Four South American teams will do battle when the 2014 World Cup round of 16 finally kicks off on Saturday, with the hosts Brazil taking on Chile in Belo Horizonte before Uruguay and Colombia square off in Rio De Janeiro.
A lack of football on Friday meant even more attention was brought on the Luis Suarez incident, with Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez stealing the headlines by quitting FIFA's technical committee, per The Daily Mail's Neil Ashton.
The announcement was made in a bizarre speech to which the English and Uruguayan press reacted in a very different way, per The Independent's Sam Wallace:
Rambling Tabarez speech comes to an end. He refuses to take questions & leaves. Applauded by Uruguayan press. Utterly bizarre ...— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) June 27, 2014
The rant was of course a response to FIFA's punishment for Suarez, as shared by SportsCenter, which the Uruguayans deemed excessive:
BREAKING: FIFA has suspended Luis Suárez for nine games and four months overall, including club matches. pic.twitter.com/9MASLNwssH— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 26, 2014
There's little doubt we will be hearing more from this story, but for now, all four teams will have the small matter of the round of 16 to focus on:
|Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Match||TV Info||Live Stream|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||Brazil v Chile||ABC/BBC1||WatchESPN/BBC iPlayer|
|9 p.m.||4 p.m.||Colombia v Uruguay||ABC/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player|
Brazil's Undefeated Home Streak Will Come Under Serious Threat
Per the AP's Tales Azzoni via the London Evening Standard, Brazilian manager Felipe Scolari told the press six months ago he was hoping the Chileans wouldn't make it out of Group B. Going into Saturday's tie, he knew all too well why he said that:
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.
Scolari knows the threat he is facing all too well, and of every possible opponent Brazil could have faced in the round of 16, Chile were the one team they wanted to avoid.
The European press was sleeping on La Roja coming into the tournament, but no mas. This team is very athletic, very physical and very, very talented. Everybody knows Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, but the entire starting XI is bursting with potential.
Chile have the one thing Brazil seem to have lacked so far in this tournament—synergy. Their movement in space has been excellent so far, and the Chileans seem to have little difficulty finding passing lanes against the tightest of defences.
The same can't be said for Brazil, who for all of their talent have often looked like a bunch of talented individuals playing football together, as opposed to an actual team. Defensively things have been solid, but they've yet to face an attack as potent as Chile's.
If the hosts wish to overcome their Chilean adversaries, they'll need to find a way to break down a Chilean defence that won't give up much space. More importantly, they're going to have to find a way to gel as a team.
This match could make or break Brazil's entire tournament—a tough challenge against a South American rival. The Chileans will hit the Brazilians hard, but if the Selecao can overcome their challenge, the emotion of such a win could catapult them to the World Cup title.
Uruguay Will Only Have Themselves to Blame for Colombia Debacle
When faced with adversity, there are two paths a team can choose from—you either use it to gel as a group and fuel the rest of your campaign, or you throw a tantrum and allow the distractions to completely derail your preparations.
Care to guess which path La Celeste have chosen?
Tabarez's conspiracy rant was embarrassing. The Uruguayan manager spent several minutes complaining, sulking and bringing up one emotional argument after the other, time he could have spent gathering his thoughts and actually doing his job—managing.
Whether Suarez's punishment is excessive or not is irrelevant at this point—he won't be on the pitch on Saturday, so you might as well focus on the players who will. Tabarez and his compatriots have been so busy demonising the English press and the world in general, they've seemingly forgotten there's a World Cup on the line.
Colombia haven't. They've arguably been the best team of the entire tournament so far, outscoring their opponents 9-2 on their way to three wins. A number of vital players were rested in their final match, and they still made a mockery of their Japanese opponents.
This is not a team to take lightly, whether you're Brazil, Germany or the Suarez-less Uruguayans. La Celeste have allowed all of the distractions to take centre stage in the past few days, and Tabarez's ridiculous decision to dedicate a press conference to Suarez the day before the match was the cherry on top.
Without their top striker, Uruguay could have used every minute of preparation going into this match. And come Saturday evening, they'll probably be blaming everybody else for their lack of concentration against the Colombians.
No, Mr. Tabarez. You'll only have yourself to blame.