Half of the quarter-final spots are filled in this wonderful World Cup, and the line-up for the last eight will be even more complete by the end of Day 19, which treats us to a duo of intriguing second-round ties.
France have been one of the most exciting teams to watch at the tournament, and they take on African champions Nigeria in the first game of the day. Later, Algeria—one of the competition's surprise packages—take on Germany in what is set to be another intriguing contest.
The last 16 has already served up some sensational drama, and given the precedent this World Cup has set for enterprising, attacking football, there’s no reason that won’t continue Monday.
Here’s a look at both games, how the bookmakers expect them to pan out and a prediction for each.
|Fixture (Team 1 vs. Team 2)||Team 1||Team 2||Draw|
|France vs. Nigeria||50-111||15-2||7-2|
|Algeria vs. Germany||10-1||100-303||9-2|
France vs. Nigeria
Didier Deschamps’ team started the tournament in superb fashion, scoring eight goals in their opening two games. They played with vigour and togetherness, qualities that eluded France teams of years gone by, with Deschamps getting the best from this crop of indisputably talented players.
Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe thinks the France boss deserves great credit for the manner in which the French have performed:
Credit Deschamps. Whatever happens in KO stages, he knows how to mould a team and get it playing well. #FRA (3/3)— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) June 27, 2014
They’ll be big favourites ahead of this one, but Nigeria are no pushovers. The Super Eagles may not have the ingenuity to match this French team, but Stephen Keshi has assembled a team that is bristling with pace and power, which should see them pose plenty of problems for Les Bleus.
Even though Deschamps rang the changes in France’s 0-0 draw with Ecuador in their final group game, Keshi would have been encouraged by what he saw. Late in the game, the South Americans were able to hit the French on the break with ease, and despite being down to 10 men, La Tri could have nicked a win with a little more guile.
Who will progress to the quarter-finals?
The Super Eagles will implement similar tactics in this one, a style that served them well in their last game, which they were unlucky to lose 3-2 against Argentina. But just as there were weaknesses for Nigeria to exploit from France’s last outing, Deschamps will know that Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena have the quality to really get at this Nigerian back line.
Keshi knows how to steer this team to results, and they’ll be a tough nut to crack for the French. Two of the four last-16 ties have required extra time so far, while another was decided deep into stoppage time, providing an indication of how tight these clashes can be.
The draw after 90 minutes looks the best value here at 7-2. France should just have enough to emerge victorious after extra time.
Prediction: France 2-1 Nigeria (after extra time)
Germany vs. Algeria
Remember the arduous and abrasive Algeria side that stunk out the 2010 World Cup with their dreary defensive performances? That certainly seems a very long time ago after watching this refreshed Fennec Foxes team in Brazil.
A narrow defeat to Belgium in their first game could have paved the way for a poor tournament for Vahid Halilhodzic’s team, but they regrouped to hammer South Korea 4-2 in their next group game before a 1-1 draw with Russia in their last outing confirmed qualification to the knockout phase of the tournament for the first time in the nation's history.
They became the first African team ever to score four goals in a World Cup match, as noted here by Bet365:
The striking thing about this Algeria team is their tactical flexibility. Despite conceding in all of their group games so far, this team can revert to their diligent, defensive model when required. They’ve also got plenty of intensity in their forward forays, which relieves the pressure on the back four and gives them a much better chance of picking up points.
They’ll need all of the nous they can summon against this Germany team, who have been one of the standout sides in the tournament. Joachim Low arguably has the most well-rounded squad of any remaining in the competition, and it’ll be intriguing to see what side he selects to get the best of the Algerians.
Who will progress to the quarter-finals?
The Europeans will naturally be the big favourites for this one, but Algeria will be hoping to draw inspiration from 32 years ago, when the Fennec Foxes unexpectedly beat the Germans in the 1982 World Cup.
They’re 10-1 to repeat the feat, and although you’d be naive to completely rule out their chances this time around, the Germans look likely to progress to the quarter-finals. There isn’t much value in backing them at 100-303, though. This one is probably best left alone from a betting perspective.
Prediction: Germany 2-1 Algeria