As the curtain came down on the World Cup’s group stage on Thursday, we were left with two thoughts.
One: we’re depressingly halfway to summer boredom once again, and two: can this tournament possibly get any better?
Indeed, Brazil’s instalment of the World Cup has been one of the best ever, and the good news is, there’s plenty more where that came from.
Pre-tournament favourites eliminated, shock results, heroes being born—yes, the first two weeks in Brazil have had it all, setting up a round of 16 draw to whet the appetite of any football fan.
Here, we take a look at who’s playing who in the last 16, with odds, predictions and a glance the potential shock of the round as we approach the winter of the tournament.
|June 28||Brazil vs. Chile||Brazil: 3-5 Draw: 4-1 Chile: 9-2||Brazil 1-2 Chile|
|June 28||Colombia vs. Uruguay||Colombia: 6-5 Draw: 5-2 Uruguay: 23-10||Colombia 3-1 Uruguay|
|June 29||Netherlands vs. Mexico||Netherlands: 11-10 Draw: 5-2 Mexico: 5-2||Netherlands 1-0 Mexico|
|June 29||Costa Rica vs. Greece||Costa Rica: 3-2 Draw: 11-5 Greece: 19-10||Costa Rica 2-1 Greece|
|June 30||France vs. Nigeria||France: 1-2 Draw: 17-5 Nigeria: 6-1||France 3-2 Nigeria|
|June 30||Germany vs. Algeria||Germany: 3-10 Draw: 19-4 Algeria: 10-1||Germany 2-0 Algeria|
|July 1||Argentina vs. Switzerland||Argentina: 11-25 Draw: 3-1 Switzerland: 6-1||Argentina 2-1 Switzerland|
|July 1||Belgium vs. USA||Belgium: 17-20 Draw: 64-25 USA: 17-5||Belgium 1-2 USA|
Chile Could Spoil Brazil’s Party
Though this year’s World Cup has been absolutely full of surprises, one thing has remained constant throughout—Brazil are under immense pressure.
Coming into the tournament having not progressed beyond the quarter-finals since winning the trophy back in 2002, the five-time champions now have the weight of an entire nation on their shoulders, pushing them towards glory.
However, even getting to the quarter-finals this year could prove a tough task, with Chile standing in their way in the last 16.
While the hosts have been a little unconvincing so far, Chile have been anything but, putting together three strong performances in Group B on their way to the runners-up spot.
Their brilliance hasn’t gone unnoticed, either, with Rio Ferdinand among those singing their praises on Twitter:
Spain don't want to be watching Chile after today.....they look sharp & ready to rock n roll!— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) June 13, 2014
The way that Chile set themselves up, with pace in abundance up front combined with a stubborn defensive line, makes them a favourite for glory in Brazil, and so they proved in the group stage.
Brazil defender David Luiz was one of those that took note of Chile’s dangerous style, saying that his side will have their work cut out against them and, particularly, star man Alexis Sanchez—per FIFA.com:
Chile are a team who deserve to be there. They have a philosophy of playing good football. They have lots of pace and excellent players. Alexis is a star. I admire him a lot. He is a great player and we will need to be careful with him. We can't leave him any space.
Luiz will be one of those in charge of making sure that the Barcelona star doesn’t get any space, but if he lets his guard down for one moment then it could be costly.
Sanchez has scored nine goals in his last 14 internationals according to SoccerWay, including one against Australia in Chile’s opening World Cup match.
Though a lethal finisher, it’s Sanchez’s all-round game that Brazil need to be wary of when the teams collide on Saturday in Belo Horizonte, as he has the ability to turn defences inside out and provide the telling pass before a goal.
Keeping Sanchez quiet will be difficult for Brazil, whose journey seems destined to come to an end before July 13’s final.
Though it seems the Brazilians have made vast improvements since opening the World Cup against Croatia, their performances need to drastically improve once again if they’re to stay alive in the tournament.
If both sides bring their group-stage form into Saturday’s round of 16 clash then there’s only going to be one winner, and it’s not one that will go down well with the Sao Paulo crowd.
However, the hosts do have a not-so-secret weapon up their sleeve—Neymar.
Co-leading the World Cup scoring charts with four, the 22-year-old comes into the knockout stage in the form of his life—as OptaJoe revealed:
Though his four goals have come against far weaker opposition than he’ll be facing at the Estadio Mineirao, he remains one of the hottest properties in world football.
Which nation will progress to the World Cup 2014 quarter-finals?
With both sides harbouring fierce attacking lines, it’s clear where on the pitch the match will be won—in the defensive areas.
Though Brazil have expectations to meet and Neymar to call upon in their time of need, having a defensive line as shaky as theirs could see them crash out at the first knockout-stage hurdle.
A counter-attacking team are a thorn in Brazil’s side and there are few in the business better than the Chileans.
It’s bound to be a tight affair in Belo Horizonte, but Chile just about have the edge on the pitch. All that’s left for Jorge Sampaoli’s side to do is silence the 12th man, which their football is more than capable of doing.
Prediction: Brazil 1-2 Chile