The dust has finally settled on the group stage of World Cup 2014 and it’s hard to have imagined it being such an attacking goalfest nor could we have predicted the list of squads that are heading home and the surprises booking spots in the Round of 16. We saw England underwhelm at a major tournament once again, Italy implode, France become a resurgent force, an end to the Spanish dynasty, and Costa Rica become the surprise package of the tournament. Klinsmann and the Yanks were able to force their way out of the Group of Death, surprising a few, but repaying the faith placed in them by the hardcore few. I love the World Cup, but my utmost favorite stage during the quadrennial tournament is the Group Stage, and I’m already mourning the loss of three matches a day, every day. What we do have to look forward to are the enticing Round of 16 match-ups beginning today. Let’s take a look at them below:
Today (Saturday 28 June)
Brazil (1st Place Group A) v.
Chile (2nd Place Group B)
You’ve got to be disappointed in the draw if you’re Chile, meeting the Brazilians for the fourth straight World Cup in the knockout rounds. Having lost the prior three matches and with a slew of in-form performers, I think the Chileans will be up for it and will definitely make it difficult on Brazil in their defensive third. Brazil looks to continue on their pre-ordained path to the final at the Maracana, but I’m not convinced that it’s definitely on the cards for them. They looked a bit sluggish against the Croats in the opener, and in the end the scoreline flattered them to be honest, and Mexico (read: Memo Ochoa) pushed them to the brink. Brazil hasn’t quite shifted into full gear yet, might this be the chance for Chile to exact their revenge?
Prediction: Brazil 3 – Chile 2 (AET – After Extratime)
Colombia (1st Place Group C) v.
Uruguay (2nd Place Group D)
Well, as we all know, there will be no more Azzurri at the World Cup this time around, but as a fan I can be happy that we won’t be trotting out a sad, slow squad against a hungry Colombian XI who look set to make a deep run. That honor is bestowed upon La Celeste of Uruguay, without their star man Luis Suarez for once again being a gigantic d**k. Sure pal, you “lost [your] balance and hit [your] face on the player, hurting [your] teeth”. And I’m the King of England. Suarez was excused from the tournament and for a further 9 games for Uruguay and 4 months of all soccer-related activities by FIFA, and rightly so. With his loss coupled with Colombia’s stellar form in the tournament so far, I’d venture to say that Uruguay will have a tough match on their hands.
Prediction: Colombia 3 – Uruguay 1
Tomorrow (Sunday 29 June)
Netherlands (1st Place Group B) v.
Mexico (2nd Place Group A)
Netherlands meets the surprising Mexican outfit looking to channel their manager’s, Miguel Hererra, enthusiasm, energy, and pride to shock the high-flying Dutch. I think this match may be a highlight of the round as both teams look solid both going forward and at the back, the Mexicans are coming together as a squad with a battle mentality and may mount a fight against Robben, van Persie, et al. It will depend upon whether the Dutch can continue to string together lightning counterattacks, and keep Oribe Peralta and Gio Dos Santos quiet.
Prediction: Netherlands 2 – Mexico 1
Costa Rica (1st Place Group D) v.
Greece (2nd Place Group C)
The undisputed surprise outfit of the cup so far, Costa Rica, against another shock participant in the knockout rounds in Greece. Greece’s passage through the Group Stage is the first in it’s World Cup history and they won’t want to go home right away, they may even be counting their lucky stars that their first knockout round match is against Costa Rica and not any of the other heavyweights from Group D in Italy, England, or Uruguay. Costa Rica is admittedly in a rich vein of form right now, and will look to break down a disciplined, organized Greek outfit. Greece will be glad to sit back and allow Costa Rica to open themselves up for a counterattack, which may make this a frustrating watch.
Prediction: Costa Rica 1 – Greece 0
Check back on Sunday for the second half of the Round of 16 matchups, and enjoy the football!
Hands clasped, we pray for olé…