Anybody else up for a little game of knockout?
The 2014 World Cup's round of 16 is set following Thursday's results, and the beginnings of the knockout stage are set to get underway on June 28.
This part of the tournament is when things really start to get interesting. Oh, you thought the group round was as good as it could get? Yeah, things are going to get really crazy in about 48 hours.
Watching Spain, Portugal, Italy and England bow out of the tournament early was definitely shocking, but there are more shocking results on the horizon. In an unforgiving format like the knockout round, anything can happen.
Below is the updated FIFA schedule for the second round of the World Cup.
|June 28||Noon||Brazil vs. Chile||ABC|
|June 28||4 p.m.||Colombia vs. Uruguay||ABC|
|June 29||Noon||Netherlands vs. Mexico||ESPN|
|June 29||4 p.m.||Costa Rica vs. Greece||ESPN|
|June 30||Noon||France vs. Nigeria||ESPN|
|June 30||4 p.m.||Germany vs. Algeria||ESPN|
|July 1||Noon||Argentina vs. Switzerland||ESPN|
|July 1||4 p.m.||Belgium vs. USA||ESPN|
While the World Cup is the largest team tournament in the world, the knockout stage will ultimately be decided by the exploits of the individual.
Nearly all of the remaining 16 teams have a superstar player they can turn to when a match is on the line. We'll look at a few below who will dictate the success of their respective teams.
Uruguay, once thought to be a dangerous team in this tournament, is now like a cat without its claws. Luis Suarez, oftentimes the most potent offensive player on the pitch, has been suspended nine international matches for his antics in Tuesday's win over Italy, reports FIFA's official media account:
DISCIPLINARY: Uruguay’s Luis Suarez suspended for 9 matches & banned for 4 months from any football-related activity.— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) June 26, 2014
Duncan Castles of SI.com tweeted that Suarez can't even interact with his teammates as a result of the ban:
Uruguay will be at an unbelievable disadvantage without Suarez. They scored just four goals in group play. Suarez had two of them. The other two were scored by Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin.
Cavani and Godin both must step up, but the other players on the roster must as well. It's now crunch time for the Uruguayans against Colombia.
There are other players who will be on the pitch for their teams that will make an impact directly. One such player is Lionel Messi.
To say the Argentinians rely on Messi is an understatement. Already with four goals to his ledger in this World Cup, Messi has been absolutely stunning on the pitch. The offense runs through him.
This is perhaps the best remark from the opposition regarding his play so far:
He can take over matches in an instant. He can play quietly for stretches of time before sneaking into space created by the defense and catching them napping. That's what makes him great. Switzerland must defend well and have eyes on Messi at all times.
The Swiss have their work cut out for them in that regard, however.
Who will perform better in the knockout stage?
One final star to watch in the knockout stage is Neymar. The Brazilian leader has four goals under his belt already, and similarly to Messi, he is the main contributor on offense for Brazil.
Oscar, Fred and Fernandinho have each contributed a goal apiece, but Neymar is the man who keeps this Brazil team firing on all cylinders. Although they appeared flat against Croatia and Mexico, Brazil silenced critics with a 4-1 drubbing of Cameroon.
Chile will be a much tougher test, though.
Chile are hot right now after making it through a strong Group B that featured Spain and the Netherlands. Neymar will need to be in top form for his team to move on.
This stage will be all about the top stars showing their stuff. Don't miss a minute of it all.
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter.