World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal side may be headed home as the World Cup gears up for the round of 16, but the action is truly just beginning in Brazil with the pretenders now out of the way.
What an odd batch of pretenders they are, too. Mainstays such as England and Italy are out, as are defending champions Spain.
To console those who wanted to see the same old sides in contention, understand that the fresh blood remaining opens things up for a new generation of fans around the globe. On an international scale, the proceedings are very much still an entertaining affair.
Here is a look at how to catch the upcoming fixtures and a glimpse at the overall bracket.
|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|
Note: Matches can be watched online at ESPN3.
Matches to Watch
Brazil vs. Chile
It was rather predictable that the home side would make it out of Group A, and really, Neymar and Co. would have done so no matter the locale.
Which team wins?
Croatia was no match, succumbing 3-1. The Mexican side forced a draw before Brazil posted four goals in the triumph over Cameroon. Next up is Chile, a side that have scored five goals so far, and who were able to upend Spain, 2-0.
It has to be a sour feeling for Chile, a side routinely dominated by its South American rival. Brazil have never lost to the Chilean side at home, nor at all over the past decade. Yet it was Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari who wanted to avoid the rival in the second round back when the draw was announced, per The Associated Press, via ABC News:
When I talked about Chile then, people made fun of me, they said Chile wasn't good enough. But I already knew the work of coach [Jorge] Sampaoli and their players. We already knew how they played.
The upset potential is there as it is the best side Chile has fielded in a long time, but Brazil's form is top notch at the moment. Neymar has scored four goals in three matches to put his name up there with the likes of Lionel Messi and Thomas Mueller, while the home-pitch advantage truly starts to come into effect in the knockout stage.
There is a reason the Brazilian side has not been eliminated in the second round since 1990. Likewise, the Chilean side has only made it past the second round once—at home in 1962.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Chile
Netherlands vs. Mexico
Perhaps the biggest match of the next stage features the most dominant side of all through group play, Netherlands.
But, as Tom Marshall of ESPN notes, there is a lot on the line for the hungry El Tri side:
Netherlands vs. Mexico - Sunday, June 29 in Fortaleza. El Tri going for first quarterfinal since 1986 and first ever outside Mexico.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 23, 2014
Wins over Cameroon and Croatia by a combined 4-1 margin say a lot about the Mexican side, but it is the aforementioned goal-free draw with Brazil in hostile territory that shows what they are about.
Which team wins?
It's unfortunate that the surprising Mexican side has to dance with Netherlands, because it has the look of a massacre.
Netherlands have brutalized sides on their way to the knockout stage, winning three matches by a combined score of 10-3, including a 5-1 triumph over Spain.
For those keeping track, the match should be a high-scoring affair by all accounts. But when it comes down to it, Netherlands is simply more talented and on a bigger roll thanks to stars like Robin van Persie, who has three goals in just two matches after missing the game against Chile for consecutive yellow cards.
Bank on the Dutch to pull away late.
Prediction: Netherlands 4-2 Mexico