So here we go the phoney war is over and it now all becomes very very very real. One of these teams WILL win the World Cup – here we go with my preview of the Round of 16 ties and predictions too.
Brazil vs Chile – Brazil have beaten Chile in the last 16 at the 1998 and 2010 World Cup. Furthermore they have not lost to their South American neighbours since the year 2000. You could argue that Chile have looked and played better football than the hosts but they would need to overcome a shocking record of only 8 wins in 70 matches. One crumb of comfort is that the last time Chile played in Brazil was at the same Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte that will host this game, the result a 2-2 draw they would take that now. My prediction 2-1 Brazil – after extra time in a nervy match for the hosts.
Colombia v Uruguay – Well the Maracana will host an all South American affair in their round of 16 knockout game. Colombia, without their star man, Radamel Falcao have looked fantastic this World Cup – winning all their games in great style. James Rodriguez has taken on the mantle and has been in sparkling form. They are strong defensively, free scoring (9 goals in their 3 group matches) and have a great opportunity to go far in this competition. Uruguay on the other hand after a shocking opening defeat to Costa Rica, have survived through stealth and the undoubted quality of star striker Luis Suarez, unfortunately for them due to another disgraceful biting incident his World Cup is over. The stealth comes from their strong and physical backbone to the team – led by the formidable Diego Godin, who scored the goal that put them through the group, though he should really have not been playing after his extremely fortunate escape afer committing two stonewall yellow card offences against England, for some reason the Madrid based referee decided to let him off. Maybes the luck is with the two time champions. I feel it is likely that it will run out especially as their defeat was the one match Suarez did not play in. Colombia 2-0 for me.
Holland vs Mexico – The Dutch came away from their group with a 100% record looking very strong beating Spain, the now dethroned World Champions 5-1, the quality in their team is unquestionable with Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder as their three main musketeers. Mexico nearly did not make the party at all, they needed two late USA goals against Panama to just make the play-offs, which they won easily against New Zealand under the then newly appointed manager, Miguel Herrara. The new man has galvanised the Mexicans and what they may lack in quality they make up for with their hearts and team work. They have only conceded one goal, shut out the hosts Brazil as well as matching their points total in the group, only coming second on goal difference. This match takes place in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza with kick off at a local time of 1pm, the hot and humid conditions will suit the North American team and the longer the game stays level Mexico’s confidence will improve. This one I feel will also go to the wire and the returning Robin Van Persie (he was suspended for Holland’s last group match – so will be well rested) – may just make the difference. My prediction 2-1 to Holland.
Costa Rica v Greece – Well well well – what can be say about Costa Rica, they topped a group containing three former World Cup winners – Uruguay, Italy and England and bested them all. More so they were unbeaten, an outstanding achievement for a team who many thought were the whipping boys of Group D. They actually turned out to be the TOP boys and they now have chance to make it to the quarter finals of the World Cup. They made the second round in 1990 before defeat to Czechoslovakia. Their exuberant manager Jorge Luis Pinto has managed them superbly and now the opportunity presents itself again. Greece, despite being basically a non-football team somehow managed to get through their group after a last gasp penalty winner against Ivory Coast. The African side will be kicking themselves, but credit to the 2004 European Champions, for fighting to the end to qualify from the group phase for the first time in their history. In fact history will be made whoever wins this game as neither side has ever made the last eight of the World Cup. For the sake of football anyways I’m going for a the Central Americam team to get the win – Costa Rica 3 Greece 1.
France v Nigeria – France have arguably been the team of the tournament. Brilliantly managed by Didier Deschamps they are now a TEAM unit and have progressed serenely through the group phase (www.biggishmouthblog.com/biggishmouth-world-cup-french-revolution). Eight goals, the manager has got the best out of star striker Karim Benzema who has three of them and they are not missing Franck Ribery in the slightest. Standing in their way are the holders of the African Cup of Nations, Nigeria. After an insipid performance against Iran they stepped it up against Bosnia and Herzegovina and after a slice of luck when their opponents had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, they took control of the game, scored and then held out for a massive victory. Defeat to Argentina was expected but they put in a spirited performance coming from behind twice before losing 3-2. However I think their journey will end at the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia with a French victory. Score prediction 3-0 France.
Germany v Algeria – So the Germans do as expected and top Group G. It did seem that they would walk this section after demolishing Portugal 4-0 in their opening game. However they looked vulnerable in defence against Ghana (2-2) and then struggled to break down the USA needing a wonder strike to best them 1-0. To be honest though, Germany, can sometimes do just enough to get though a group to then hit their strides in the knockout phase. I suspect that will be the case against Algeria. They have already made history by qualifying for the knockout phase of the World Cup for the first time with a come from behind draw against Russia. Intriguingly they face the Germans, a team (as West Germany) they beat in their first ever World Cup match but ended up being knocked out after a contrived 1-0 result between the then two times World Champions and Austria, a match called the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’ – and it was. Algeria now have their chance for revenge, can they do it??????? Well they will need to play how they did against South Korea and the second half versus Russia. To be honest its a no brainer game – Germany have to win don’t they??????? This is my heart prediction – Germany 0 Algeria 1!!!!!!!
Argentina v Switzerland – Three wins, nine points and Argentina have made it comfortably to the last 16 as expected. Lionel Messi has four goals (of the six they have scored – one was an own goal) so basically has single handedly got through one of the pre tournament favourites. They may have won all their group games but they have looked vulnerable at the back and their strikers (apart from the little magician) have not fired let alone scored. Maybe the jeopardy of being one game from going out will spark them into life. The team they will face, much to Sepp Blatter’s pleasure, is Switzerland. At 5-0 down against the French, I imagine qualification from the group may have been the last thought on the managers, the canny and extremely experienced, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s mind. However since that time they have scored five goals without reply with their star man Xherdan Shaqiri turning up in their last match versus Honduras, scoring a hat-trick which secured their passage to the round of 16. He will need to do so again if the Swiss are to pull off a massive upset and beat the South American giants, I don’t think that will happen. 4-1 to Argentina.
Belgium v USA – Many experts tipped Belgium as dark horses with their ‘golden generation’ of players (www.biggishmouthblog.com/biggishmouth-world-cup-golden-generation-red-devils). Three wins has not dampened those thoughts and their manager Marc Wilmots has shown he can change personnel within a game to affect a positive outcome for his team. Despite a 100% record in the group phase, Belgium will need to up their game now they are in the knockout stages of the tournament – they have the options though and showed real grit in beating South Korea despite being down to ten man for the whole second half. Their opponents in the last 16 are the USA – a team definitely ‘UNITED’. Jurgen Klinsmann has managed his team superbly getting the best out of players who on paper you would probably think they were not up to the standard of the ones they have been playing against. The spirit they have shown has been remarkable, pegged back by Ghana, then they ‘went again’ and scored a winner, had the better of a strong and desperate Portugal side before they were pegged back again literally in the last seconds, which actually stopped them from qualifying from the group after just two games. However they were challenged to ‘go YET again’ and performed admirably putting up a fantastic fight all be it in defeat against a Germany team who needed a wonder goal to secure victory. Belgium will not have everything their own way in this game and I think with Jurgen instilling such belief in the American team, we could be in for a shock result. Belgium 1 USA 1 – then the lottery of penalties!!!!!!!
Let me know what you think – you can also tweet me @biggishmouth or go to my facebook page at www.facebook.com/thebiggishmouth