While there was little room for error in the group stage at the World Cup, there is absolutely none of that in the upcoming round of 16.
There have already been quite a few surprises in this tournament with teams like Spain, Italy, England and Portugal going home while Costa Rica, Greece and Nigeria remain alive in the competition. With the event moving to single elimination, things are about to get even crazier.
Still, only one of the 16 teams remaining can come away as World Cup champions at the end of the grueling month.
Here is a complete look at the schedule for the knockout stage with predictions for the upcoming matches. All matches will be available to view on live stream at ESPN3.
|Date||Round||Match #||Matchup||Time (ET)||Where|
|June 28||Round of 16||49||Brazil vs. Chile||12 p.m.||Belo Horizonte|
|June 28||Round of 16||50||Colombia vs. Uruguay||4 p.m.||Rio De Janeiro|
|June 29||Round of 16||51||Netherlands vs. Mexico||12 p.m.||Fortaleza|
|June 29||Round of 16||52||Costa Rica vs. Greece||4 p.m.||Recife|
|June 30||Round of 16||53||France vs. Nigeria||12 p.m.||Brasilia|
|June 30||Round of 16||54||Germany vs. Algeria||4 p.m.||Porto Alegre|
|July 1||Round of 16||55||Argentina vs. Switzerland||12 p.m.||Sao Paulo|
|July 1||Round of 16||56||Belgium vs. United States||4 p.m.||Salvador|
|July 4||Quarterfinal||58||Match 53 winner vs. Match 54 winner||12 p.m.||Rio De Janeiro|
|July 4||Quarterfinal||57||Match 49 winner vs. Match 50 winner||4 p.m.||Fortaleza|
|July 5||Quarterfinal||60||Match 55 winner vs. Match 56 winner||12 p.m.||Brasilia|
|July 5||Quarterfinal||59||Match 51 winner vs. Match 52 winner||4 p.m.||Salvador|
|July 8||Semifinal||61||Match 57 winner vs. Match 58 winner||4 p.m.||Belo Horizonte|
|July 9||Semifinal||62||Match 59 winner vs. Match 60 winner||4 p.m.||Sao Paulo|
|July 12||3rd Place Match||63||Match 61 loser vs. Match 62 loser||4 p.m.||Brasilia|
|July 13||Final||64||Match 61 winner vs. Match 62 winner||3 p.m.||Rio De Janeiro|
South America has played extremely well to start the tournament with five of the six teams reaching the next round. Only Ecuador were eliminated so far, and that was mostly due to a miracle late goal by Switzerland.
However, most of these teams will now have to compete against each other, as noted by Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated:
FIFA's clever plan to hurt South America: Make 4 South American teams fight for 1 semifinal spot (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay).— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) June 24, 2014
The most intriguing of these matches will be between Brazil and Chile in the round of 16. Chile have shown that they can be extremely dynamic with Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal creating tons of chances on the attack. The problem is that the aggressive approach will leave openings for Neymar and company to help the hosts escape with a win.
Meanwhile, Uruguay will have trouble without Luis Suarez, who will miss the rest of the tournament for biting an opponent. Colombia have the ability to move onto the quarterfinals, but they cannot match Brazil in the next round and the squad will keep things up into the semifinals.
It seems like no one can stop Thomas Mueller when he gets near the net. The German forward scored his fourth goal of the tournament against the United States, helping his side win the difficult Group G and get into good position in the knockout stage.
His manager Joachim Loew explained, via Brett Martel of The Associated Press:
Right now he is very difficult for any opponent to figure out and it's difficult to stand against him because he's a very smart player and he finds always a way to go into the area. He's been in great shape for weeks, and you have the impression it's so easy for him.
Of course, Germany might be able to slow down if Mueller was the only true attacker. However, teammates like Mario Gotze and Miroslav Klose add to a roster that has world-class players at every position.
The squad should be able to move past Algeria in the next match and follow that up with a close battle against France in the quarterfinals. No matter who Germany plays, they should be able to keep up their winning ways into the semifinals.
Not only did Netherlands win all of their matches in the group stages, but they did it against some very good opponents. They shocked the world in the first contest when they defeat Spain, 5-1. They struggled a bit against Australia but still came away with a win over the Socceroos, and then over Chile.
It will be difficult to keep this up against the strong defense of Mexico, but stars like Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have proven the ability to score against anyone.
Even in a close match, the Dutch will find a way to get onto the scoresheet and advance to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, the other round of 16 battle remains a bit more of a surprise, as ESPN the Magazine mocked:
And so now we get to watch the marquee Round of 16 matchup of Costa Rica-Greece! ( o_0 )— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) June 24, 2014
Although this will be a great moment for one of these teams to reach the quarterfinals, neither one will have a strong chance of defeating Netherlands en route to the semifinals.
With Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria and others on the attack, there is no question Argentina have one of the top scoring teams in the world. No matter who is playing defense, this group will find a way to get the ball into the back of the net.
However, Bleacher Report's Graham Ruthven points out what has been holding the squad back:
That was pretty much what we all expected from Argentina pre-World Cup. Messi and co great on attack, but suspect at the back.— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) June 25, 2014
The good news for the top contenders is that this will not be a major issue until the final rounds. Switzerland are not consistent enough on offense to keep up with Argentina, while neither Belgium nor the United States have the centre-backs to stick with Messi.
America certainly have a chance to keep their surprise run alive with a move into the quarterfinals, but the dream will end with a one-sided battle against Argentina.
Germany over Argentina
It will take a major effort for anyone to beat Brazil on their home soil, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Brazil stays unbeaten in last 59 competitive home games (non-friendlies). Last Loss: vs Peru in 1st Leg of '75 Copa América semis #BRAvsMEX— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 17, 2014
However, Germany have been playing extremely well in every phase of the game. They have the type of elite midfield that can challenge Brazil for possession in the middle of the pitch and prevent them from getting easy opportunities.
With elite finishers across the pitch, Germany will be able to get the goals they need to pull off the upset.
Meanwhile, Argentina matches up well against the Netherlands as both sides will be extremely aggressive. The talent difference for the South Americans will give them the advantage.
This will lead to an exciting final that plays right into Germany's hands. Without a strong back line, Argentina will be unable to contain Mueller and will fall in a high-scoring final.
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