B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: It's Suarez vs. Balotelli

Alex LivieFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: It's Suarez vs. Balotelli

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

Costa Rica vs. England

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    Alex Dimond: Costa Rica 2-2 England

    Let's make a pact never to back England again. If, as expected, Roy Hodgson changes his lineup completely, then that might engineer a response, but Costa Rica's organisation and work rate figures to earn them something from this. They deserve to top Group D.

    Man of the Match: Joel Campbell

    Perhaps with one eye on giving Arsenal something to think about, Joel Campbell may well find joy against an England defence that figures to be much changed from recent games.

    Karl Matchett: Costa Rica 1-1 England

    England will change their side, so those coming in will have plenty to prove to show they could be part of the new-look Three Lions going forward. Costa Rica, however, won’t be anything less than a dreadfully tough opponent as they ride high on the elation of having secured progression with a game to spare.

    Man of the Match: Ross Barkley

    Let’s be optimistic and suggest Ross Barkley might put in a performance on the world stage to suggest better times are ahead for England.

    Michael Cummings: Costa Rica 1-0 England

    It just hasn't happened for England this time. The kids might get their chance in a meaningless match, but it won't make a difference against Costa Rica, one of the best teams of the tournament so far.

    Man of the Match: Keylor Navas

    Despite the two losses, England's attackers have played pretty well in Brazil. They might do so again, but they'll have to beat Keylor Navas in Costa Rica's goal.

    Sam Tighe: Costa Rica 1-2 England

    I have a niggling feeling England will sneak this one now that the pressure is off. It'll be a much-changed side so the chemistry might be off, but I wonder how Costa Rica will respond to being expected to win.

    Man of the Match: Daniel Sturridge

    Sturridge has had a good tournament despite elimination and will end it on a high note.

    Will Tidey: Costa Rica 1-1 England

    Who cares? Well, Costa Rica fans, obviously. I can't see a classic unfolding here, that's for sure—more a plodding exercise in getting through 90 minutes.

    Man of the Match: Luke Shaw

    Luke Shaw to impress, after being given his chance.

Italy vs. Uruguay

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    Alex Dimond: Italy 1-1 Uruguay

    How much effort did Uruguay—Luis Suarez in particular—expend in overcoming England? Italy were poor against Costa Rica, but a draw gets them through to the knockout stages.

    Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli

    Another goal for Mario Balotelli could earn him match honours. After struggling against Costa Rica, he surely needs a big performance to prevent Ciro Immobile from stealing his starting spot.

    Karl Matchett: Italy 1-2 Uruguay

    It’s tough to know which Italy team might turn up after one good and one inept performance. So the safest bet at these finals appears to be a bonkers, end-to-end, utterly illogical match with a late equaliser for the side who looked like they were going to win comfortably anyway—only to fall behind even later on in the game, thus knocking them out of the entire World Cup.

    Man of the Match: Luis Suarez

    Luis Suarez to rescue Uruguay with another big goal and send them through.

    Michael Cummings: Italy 1-2 Uruguay

    Luis Suarez is fit, all right. England found that out, and now it might be Italy's turn. Then again, it's hard to rule out Italy in any World Cup. This will likely be a tight match, and home-continent advantage might just give Uruguay a slight edge.

    Man of the Match: Luis Suarez

    When he's fit, he's one of the best on the planet. His performance against England would suggest that he's fit. Expect Italy's defending to be better, but if Suarez is in the mood, he'll be tough to stop.

    Sam Tighe: Italy 2-1 Uruguay

    It's win or go home for Uruguay, and I'm betting they go home. The Italians screwed up against Costa Rica, but they'll bounce back here.

    Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli

    Balotelli to snag the goals and make himself a hero.

    Will Tidey: Italy 1-2 Uruguay

    Italy looked tired and lacked ideas against Costa Rica. I expect they'll be back firing against Uruguay, but I just think the South American side will edge the scrap based on one man's contribution.

    Man of the Match: Luis Suarez

    Has to be Suarez again. He was the difference against England, and I think he can be the difference against Italy.

Greece vs. Ivory Coast

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    Alex Dimond: Greece 0-1 Ivory Coast

    Greece did well to hold on against Japan while down to 10 men, albeit without showing much attacking threat. They need to beat Ivory Coast to progress, but you wonder where the goals are going to come from. The Africans will score eventually with all of the athleticism in their side.

    Man of the Match: Wilfried Bony

    Wilfried Bony has the power and presence to cause all sorts of problems to a Greece defence that prides itself on similar qualities. If he scores, the Man of the Match award could be his.

    Karl Matchett: Greece 0-1 Ivory Coast

    This could be a dreadfully dull game or a thoroughly exciting one on account of a number of mistakes. Greece have to do what they don’t like to do (attack), and Ivory Coast should progress by doing what they have so far been incapable of doing (defend). Ivory Coast to win it off a Serge Aurier cross.

    Man of the Match: Gervinho

    Gervinho showed some of his best form in the last game, so we’ll back him to continue that and be one of the few Ivory Coast players who can open up this Greek defence.

    Michael Cummings: Greece 0-2 Ivory Coast

    The Greeks have been dour. Ivory Coast should have more than enough attacking talent to break down what figures to be another determined, defensive performance.

    Man of the Match: Gervinho

    Breaking down Greece might require a speedster with enough skill on the ball to create chances for himself. Arsenal fans probably still can't believe it, but Gervinho was that player quite often this past season for Roma.

    Sam Tighe: Greece 1-0 Ivory Coast

    Going against the grain, I'm picking Greece to do a Greece and win their last game by a goal to qualify. It's a real punt—they haven't scored yet in the competition—but this is football; it's unpredictable.

    Man of the Match: Georgios Samaras

    Samaras to score the only goal on a classic counter-attack.

    Will Tidey: Greece 1-3 Ivory Coast

    Greece will put up their usual good fight, but they've missed too many chances at the tournament. I'm predicting they'll do the same against Ivory Coast.

    Man of the Match: Gervinho

    Gervinho to continue his public transformation from Arsenal joke to credible hitman.

Japan vs. Colombia

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    Alex Dimond: Japan 0-2 Colombia

    Colombia have been impressive, if slightly flawed, in qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition. They should have enough firepower to overcome a Japan side that has lacked for a cutting edge.

    Man of the Match: Juan Cuadrado

    Juan Cuadrado's pace and stamina will surely wear down Japan given time. If he is not rested, that is.

    Karl Matchett: Japan 1-2 Colombia

    Japan play some lovely football, but they really lack in two key areas on the pitch: centre-back and centre-forward. They’ve struggled for goals, while Colombia play fast, attractive, transition football. In this tournament, that has won out almost every time. Colombia to top the group with three wins from three.

    Man of the Match: Juan Quintero

    Colombia could rest some players, so Juan Quintero to come in and show his undoubted talents.

    Michael Cummings: Japan 0-2 Colombia

    Colombia are so much fun to watch. They've been almost perfect in the group stage, winning both games so far by a combined 5-1 scoreline. Japan are technically still alive, but not for much longer.

    Man of the Match: James Rodriguez

    He has been the most exciting player for one of the tournament's most exciting teams. Watch out for another eye-catching performance.

    Sam Tighe: Japan 0-2 Colombia

    Japan don't have the energy to press Colombia, and that means they can't stop their buildup play. They need to win to qualify, but this one's beyond them.

    Man of the Match: James Rodriguez

    Rodriguez to star for the third game running. Goals and assists!

    Will Tidey: Japan 0-3 Colombia

    Colombia have been arguably the most impressive and entertaining side at the tournament thus far. They'll have far too much for Japan.

    Man of the Match: James Rodriguez

    I like James Rodriguez as the star of this one. Colombia's No. 10 has been their key player and would be at the heart of a team of the tournament.

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 Tighe54
    Michael Cummings51
    Karl Matchett 47
    Will Tidey46
    Alex Dimond 33