B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Messi Takes Centre Stage

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Messi Takes Centre Stage

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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 (based on FIFA's official decision).

    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 correct scorelines and the Man of the Match awards right will get a Bleacher Report goody bag.

Argentina vs. Iran

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    Alex Dimond: Argentina 2-0 Iran

    Iran showed against Nigeria that they are no pushovers, with a strong work ethic and great tactical organisation courtesy of coach Carlos Queiroz. Nevertheless, Argentina are an entirely different proposition to the Africans and should win comfortably as long as they avoid the initial tactical misstep that hampered them against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    It can be easy to overthink the Man of the Match awards, so let's be straightforward and go for Messi, who figures to be a shoo-in if he has any involvement in Argentina's goals.

     

    Karl Matchett: Argentina 4-0 Iran

    Alejandro Sabella will heed his team’s improvement after the tactical switch against Bosnia-Herzegovina and line up more offensively. Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero’s movement, with Messi to worry about between lines, will be too much for Iran to deal with. As well as they defended against Nigeria, they weren’t exactly stretched and tested from all angles. Argentina will be a different proposition.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    Expect lots of confident dribbling, slipping passes through to the front two, and a goal or two of his own.

     

    Michael Cummings: Argentina 2-0 Iran

    After beating Bosnia-Herzegovina in the opener, Argentina's path would seem clear in Group F. Beating Iran might not be as easy as some think, but Alejandro Sabella's side have more than enough firepower to do the job.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    He scored in the opener, and Iran will have a tough time keeping Messi under wraps. Look for the Barcelona man to have a breakout game.

     

    Sam Tighe: Argentina 3-0 Iran

    Argentina struggled to get going against Bosnia-Herzegovina, and were it not for Sead Kolasinac's unfortunate own goal in the third minute, they may well have stewed for a long while in frustration. Iran, although defensively disciplined against Nigeria, will be torn apart here.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    Iran's low block will be frustrating, and when you play against teams that deep, you need a spark to break them down. Who better than Leo Messi?

     

    Will Tidey: Argentina 3-0 Iran

    Comfortable win for Argentina here. Iran are stubborn opponents. but Argentina will get going for real in this one.

    Man of the Match: Gonzalo Higuain

    Higuain to score twice and steal Messi's thunder.

Germany vs. Ghana

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    Alex Dimond: Germany 3-2 Ghana

    Germany were rather gifted their opening win against Portugal, so this game might actually prove a far sterner test. Ghana showed a great attacking threat against the United States but looked suspect at the back, a combination that will probably ultimately see them on the losing end—and out of the competition—against Germany.

    Man of the Match: Mario Gotze

    Thomas Muller stole the headlines against Portugal, so let's go for one of his attacking partners to get the limelight this time. Gotze's combination of spatial awareness and trickery on the ball figures to be extremely problematic for Ghana's occasionally lax defence.

     

    Karl Matchett: Germany 3-1 Ghana

    Germany’s front line possesses so much movement that it will be tough for Ghana to keep up and remain organised at the back, something which hasn’t exactly been a strength anyway. They were atrocious on the ball in midfield against the USA and unimaginative going forward, seeking to continually cross from wide areas. That’s not going to damage Germany too much. Kevin-Prince Boateng surely has to come back into the XI to provide invention, but even so, Germany have too much for Ghana.

    Man of the Match: Toni Kroos

    His control of the ball in the middle, ability to dictate the flow of the game and find through balls will come to the fore against a side who work hard to close down but leave gaps in doing so.

     

    Michael Cummings: Germany 2-1 Ghana

    Germany awed in their opener, but some might have forgotten that Portugal had chances early in the match before the wheels fell off. Ghana likely won't have enough to pull off the upset, but with the deck stacked against them, the Africans could make a game of this. Then again, the Germans looked pretty unstoppable at times against Portugal.

    Man of the Match: Thomas Muller

    Does any player read the game better than Muller? Some might complain that his goals aren't "great," but what makes him so excellent is his movement and anticipation.

     

    Sam Tighe: Germany 2-0 Ghana

    Ghana flattered to deceive against the USA, dominating possession yet creating few chances and appearing woefully inefficient in the final third. Their defending—in particular John Boye's—was tragic, and Germany can pick them apart.

    Man of the Match: Thomas Muller

    I was tempted to go Mario Goetze here, but with Joachim Low it's tough to say who will play. He can't leave out the hat-trick hero, can he?

     

    Will Tidey: Germany 3-1 Ghana

    Ghana were very poor against the USA. Germany, meanwhile, romped to victory against Portugal. Thus, Germany win at a canter.

    Man of the Match: Thomas Muller

    Muller was brilliant in the opener; take him to add to his goal glut at World Cups.

Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

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    Alex Dimond: Nigeria 0-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Nigeria looked woeful for large parts against Iran, lacking in attacking ideas and alarmingly open at the back against what must be one of the competition's weakest attacks. Bosnia-Herzegovina, in contrast, have some great attacking threats and, emboldened by the manner of their performance against Argentina, should break down the Super Eagles eventually.

    Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko

    Strike partner Vedad Ibisevic grabbed the goal in his side's opener, but Edin Dzeko's turn will surely come—with his ability in the air and on the deck likely to be highlighted at some point in this one.

     

    Karl Matchett: Nigeria 0-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Nigeria will probably appreciate having to counter-attack more than they did against Iran, where they were totally lost as to how to break down a team who sat back. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s defence is strong and powerful, well used to playing with each other and will take a lot to bypass. In attack, if Bosnia-Herzegovina go with the two-man front line they are used to playing, I’d expect them to possess enough movement and invention to create a few good chances.

    Man of the Match: Miralem Pjanic

    He pulls the strings in the middle and could be key to opening up Nigeria’s defence after transitions in play.

     

    Michael Cummings: Nigeria 1-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Bosnia-Herzegovina had a tough task in their opener, but now it's time to get down to business. This match is likely for second place in the group, and Bosnia-Herzegovina should be able to take care of Nigeria, who failed to score against Iran in their opener.

    Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko

    The big striker has a nose for goal, and he'll have a big game against the Africans. Bosnia-Herzegovina will need him to be firing if they want to make the knockout round.

     

    Sam Tighe: Nigeria 0-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Entering the tournament, I had these two sides very close, battling for second in Group F in epic fashion. Nigeria, though, have fallen short of where I imagined, with this side looking a mere wisp of the one who won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

    Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko

    His first game was poor, and Ibisevic's consolation strike compounded that. Dzeko will never be dropped, though, and he could be primed to bounce back here.

     

    Will Tidey: Nigeria 1-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Bosnia-Herzegovina were pretty good in periods against Argentina. They'll have too much for Nigeria.

    Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko

    Has to be Dzeko, the man to fire both goals and earn the three points.

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 Tighe40
    Michael Cummings38
    Karl Matchett38
    Will Tidey35
    Alex Dimond21