Did Friday, June 27 actually happen? Because one day without a 2014 World Cup match felt completely formless and rather useless.
No matter, as the global game's biggest tournament is back with an excellent slate of matches on Day 17 to kick off the knockout rounds.
The brief respite may have left fans in limbo without any soccer to set their schedules around, but it at least bolstered the anticipation heading into the knockout stages, where every match is do-or-die and national pride reaches a fever pitch.
The round of 16 features just six European teams, ensuring a decidedly international flavor. The regional winner of the group stages might have been CONCACAF, which saw three of its four entries—Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States—move on to the next round.
Day 17 of the World Cup is all about South America, however—the host continent, if you will. Brazil take on rivals Chile while Colombia and Uruguay will look to make their fans proud with a strong run to the quarterfinals.
Here is a complete roundup of fixtures, match odds and predictions for the round of 16 followed by an in-depth look at how Day 17 should play out.
|June 28||Brazil vs. Chile||Chile: 9/2 Brazil: 25/36 Draw: 103/25||BRA 2-1 CHI|
|June 28||Colombia vs. Uruguay||Uruguay: 23/10 Colombia: 6/5 Draw: 5/2||COL 2-0 URG|
|June 29||Netherlands vs. Mexico||Mexico: 51/20 Netherlands: 11/10 Draw: 27/10||NED 3-1 MEX|
|June 29||Costa Rica vs. Greece||Greece 19/10 Costa Rica: 3/2 Draw: 11/5||CRA 1-0 GRE|
|June 30||France vs. Nigeria||Nigeria: 6/1 France: 1/2 Draw: 17/5||FRA 4-2 NGA|
|June 30||Germany vs. Algeria||Algeria: 10/1 Germany: 100/333 Draw: 19/4||GER 3-1 ALG|
|July 1||Argentina vs. Switzerland||Switzerland: 6/1 Argentina: 100/227 Draw: 17/5||ARG 2-1 SUI|
|July 1||Belgium vs. United States||USA: 17/5 Belgium: 50/59 Draw: 13/5||USA 2-2 BEL (USA win 4-3 penalties)|
FIFA.com, Odds by OddsShark.com, Predictions by Nate Loop
Note: Match odds courtesy of Odds Shark.
The 2014 World Cup fixtures can be found in bracket form at FIFA.com.
Day 17 Preview, Predictions
Brazil vs. Chile
This is a rematch from the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup; Brazil easily defeated Chile 3-0 in that match.
In that tournament, Chile used a highly unorthodox 3-3-1-3 formation favored by then-coach Marcelo Bielsa. Current coach Jorge Sampaoli also favors under-utilized, aggressive formations, but he may need to temper his pressing approach with the likes of Neymar and Hulk on the pitch.
Neymar has appeared to be the sole source of Brazil's attack at times; his four goals ties him with Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller atop the leaderboard for the Golden Boot. His individual exploits and combination play have been fantastic so far in this World Cup.
Chile have every right to be worried about Brazil's attack, as the Brazilians feel they got back some of their attacking flair in the 4-1 victory over Cameroon.
"The main thing wasn't the result but the way the team played, getting back the spirit that we had in last year's Confederations Cup,” said Fernandinho, via The Guardian's David Hytner. "In the first two games of the World Cup, we missed that a bit."
Which South American team has the best chance of winning the 2014 World Cup?
Brazil need to be wary of overconfidence, as that last game came against a Cameroon team that had shown little spirit in the World Cup and played with no chance of advancing to the knockout round.
Chile can exploit Brazil's attacking full-backs Marcelo and Dani Alves; if their high-pressure style nets a turnover from the likes of Luiz Gustavo, Fernandinho or Oscar in midfield, Alves and Marcelo are liable to be caught upfield and well out of position. Chile's weary midfielder Arturo Vidal will be key to winning possession.
Chile should be able to net a goal from a counter-attack, but Brazil's attack will prove to be the greater creative force on the night, and the host nation will advance to the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Chile
Colombia vs. Uruguay
Uruguay's attack will be dormant unless Edinson Cavani can take care of the goalscoring without Suarez. He notched a penalty in the opening match against Costa Rica but did little else without Suarez on the pitch; as soon as he teamed up with the Liverpool stud in attack, he looked like a completely different player.
Cavani will have to play a taxing role as target man, creator and, according to The Independent's Ian Herbert, man-marking linchpin:
His increased responsibility should allow Mario Yepes and the Colombian defense to remain organized during the match and set up the attack. Players such as forward Christian Stuani and attacking midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro will have to step up for Uruguay to have a chance in this one.
Colombia's World Cup hopes were supposed to be dead in the water without striker Radamel Falcao. James Rodriguez, with his feathery touch and hammer of a left foot, has quickly made everyone forget about Falcao's absence and has his team positioned for a deep World Cup run.
ESPN Stats & Info summed up Rodriguez's performances in statistical form:
Bleacher Report UK's Rob Dawson had bold proclamations for his performance against Japan:
James Rodriguez pass for Colombia's second goal v Japan and his feet and finish for the fourth are frightening bits of skill. Great player.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) June 25, 2014
Rodriguez has found plenty of support from the likes of Juan Cuadrado and Teofilo Gutierrez. The attacking play has been extremely balanced for Colombia, which is precisely what will see them through to the next round.
Prediction: Colombia 2-0 Uruguay