World Cup 2014 Predictions: Projecting Potential Knockout-Round Matches

Danny CollinsFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo shoots to score the opening goal during their friendly soccer match with Cameroon Wednesday, March 5 2014, in Leiria, Portugal. It was Ronaldo's 48th goal with Portugal making him the national team's best scorer ever. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Armando Franca/Associated Press

The greatest show on the planet is now only 31 days away. With the domestic leagues now all but over, and with only the Champions League to decide, let's take a look at how we think the World Cup second round will pan out. 

From the eight first-round groups, two teams each will qualify for the round-of-16 knockout ties. 

Here's who we think will progress.

28 June 2014

Second-round 1:

Brazil v Chile, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 5 p.m.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Chile showed just what a dangerous opposition they are when they romped to an easy 2-0 win over England at Wembley in 2013. Brazil will represent a very different prospect for the Chileans. Led by Alexis Sanchez, they finished third behind Colombia and Argentina in the South American World Cup qualifying group. 

They are an astute side that will come up short when faced with the tide of patriotism and energy that Oscar and Neymar will ride this summer. 


28 June 2014

Second-round 2:

Colombia v England, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 9 p.m.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

England should just about escape their group of death ahead of Uruguay. Colombia should easily progress from their group, and they will represent a very different proposition to the English from their last World Cup encounter. 

The 1998 match in France saw England prevail 2-0 thanks to a David Beckham free-kick and a Darren Anderton strike. This time, the technically gifted Colombians, playing on their home continent should ease past the English. Radamel Falcao will be key for the Colombians. Don't expect the Three Lions to go home without a fight, though. 


29 June 2014

Second-round 3:

Spain v Croatia, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 5 p.m.

Darko Bandic/Associated Press

This could prove to be a real feast for the neutral. Two technically magnificent sides who relish the tactical jousting that comes in the knockout stages. 

Spain will go through, but Croatia, with their talismanic Luka Modric will prove a stubborn outfit to break down. This one could go all the way, so don't be surprised to see penalties. 

Spain to progress.


29 June 2014

Second-round 4:

Italy v Ivory Coast, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 9 p.m.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

If this match comes to fruition, it will be a battle of contrasting styles. Italy's perfectly balanced side orchestrated by the metronomic passing of the peerless Andrea Pirlo versus the buccaneering athleticism of Ivory Coast. 

Conditions in Brazil will not be conducive to the Ivory Coast's game, so expect Italy, led by Mario Balotelli, to catch them on the counter-attack and comfortably ease into the quarter-finals. 


30 June 2014

Second-round 5:

France v Nigeria, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 5 p.m.

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

Nigeria are the rising force of African football and France are the underrated dark horses of the European game. Providing France avoid any camp controversy, they should coast past the Nigerians. 

Led by Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, their firepower should be too strong for the Nigerian defence to hold off. Jon Obi Mikel is Nigeria's talisman, but the defensive midfielder cannot hold his own in the Premier League at times—he will struggle at the World Cup. 


30 June 2014

Second-round 6:

Germany v Russia, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 9 p.m.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

It is a tough call to decide who will go through in second place in Group H between South Korea and Russia. The fact of the matter is that whoever prevails, they will be put to the sword by the ever-improving Germans. 

Expect to see the Germans really put on a show here and lay down their credentials for becoming the first European side to win a World Cup in South America. 


1 July 2014

Second-round 7:

Argentina v Switzerland, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 5 p.m.

Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

Lionel Messi is well aware that if he is to be considered in the same vein as Diego Maradona and Pele, he must win a World Cup. He will have no better opportunity than at a South American World Cup in his prime.

Switzerland may be ranked eighth in the FIFA world rankings, but they will be helpless to hold back the Messi-inspired waves of attack. Add to that Maxi Rodriguez, Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero, and the Argentinians have quite a side. 

Back them to go all the way. 


1 July 2014

Second-round 8:

Portugal v Belgium, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 9 p.m.

Armando Franca/Associated Press

This matchup has all the makings of a classic. The epitome or individual brilliance versus collective excellence. Cristiano Ronaldo versus Europe's vogue side. 

Belgium's riches are unprecedented; a side devoid of weakness and genuine contenders to reach the semi-final at least. But Ronaldo on his day can eviscerate any opponent. Much will depend on Ronaldo's form come the day, but romantics among us will hope to see the Madeiran star progress all the way in this tournament.

How fitting to see at least one of the two greatest players in history—Messi and Ronaldo—reach a World Cup final at their peak.

We can hope.