B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Pirlo to Keep Italy Rolling

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2014

B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Pirlo to Keep Italy Rolling

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    Bleacher Report's experts were keen not to rest on the laurels of their efforts of last season, so they will go into battle for the whole of the World Cup.

    Each game will feature a score prediction combined with a Man of the Match selection (decision will be based on FIFA's official Man of the Match).

    The predictions are in the following slides, and you will be able to chart their success—or lack thereof—for the rest of the tournament on our daily scoreboard.

    Post your own picks on Twitter and include @br_uk. Anyone who gets all scorelines and the Man of the Match awards correct will get a Bleacher Report goody bag.

Italy vs. Costa Rica

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    Alex Dimond: Italy 1-0 Costa Rica

    Italy were solid against England, although to a certain extent they were gifted their goals by defensive lapses from their opponents. Costa Rica will be buoyed by their surprise opening win over Uruguay, but Italy's greater class will eventually tell over the course of the 90 minutes.

    Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo

    Andrea Pirlo's calm and manipulation of the ball is likely to be influential in this game, helping break down a Costa Rica defence that will sit as deep as possible for long periods. As FIFA love handing the award to the most well-known player possible, he figures to be a likely winner if he helps Italy break through.

     

    Karl Matchett: Italy 2-0 Costa Rica

    Italy looked strong offensively in possession and then impressive tactically once they had the lead in their opening game. Costa Rica pulled off a shock result, but that won’t be happening this time. They’ll be happy to take their qualification chances to the final fixture; Italy will be just about through with their second win.

    Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli

    It won’t be easy for the patient Italian attack to break down Costa Rica, so a clinical forward will be required.

     

    Michael Cummings: Italy 2-0 Costa Rica

    Costa Rica might have surprised Uruguay in their Group D opener, but Italy will be ready for the CONCACAF side now after seeing what Joel Campbell and Co. can do. Expect a typical Italian World Cup performance and another passing masterclass from Andrea Pirlo.

    Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo

    As the saying goes, he just gets better with age. England found that out (again) in the previous game, and Costa Rica will get their footballing lesson next. Maybe a free-kick goal this time?

     

    Sam Tighe: Italy 2-0 Costa Rica

    Costa Rica may have been able to upset a poor, off-the-pace Uruguay side, but Italy will be a bridge too far. The Azzurri are too good, too strong, too wise and too well organised to sustain a loss to such a team.

    Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo

    Pirlo should be pulling the strings here. He came close to scoring against England, hitting the bar with a free-kick, and he's due a magnificent showing.

     

    Will Tidey: Italy 2-0 Costa Rica

    Italy were measured and clinical against England. Expect the same against Costa Rica, who just won't be able to break them down.

    Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo

    Pirlo, predictably. He'll run the show and score one of those sublime free-kicks.

Switzerland vs. France

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    Alex Dimond: Switzerland 1-1 France

    France produced arguably the best all-round performance of the opening round of fixtures, dominating Honduras with grace and purpose. Switzerland, in contrast, left it late to steal victory over Ecuador. But Ottmar Hitzfeld knows how to set up his side for such games, and they have an attacking threat of their own. A moment of brilliance from the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri might just be enough to steal them a draw.

    Man of the Match: Diego Benaglio

    France's array of attacking talents is impressive, so if Switzerland do indeed get something out of this contest, then goalkeeper Diego Benaglio figures to be a key part of that (although perhaps not quite to the same extent Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa was against Brazil).

     

    Karl Matchett: Switzerland 1-2 France

    This could be a really intriguing game, but France are in excellent form and their front three are nigh on unstoppable at this point. Switzerland are organised and have quality going forward, but their centre-forward options let them down. France will win the game, making the most of turnovers and transitions.

    Man of the Match: Mathieu Valbuena

    His ability to ghost into space and pick a quick pass is key to France’s attack.

     

    Michael Cummings: Switzerland 1-2 France

    Whisper it softly, but France look quite good. The infighting of four years ago doesn't seem to be an issue this time, and with players like Mathieu Valbuena and Paul Pogba, they've got an immensely talented midfield. In the attack, Karim Benzema continues to impress, while Olivier Giroud is giving his critics some food for thought.

    Man of the Match: Mathieu Valbuena

    When France are clicking, it's usually because Valbuena is pulling the strings. We saw it against Honduras, and we'll see it again against Switzerland.

     

    Sam Tighe: Switzerland 1-1 France

    Switzerland massively underwhelmed in their first showing, whereas France ripped Honduras to shreds with free-flowing movement and killer passing. That makes for an intriguing contest as both sides are at a different stage in their progressions, but the Swiss defence is mean and won't allow Les Bleus the freedom they had in their opener.

    Man of the Match: Karim Benzema

    He was phenomenal in the first match, and if Didier Deschamps continues to play the same way and give him the same freedom, there's no reason to think his performance will drop.

     

    Will Tidey: Switzerland 0-3 France

    France to really fire again in this one. They looked great first up, and I have a feeling they could make a serious run in Brazil.

    Man of the Match: Karim Benzema

    Benzema is so sharp right now. He'll score another couple and continue his momentum.

Honduras vs. Ecuador

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    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Alex Dimond: Honduras 0-1 Ecuador

    Honduras looked more intent on trying to kick France out of the game in their first match than actually creating anything themselves. It's a tactic that perhaps won't work as well against Ecuador, especially as both sides are in desperate need of a win.

    Both sides drew with England in pre-tournament friendlies, but Ecuador look to have more about them, and that quality will tell in the end.

    Man of the Match: Jefferson Montero

    Honduras look ill-equipped to deal with either Antonio Valencia or Jefferson Montero, so whichever one of those speedy attackers makes the breakthrough figures to be in line for Man of the Match honours. On this occasion, Montero may be that man.

     

    Karl Matchett: Honduras 0-2 Ecuador

    There could be as many red cards as goals in this one, with both sides rather rugged in the challenge and desperate for points. Ecuador are the better side and should prevail if they hold their nerve. Honduras have little in midfield-transition play, and their forwards will basically need to score each time they shoot if they are to take anything.

    Man of the Match: Enner Valencia

    Runs from the second line, good in the air and in great form since his move central.

     

    Michael Cummings: Honduras 1-1 Ecuador

    Ecuador boss Reinaldo Rueda led Honduras to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His counterpart, Honduras' Luis Fernando Suarez, used to coach Ecuador. Sounds like a stalemate waiting to happen.

    Man of the Match: Felipe Caicedo

    The striker struggled in the opener as wingers Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero found it difficult to trouble the Swiss defenders. Against Honduras, Caicedo might just receive more—and better—service.

     

    Sam Tighe: Honduras 0-1 Ecuador

    This is a battle of two drab teams, so I've plumped for the one who has more energy, more assertion and more drive to win. The Hondurans are essentially butchers; it's unclear how focused they are on actually playing football and scoring goals.

    Man of the Match: Jefferson Montero

    He was great in the first game in patches, and it can't all be left to Enner Valencia up top, can it?

     

    Will Tidey: Honduras 1-2 Ecuador

    Both teams will be desperate to win this one. We should expect a very tight, tetchy encounter, separated by a single goal.

    Man of the Match: Enner Valencia

    Enner Valencia to be Ecuador's match-winner.

Updated Standings

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    B/R Expert Picks

    (One point for correct result, three points for correct scoreline, two points for correct Man of the Match.)

    Sam Tighe37
    Michael Cummings37
    Karl Matchett 34
    Will Tidey26
    Alex Dimond 20