FIFA World Cup 2010: Round of 16 Preview (Groups A and B)
The knockout phase in the FIFA World Cup has provided some incredible games, ones that will go down in history.
The round of 16 in South Africa is the first time during the tournament that two teams will approach each other knowing that anything but a win won't be sufficient to qualify them to the next round.
With the completion of the group stage for both Groups A and B, I felt it would be important to analyze each team's performances thus far in the World Cup and evaluate their chances of progressing to the next stage.
Uruguay has been tactically sound on the defensive end, which led them to qualify above Mexico in first place.
Argentina showed its potential by beating all three opponents in Group B and qualifying to the round of 16 above South Korea.
The opening games in the knockout rounds will see Uruguay face South Korea and Argentina face Mexico.
Uruguay: First Place Group A
Group Record: 2-1-0
Group Results: 0-0 (France), 3-0 (South Africa), 1-0 (Mexico)
Uruguay qualified in first place of group A with an incredible defensive showing.
Center backs Mauricio Victorino and captain Diego Lugano have been solid throughout the tournament, and they will be a handful for anybody attempting to break Uruguay's defensive oriented form.
With a consistent defensive plan and world-class strikers such as Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, Uruguay is a team that can exploit its opponents on either side of the field.
Uruguay will attempt to win its third World Cup title.
South Korea: Second Place Group B
Group Record: 1-1-1
Group Results: 2-0 (Greece), 1-4 (Argentina), 2-2 (Nigeria)
South Korea surprised many people by qualifying to the round of 16 for the second time in their history.
The only previous time that South Korea had advanced past the group stage was in 2002 when they hosted the tournament alongside Japan.
Led by the experience of players such as Lee Jung Soo and captain Park Ji Sung, South Korea possessed enough weapons to surpass their Group B counterparts and qualify for the round of 16.
South Korea needs to be more consistent in the knockout rounds than it was in the group stage and prove it belongs with the elite squads in the tournament.
Uruguay vs. South Korea: Round of 16 Prediction
Although common knowledge has people leaning towards the Uruguayan squad in this match, I believe that they have yet to be challenged.
Uruguay has already had an extremely successful campaign and may have already overachieved.
South Korea will provide a different challenge for the South Americans with their speed and experience up front but will ultimately fall short of the upset.
Score Prediction: 2-1 (Uruguay)
Man of the Match Prediction: Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
Argentina: First Place Group B
Group Record: 3-0-0
Group Results: 1-0 (Nigeria), 4-1 (South Korea), 2-0 (Greece)
Argentina is favored by many people to reach the semifinals of this year's tournament. Led by an unproven coach in Diego Maradona, Argentina has the most lethal attack in the World Cup.
Maradona has also shown that he connects with his players on a personal level, and he earned their respect as soon as he became their coach.
With three convincing wins and some of the world's best players in top form, there is no need for the Albiceleste fans to be worried.
Mexico: Second Place Group A
Group Record: 1-1-1
Group Results: 1-1 (South Africa), 2-0 (France), 0-1 (Uruguay)
Mexico has one of the most talented teams in its history and is eager to take the field in the knockout round.
With an array of young players such as Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Carlos Vela, as well as experienced veterans such as Rafael Marquez and Chuauhtemoc Blanco, Mexico would be disappointed with anything short of a visit to the quarterfinals.
The most recent showing against Uruguay left fans questioning the team's ability to overcome early deficits, but it should be a tough match for any country at this World Cup.
Argentina vs. Mexico: Round of 16 Prediction
Interestingly, both of these teams met in the same stage four years ago in Germany in one of the best games of the past World Cup.
Argentina came out victorious in an extra-time thriller with a classic game-winning goal by Maxi Rodriguez.
This time around, Mexico has a much more balanced team and will attempt to knock off the very strong side led by Lionel Messi and legendary charismatic coach Diego Maradona.
Score Prediction: 3-1 (Argentina)
Man of the Match Prediction: Lionel Messi (Argentina)