2009 with Nigeria winning 1-0. France have lost to African nations at the World Cup in two of their last three matches. But I'm going for France 2-0 Nigeria. Nigeria will be a very tough challenge, but France should be strong enough to stop Nigeria from causing much damage. The French should have enough creativity going forward to provide their attacking players with enough chances to convert at least a couple of goals. [/size][/font][/color]

[size=4]Germany are ranked second in the World (their highest is number one) and they have [/size]remarkably[size=4] progressed into the second round the 16th occasion, but 15 consecutive appearances since 1954 - three times winners in 1954, 1974 and 1990. Their squad is made up of: [/size][size=4]16 from Germany (7 from Bayern Munich, 4 from Borussia Dortmund, 2 from Schalke, 1 from Freiburg, Honnover, Borussia Monchegladbach), 4 from England (3 from Arsenal, 1 from Chelsea); 2 from Italy (Lazio and Sampdoria), 1 from Spain (Real Madrid). Germany [/size]finished[size=4] top of Group G by beating Portugal 4-0, drawing 2-2 with Ghana and won 1-0 against the USA, scoring 7 goals (4 from Thomas Muller, 1 from Mario Gotze, Mats Hummels and Miroslav Klose), conceding 2. Germany have reached at least the last 4 of the past 3 World Cups and for every World Cup since 1954, their final position has always been in the top 8. Against Algeria, Germany should efficient enough to reach the quarter-finals. It certainly isn't a perfect international team, with some key players being injured, but they are still very efficient, organised, clever and very German, with Thomas Muller scoring goals and their attacking players are creative and very dangerous on the counter-attack. Germany's defence has looked a little open at times, but it shouldn't be too much of an issue yet.[/size]

[size=4]Algeria, ranked 22nd (their highest was 19th in 2012), have [/size]qualified[size=4] for the second round for the first time in their history - although, ironically, Germany played out a draw in the group stage of the 1982 World Cup to see Algeria knocked-out. Their squad includes: [/size][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]4 from Italy (Inter, Napoli, Udinese, Livorno), Spain (Valencia, Getafe, Granada and Mallorca); 3 from England (Tottenham, Watford, Leicester), France (Reims, Ajaccia and Valenciennes), Portugal (Porto, Sporting and Academica); 2 from Algeria 2 from Algeria (CS Constantine, USM Alger); 1 from Croatia (Dinamo Zagreb), Qatar (Lekhwiya), Tunisia (Club Africain) and Bulgaria (CSKA Sofia). Algeria finished second in Group H, losing 2-1 to Belgium, beat South Korea 4-2 and drew with Russia 1-1, scoring 6 goals (2 from Islam Slimani, 1 from Yacine Brahami, Abdelmoumene Djabou, Sofiane Feghouli, Rafik Halliche), conceding 5. Algeria were expected to be a tough team, but they have been a surprise at this World Cup as they've been very organised and difficult to beat and they have more of a threat going forward than in 2010. They could be a tricky opponent to Germany in the last 16. [/size][/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][size=4]The two previous meetings were won by Algeria (2-0 v Germany in a friendly in 1964 and 2-1 in the group stage of the 1982 World Cup). But I don't see history repeating itself and I expect Germany to win 2-0. Germany should have more than enough about them to score at least a couple of goals and they should be able to press and prevent Algeria from going forward. But if the German forwards struggle to create or score chances and their defence is as open as it was at times in the group stage, then Algeria could have a chance. [/size][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font='Open Sans'][/font][/color]

Argentina have progressed to the second round for the 12th and are looking to reach a third consecutive quarter-final appearance. The side ranked 5th in the world (1st in 2007) are looking to claim a third world title. Their squad includes: 7 from Italy (3 from Inter, 2 from Napoli, 1 from Catania and Lazio); 4 from Spain (2 from Barcelona, 1 from Celta Vigo and Real Madrid); 3 from England (Manchester City), Argentina (2 from Boca Juniors and 1 from Newell's Old Boys) and Portugal (2 from Benfica, 1 from Sporting); 2 from France (PSG and Monaco) and 1 from Mexico (Monterrey). Argentina qualified as group winners and won all of their games, beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1, Iran 1-0 and Nigeria 3-2 scoring 6 goals (4 from Lionel Messi and 1 from Marcos Rojo), conceding 3. Despite being one of four teams to have won all of their group games, Argentina weren't all that impressive and were heavily reliant on moments of magic from Lionel Messi. If he performs well then Argentina have more than a chance of doing well, but I feel that other attacking players need to join in and cause problems to opponents, the team needs to be more creative and coherent in midfield and defence is a real issue. Nevertheless, I think Argentina should have enough to beat most of their opponents - even when they are not playing well.

Switzerland are ranked 6th in the world (previous best was 3rd in 1993) and they have reached the second round for the 6th time with their best performance being quarter finals in 1934 and 1938. Their squad includes: 9 from Germany (2 from Wolfsburg, Freiburg, 1 from Bayern Munich, Hamburg, Nurnberg, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach); 7 from Switzerland (3 from Basel, 2 from Grasshopper, 1 from Zurich and Young Boys); 5 from Italy (3 from Napoli, 1 from Juventus and Sassuolo); 2 from Spain (Valencia and Real Sociedad). They finished second in Group E, beating Ecuador 2-1, losing 5-2 to France and defeated Honduras 3-0, scoring 7 goals (3 from xhedran Shaqiri, 1 from granit xhaka, Harris seferovic, blerim dzemaili and admir mehmedi), conceding 6. Switzerland are a very difficult team to beat and have lost only twice in twenty matches. They are far from spectacular, but they are solid and efficient and generally well balanced. The performances and results in the group stage were mixed, but Switzerland should give Argentina a good game and a shock cannot be ruled out.

In the 6 previous times the two teams have met, Argentina have won 4 and drawn 2. They last met in 2012 when Argentina won 3-1 and their only World Cup meeting was a 2-0 Argentinian victory in the group stage in 1966.

I'm going for a 2-1 victory for Argentina. Switzerland will be a tough opponent for Argentina and the South Americans need to play better than they did in the group stage. I suspect that Lionel Messi will once again make a difference and score or create some goals.

Belgium, ranked 11th in the world (their highest was 5th last year), have reached the second round for the 6th time in their history. In the first World Cup for 12 years, Belgium are hoping to reach the semi finals as they did in 1986. Their squad is made up of: 11 from England (3 from Tottenham, 2 from Manchester United, Everton, 1 from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City); 3 from Belgium (Standard Liege, Anderlecht and Zulte Waregem); 2 from Spain (Athletico Madrid), Germany (Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg), Russia (Zenit); 1 from Portugal (Porto), Italy (Napoli) and France (Lille). They won all of their group matches to finish top of group h, beating Algeria 2-1, Russia 1-0 and South Korea 1-0, scoring 4 goals (1 from Marouane Fellani, dries mertens, divock origi and jan vertonghen), conceding just 1 goal. Belgium haven't been spectacular and at times lack cohesion but this inexperienced golden generation have been efficient enough to win all their games, conceding just one goal which was a penalty, and they know how to win games late. On paper they should go through, but it should a close but interesting match against the USA. They may not have impressed, but Belgium are a dangerous side in this World Cup.

The USA are ranked 13th in the world (their highest ranking was 4th in 2006) and they have qualified for the second round for the 5th time - their best was semi finalists in 1930. Their squad is made up of: 9 from USA (2 from Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, 1 from LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo); 4 from Germany (Nurnberg, Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich, Hertha Berlin) and England (Everton, Stoke, Aston Villa and Sunderland); 1 from Canada (Tornoto), Mexico (Puebla), Netherlands (AZ), Norway (Rosenborg), France (Nantes), Turkey (Beskitas). They finished second in group g, beating Ghana 2-1, drawing 2-2 with Portugal and losing 1-0 with Germany, scoring 4 goals (2 from clint Dempsey, 1 from john brooks and jermaine jones), conceding 4. The USA have been impressive with their work rate, energy and organisation which makes them a very decent international side that's greater than the sum of the parts. This makes for a very interesting encounter with Belgium and the USA have a chance of reaching the quarter finals.

The two sides have only met once in the World Cup in 1930 when the USA won 3-0. Since then, the two sides have met four times with Belgium winning on every occasion, the most recent being a 4-2 victory in 2012.

I'm predicting a 1-0 victory for Belgium. It will be a very tough game for them but I suspect they'll have enough to stop the USA from scoring and Belgium should be able to score enough to beat the USA and Belgium could be dangerous on the counter attack. However, the USA have every chance of progressing.

Predictions
Quarter finals:
Brazil 2-0 Colombia
France 1-2 Germany
Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica
Argentina 2-1 Belgium

Semi finals

Brazil 2-1 Germany
Netherlands 1-2 Argentina

3rd place play off
Germany 3-1 Netherlands

Final

Brazil 3-2 Argentina
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