B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: USA Aim to Shut Down Cristiano Ronaldo

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2014

B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: USA Aim to Shut Down Cristiano Ronaldo

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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.

Belgium vs. Russia

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    Alex Dimond: Belgium 1-0 Russia

    Neither side were particularly impressive in their opening games, although Belgium did well to come from behind to get victory against Algeria. Russia have a resilient defence—the only approach Fabio Capello seems to know—but Belgium's array of attacking talents figure to produce the one moment of inspiration that decides the game.

    Man of the Match: Romelu Lukaku

    It did not quite go the young striker's way in the first game, but he could well underline his importance and goal threat here.

    Karl Matchett: Belgium 2-1 Russia

    Russia didn't perform anywhere near well enough against South Korea, and they look a side without much invention, pace or individualism compared to the sides they have brought to tournaments over the past few years. Unless Fabio Capello lets Alan Dzagoev off the leash and Igor Denisov is restored, that won't change. Belgium have confidence and a little more knowledge after their own comeback win, and they should go on to top the group.

    Man of the Match: Dries Mertens

    Dries Mertens to build on his super-sub display and produce a decisive performance in the final third.

    Michael Cummings: Belgium 2-1 Russia

    Belgium started slowly against Algeria before finally coming good in the end. Against Russia they'll face a typical Fabio Capello side—meaning goals most likely will be in short supply once again. Much like the opener, this one might come down to Marc Wilmots' substitutions.

    Man of the Match: Eden Hazard

    While Wilmots' substitutions made the difference against Algeria, it's also true that Belgium's first XI oozes quality. At the forefront of that list is Eden Hazard. Look for the Chelsea man to make a match-swinging impact against Russia.

    Sam Tighe: Belgium 2-0 Russia

    Belgium overcame a slight hiccup against Algeria, but Marc Wilmots was able to change his formation and win the game using substitutions. Fabio Capello will make Russia hard to beat, but they will relent. Eventually.

    Man of the Match: Eden Hazard

    Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne had shocking opening games, and while both will likely start, I won't stake anything on them. Eden Hazard it is.

    Will Tidey: Belgium 3-1 Russia

    Belgium to really kick in for this one. Against European opposition, with their big-name players to click and everything to come together.

    Man of the Match: Eden Hazard

    Eden Hazard to run the show and demonstrate to the world what he's capable of.

South Korea vs. Algeria

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    Alex Dimond: South Korea 1-1 Algeria

    After failing to win their opening games, both countries really need a victory here, although they might be disappointed. With both defences well organised and seeming to lack a true cutting edge in attack, a draw may be the most likely result.

    Man of the Match: Sofiane Feghouli

    Feghouli showed how potent an attacking threat he can be against Belgium, and he should cause some damage again in this one.

    Karl Matchett: South Korea 0-1 Algeria

    Neither have shown great ability in the final third, and the result really could go either way. South Korea have good technical players, but it's going to be tough for them to break down an organised defensive unit like Algeria's, unless they commit more men forward or get another huge goalkeeping error. Algeria have a methodical look about their build-up but could just scrape the win.

    Man of the Match: Sofiane Feghouli

    Feghouli can have the impact Algeria need from open play or set pieces.

    Michael Cummings: South Korea 0-0 Algeria

    Some games at the World Cup have thriller written all over them. This is not one of those games.

    Man of the Match: Rais Mbolhi

    Expect South Korea to carry the greater threat against Algeria. If the teams do in fact play to a draw, the Algerian goalkeeper might be his team's most important player.

    Sam Tighe: South Korea 1-2 Algeria

    Algeria are something of an unknown quantity, as we're yet to see how good they are with the ball. I'm taking a gamble and saying they're better—or at least more efficient—than South Korea in the final third.

    Man of the Match: Saphir Taider

    Algeria are a threat for a number of reasons, and I'm tempted to go Yacine Brahimi here...but Taider is a sure starter and has an eye for a goal.

    Will Tidey: South Korea 2-1 Algeria

    Algeria played well against Belgium, but I expect South Korea to edge an entertaining clash here.

    Man of the Match: Heung-Min Son

    Son to continue his impressive start to the World Cup and get his name on the scoresheet.

USA vs. Portugal

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    Alex Dimond: USA 0-2 Portugal

    Both sides come into this one in wildly differing moods after their opening results, but I fancy Portugal to bounce back at the expense of Jurgen Klinsmann's side. Even with all of their injury and suspension issues, Paulo Bento's side should have the quality to overcome a USA team that looked pedestrian at times against Ghana.

    Man of the Match: Helder Postiga

    With doubts over the fitness of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Hugo Almeida, what are the odds that the wily veteran Helder Postiga steps up to make the difference in this one?

    Karl Matchett: USA 1-2 Portugal

    Portugal have no choice; they have to go and attack and try to win this game. USA look Portugal's match in all honesty, taking tactical approaches and man-for-man choices into account, so the result could come down to one moment of magic. And in that, Portugal have the upper hand.

    Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo

    The world's best player showed little against Germany; I expect that to change.

    Michael Cummings: USA 2-1 Portugal

    Sure, Portugal have the reigning Ballon d'Or winner. But they'll be without a few key players due to injury and suspension. The U.S., meanwhile, just ended their jinx against Ghana, and confidence is brimming. A crazy prediction? Probably so, but Jurgen Klinsmann seems to have the magic touch right now. Let's see if he can keep it going.

    Man of the Match: Tim Howard

    Cristiano Ronaldo will be dangerous, no matter how many players Portugal are missing—and no matter how well the American defenders play. In fact, it's highly likely that Ronaldo will have several good chances. But he'll still have to beat Tim Howard, who is fully capable of having a Guillermo Ochoa-style blinder in net.

    Sam Tighe: USA 0-2 Portugal

    The USA and Portugal experienced very different starts to the World Cup, with the former claiming a huge win and the latter enduring a miserable loss. Portugal still remain favourites to win out and qualify second from the group, though, and they'll start that run here.

    Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo

    Is he fit? Is he ready? It doesn't matter; Jurgen Klinsmann can't stop him. A brace beckons.

    Will Tidey: USA 1-3 Portugal

    Would love to see the U.S. notch another win, but Portugal will be too strong for them.

    Man of the Match: Joao Moutinho

    Moutinho to unpick a weak U.S. defence and make the difference.

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 Tighe43
    Michael Cummings41
    Karl Matchett 41
    Will Tidey36
    Alex Dimond 26