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B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Can Messi Deliver Again?

Alex LivieFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 28, 2016

B/R Experts' World Cup Predictions: Can Messi Deliver Again?

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Bleacher Report's experts were keen not to rest on the laurels of their efforts of last season, so they will go into battle for the whole of the World Cup.

    Each game will feature a score prediction, combined with a Man of the Match selection (based on FIFA's official decision).

    The predictions are in the following slides, and you will be able to chart their success—or lack thereof—for the rest of the tournament on our daily scoreboard.

    Post your own picks on Twitter and include @br_uk. Anyone who gets all scorelines and the Man of the Match awards correct will receive a Bleacher Report goody bag.

Argentina vs. Belgium

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    Alex Dimond: Argentina 2-1 Belgium

    This match could go either way. Argentina have been a one-man band for much of this tournament, but as that man is Lionel Messi, it might still be just enough to get them past a Belgium side that lacks a bit of experience. Marc Wilmots has made an impact with his subs in this World Cup, but he needs to get it right from the start against Argentina—if he does not, that could cost them.

    Man of the Match: Thibaut Courtois

    After a few games where Belgium have been expected to outscore their opponents, this might be the first where they will have to do a lot of defending. Courtois' heroics might not be enough to save them, but they could still earn him MOTM honours.

     

    Karl Matchett: Argentina 1-1 Belgium (Argentina win on penalties)

    Neither of these two sides have really excelled throughout the tournament, relying on late goals or individual inspiration to take points, plus they both required extra time to progress past the round of 16. It could make for a slow-paced game once more as they make caution their primary objective, hoping that their respective attacking players could fashion chances out of nothing.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    Messi to make it five goals and five Man of the Match performances in five games.

     

    Michael Cummings: Argentina 2-1 Belgium

    Neither team has really impressed yet, and both have made a habit of scoring very, very late in matches. Of course, at this World Cup, that probably means a goal-fest starting with a pair of strikes in the opening five minutes. With so much (as yet underperforming) talent on one field, nothing would surprise me in this one.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    It's as simple as this: Messi has been good enough when his team has needed him the most. He obviously has the talent to do the same throughout the World Cup. The question, of course, is whether the rest of the team can perform well enough to support him.

     

    Sam Tighe: Argentina 1-2 Belgium

    Argentina have looked stodgy, even poor, so far in this World Cup, and they may well meet their match in Belgium.

    Man of the Match: Romelu Lukaku

    Lukaku is over his little hump and looks a player again. There are few more deadly on the break.

     

    Will Tidey: Argentina 1-0 Belgium

    Belgium have made a habit of exploding late on in games, but they won't get the chance here. Argentina will eke out a win and continue on to the semi-finals without ever looking like a decent side.

    Man of the Match: Lionel Messi

    Messi with the goal. Messi with the MOTM honours. That would make it five MOTM awards in a row for him.

Netherlands vs. Costa Rica

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    Alex Dimond: Netherlands 3-1 Costa Rica

    The Dutch were poor against Mexico, but that was arguably at least partially the result of being forced to play in the midday heat of Fortaleza. Granted a later kick-off this time, they should have enough quality to see off Costa Rica without too many scares.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    Robben has been one of the best players at this tournament, and that could continue against Costa Rica (with or without another diving controversy).

     

    Karl Matchett: Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica

    There’s absolutely nothing to suggest that Costa Rica’s run will stop here; everybody expected them to go out in the groups, then potentially lose to Greece, but here they still are in the last eight. Netherlands have been hit and miss at times, mixing a goalscoring threat with ceding possession and territory at other times. But, on the whole, the Dutch will be too strong.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    Robben to be the difference in the final third once more.

     

    Michael Cummings: Netherlands 2-1 Costa Rica

    Here's the question: In that great escape against Mexico, did the Netherlands cash in their one get-out-of-jail-free card on their way to glory? Or was it a sign of things to come? The Dutch team clearly has the talent for a deep run, and Louis van Gaal has been tactically flexible enough to tip the balance in their favour when needed.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    Robben can beat teams multiple ways, including his penchant for winning decisive penalties. Mexico found that out, and now another CONCACAF team is in Robben's sights.

     

    Sam Tighe: Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica

    The fairy tale has to come to an end some time, doesn't it? It's been a valiant run, but Van Gaal's Netherlands are too strong and too clever to be undone here.

    Man of the Match: Robin van Persie

    I'm straying away from Robben momentarily. Costa Rica will sit deep, and it could well be RVP who breaks the deadlock with an angled shot or free-kick.

     

    Will Tidey: Netherlands 3-1 Costa Rica

    The Costa Rica fairy tale ends here. They won't deny Arjen Robben in this one, as he cuts a swathe through their defence and wreaks havoc. This game will be over by the middle of the second half.

    Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

    Robben is in the form of his life. He'll terrify the Costa Rican back line and make things happen yet again for the Dutch.

Updated Standings

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    B/R Expert Picks

    (One point for correct result, three points for correct scoreline, two points for correct Man of the Match.)

    Sam Tighe 88
    Michael Cummings78
    Will Tidey 73
    Karl Matchett 66
    Alex Dimond 61

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