World Cup Predictions 2014: Projections for Top Players on Day 19

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

France's midfielder Paul Pogba heads the ball during an official training session the day before the group E World Cup soccer match between France and Switzerland at the Arena Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, Brazil, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
David Vincent/Associated Press

The World Cup has been a tournament of such epic drama that none of us could have predicted just how entertaining the tournament was going to be.

We have only just reached the knockout phase of the competition, yet most are already calling it the greatest World Cup in living memory.

Day 18 saw more drama as Costa Rica booked their place in the last eight of the tournament via penalties, after the Netherlands had performed last-gasp heroics with two goals in the dying seconds to eliminate Mexico.

Day 19 sees two wonderfully balanced round of 16 matches as European powerhouses Germany and France take on African hopefuls Algeria and Nigeria, respectively. 

Here we predict which players from these two games are likely to steal the headlines.


Paul Pogba To Reign Supreme

David Vincent/Associated Press

Sir Alex Ferguson got many things right in his career as manager of Manchester United, but he surely got it wrong in the case of Paul Pogba. The French international left Old Trafford amid bad feelings and joined Juventus―and has never looked back.

Pogba is the archetypal modern midfielder and is destined to take the crown as the world's greatest in his position in the near future.

For Juve, the player hit eight goals and provided eight assists in 50 Serie A and European matches last season, per, proving his pedigree as his club once again ran away with the Italian league championship.

Ferguson was concerned about Pogba's development, but the player has shown he loves the big stage and craves the battle of the big competitions. And as a genuine box-to-box threat, Pogba will give France the superiority they need when facing the best teams at the World Cup.

Pogba is now attracting interest from all of the richest clubs in the world and, even at the astronomical transfer value quotations for the player, he is being endorsed by some of the biggest names in the game.

Rio Ferdinand recently tweeted his opinion on Pogba's value:

The round of 16 will see Pogba explode all over the competition. His time has arrived and Nigeria will be easy pickings for a player who is ready to show the world he is one of the planet's elite talents. With an eye for goal, Pogba may end the match as a scoring hero for France, but either way, expect him to be the individual driving force en route to the quarter-finals.

France have surprised many at this tournament, but with a player as good as Pogba in the middle, anything is possible. 


Mesut Ozil To Show His Class

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

It has been a strange 12 months in the playing career of Mesut Ozil.

First, we saw Real Madrid prepared to offload him to Arsenal, albeit for a huge transfer fee. Then we saw the attacking midfielder produce some wonderful performances as the the North London club stormed to the top of the Premier League.

But then we witnessed a dip in form so dramatic that Arsenal nearly dropped out of the Champions League qualification places, leaving his reputation in tatters back in Germany. 

However, an end-of-season FA Cup victory saw a smile back on the German international's face and prepared him for the summer campaign in Brazil.

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 26: Mesut Oezil of Germany reacts with teammates as he exits the game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match between the United States and Germany at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Martin
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Ozil started all three of Germany's group matches and showed flashes of brilliance. The only thing missing is a goal or assist for a team that has already hit the back of the net seven times, per

However, now we are at the business end of the competition and Ozil is sure to up his game. 

With Thomas Mueller looking as potent as he ever has been and the youthful brilliance of Mario Goetze in the side, Ozil has the quality in front of him to dictate play.

Algeria have proved in this competition they are tough opponents, and Germany did surprisingly slip to an unexpected draw against Ghana, but Ozil will be expected to arrive at the party in the round of 16 and give his country the performance they need from him.

Germany should qualify comfortably to set up a quarter-final match with France, and Ozil will provide the magic needed to hurdle their African opposition. 


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