The opening stages of the World Cup have motored along, and we’re now on the cusp of finding out the line-up for the last 16. The 32 teams involved have tussled for a spot in the top two places in each of the eight groups, and ahead of the final set of group games, there is still plenty to be decided.
On Day 12, three teams from Group A will battle it out for the two qualifying berths, while Group B will see Chile and Netherlands go head-to-head in a straight shootout to see who tops the standings. The only dead rubber of the four games is Spain vs. Australia, both of whom will progress no further than the group stage.
Ahead of what is set to be an intriguing day, let’s take a closer look at the three games with permutations attached, how the respective groups are shaping up ahead of those matchups and see how the bookmakers are viewing the clashes.
|Fixture (Team 1 vs. Team 2)||Team 1||Team 2||Draw|
|Brazil vs. Cameroon||25-147||20-1||15-2|
|Croatia vs. Mexico||8-5||47-25||12-5|
|Netherlands vs. Chile||9-5||8-5||5-2|
|Spain vs. Australia||100-227||7-1||15-4|
Cameroon vs. Brazil
The host nation’s passage to the second round is not quite secure yet, but Brazil know a point against Cameroon would be good enough for them to progress into the knockout stages; a win would see them guarantee top spot.
The only scenario that would see Brazil eliminated is if they were to lose against Cameroon and Croatia and Mexico were to draw their game. And although Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have flattered to deceive in the tournament so far, Cameroon have been extremely poor and should be overwhelmed by the South Americans.
Nonetheless, odds of 25-147 on a Brazil win don't represent very good value, and you’d have to stake a significant amount to get any kind of decent return. You don’t want to find yourself in a scenario comparable to this punter:
Brazil need a big performance to properly kick-start their tournament. If they can play with a swagger and vibrancy against the Africans—maybe notch a few goals, too—they could accrue some vital momentum as we head to the next phase of the competition. If they start well and net early on, a rout could be on the cards against.
Prediction: Cameroon 0-3 Brazil
Croatia vs. Mexico
This is the kind of game that makes the group stages such an enthralling spectacle. Both Croatia and Mexico can qualify for the next phase at the expense of Brazil, but the more likely scenario is that the winner of their match will take the spoils and progress in second place behind with the hosts.
Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl can’t wait for this one:
Can't wait for Mexico-Croatia. Head to head with World Cup survival likely on the line. Just how you want it.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 19, 2014
After playing out a 0-0 draw against Brazil last time out, Mexico hold the advantage going into this one. They know they will qualify for the next round if they avoid defeat, and in front of a crowd that is going to be overwhelmingly in their favour, you would probably expect them to edge this one over a very capable Croatia side.
The Mexico supporters are already doing their utmost to make things difficult for the opposition, as noted here by Rory Smith of The Times:
Croatia are moving into the hotel. Arrive in the lobby to be greeted by a deafening chant of "Mexico, Mexico."— Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimes) June 21, 2014
Admittedly, Croatia will feel a little aggrieved not to be sitting on four or even six points themselves. They were let down by some extremely poor refereeing in the opening match of the tournament, but recovered well to hammer Cameroon 4-0. In Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic they have some superb talents capable of getting at this Mexico defence, which has yet to breached.
Even though El Tri only need a point, expect them to play with the same vigour that was on show against Cameroon and Brazil. With Croatia knowing that only a win would be enough for them, they will also play with with an attacking onus, which should make for a gripping battle. Expect an even but open game; the draw looks good value at 12-5, here.
Prediction: Croatia 2-2 Mexico
Chile vs. Netherlands
After both sides won both of their opening two games, Chile and Netherlands know their passage into the next round is secured. But both sides will be striving to finish top of the group and avoid a likely meeting with hosts Brazil in the last 16.
After thumping Spain 5-1 in their first game of the competition, Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side currently occupy the top spot on goal difference, and a draw would be good enough for them to stay there. However, if they’re going to get the point they require, they’ll have to do so without Robin van Persie, who misses out due to suspension.
His omission means something could occur that’s not happened in a Netherlands team for 18 years, as noted here by ESPN:
Netherlands set to field team without player whose surname begins with 'Van' for first time since 1996 against Chile http://t.co/jqWcagiWQb— ESPN.co.uk (@ESPNUK) June 22, 2014
But Chile have the capabilities to cause some real problems for this Oranje team. Their aggressive, intense style of play had the Spanish in knots during their 2-0 win last time out, and they will be keen to keep their momentum going against another of European football’s most illustrious football nations.
Without Van Persie, the goalscoring responsibility will fall squarely on the shoulders of Arjen Robben, and although the Bayern Munich man has shone in this tournament, the Dutch could struggle without his strike partner helping to provide a twin threat. Chile can take advantage, and at 9-5, Jorge Sampaoli’s team look the bet of the day.
Prediction: Chile 2-1 Netherlands