The men's soccer tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics has been anything but predictable, which makes the upcoming quarterfinal round a must-see event.
Defending Olympic champion Mexico failed to make it out of the group stage after earning just one win in three matches. The same happened to 2008 winner Argentina, which couldn't beat Honduras for a chance to reach the quarterfinals.
Even host country Brazil nearly missed out on the knockout stage before coming through with its last preliminary match.
Based on the surprising results throughout the competition so far, the single-elimination portion should be even better. Here is what you need to know heading into the quarterfinals.
|Men's Quarterfinal Schedule|
|8/13||Portugal vs. Germany||12 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|8/13||Nigeria vs. Denmark||3 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|8/13||South Korea vs. Honduras||6 p.m.||CNBC|
|8/13||Brazil vs. Colombia||9 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Source: NBC Olympics|
Portugal vs. Germany
After a pair of draws to start its tournament, Germany sent a message of intent with a 10-0 win over Fiji. Although this probably says more about the talent level of Fiji, it was still impressive.
Nils Petersen scored five goals while Arsenal's Serge Gnabry scored his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament. Regardless of the competition, there is some serious firepower in this attack.
Meanwhile, Portugal has utilized more of a defensive approach, similar to what the senior team used to win Euro 2016 this summer.
The two styles will clash in the quarterfinals, although the offense should be able to win the day in what could be a wild match. Germany will control the pace of the match as well as the majority of possession, gaining more opportunities to score against the solid defense.
Prediction: Germany 2, Portugal 1
Nigeria vs. Denmark
Few probably expected Nigeria to dominate Group B, but its performances in the first few games haven't been a fluke.
Oghenekaro Etebo kicked things off with four goals in a wild 5-4 opening win over Japan, although the forward later explained he cares much more about team accomplishments than individual ones.
As he told FIFA.com later, that only includes winning a gold medal:
If I had scored but we lost, it’s not going to be too fantastic. I’m happy we’re topping the group, and I’m really happy about the goals. I didn’t expect it at all. I’m not going for personal glory but team glory, which to me means [winning] gold. Without the gold, it’s going to be painful because achieving that is important for me, for Nigerians and for my team-mates.
The confidence from a team many thought would be overmatched is a reason for the success. Nigeria showed it can play defense with a 1-0 win over Sweden and then rested its players in the final group match against Colombia.
With Chelsea veteran Mikel John Obi leading the way, the African squad has a chance to do some damage and compete for a medal.
As for Denmark, the team should just be happy it was able to reach the knockout stage after scoring just one goal in the first three matches.
Prediction: Nigeria 2, Denmark 0
South Korea vs. Honduras
It's not often you see as wide a range of three games as South Korea had in this tournament. After winning 8-0 against Fiji, the squad ended the round with a 3-3 draw with Germany and a 1-0 victory over Mexico.
It's tough to compare based on the varied levels of competition, but what we do know is this team is capable of succeeding in a lot of ways. While the defense makes mistakes, it is usually solid enough to prevent easy goals.
On the other side is Honduras, which only had one win but might have faced one of the tougher opening schedules of anyone. Portugal and Argentina are strong teams, and this squad played as well as you could have hoped. Even the final draw with La Albiceleste wasn't much of an issue as this was all that was needed to advance.
We really might not have even seen the best of Honduras, which is quickly becoming a bigger factor on the international scene. With five goals from four different sources, you never know where the big play is coming from.
Although this could be a close matchup, Honduras could have what it takes to pull off the mini upset.
Prediction: Honduras 1, South Korea 0
Brazil vs. Colombia
The Olympics are made for dreams and disappointments, and Brazil men's soccer had been in the latter group through the first two games. Despite being in an extremely easy section, the squad only earned a pair of draws against South Africa and Iraq.
It took until the third match to finally get onto the scoresheet, per SportsCenter:
Tim Vickery of ESPN FC explained the issues plaguing Brazil before the 4-0 defeat of Denmark:
The team has plenty of individual talent, but has shown no collective pattern. If the definition of a good pass is that the receiver has the option of playing first time, then Brazil had hardly come up with one. There is gaping space between the lines of the team, making it hard to move the ball in a fluid manner. And worse, there seems to be little conception of how to move the ball.
Fortunately, the offensive talent finally seemed to shine through in the final group game against the Danes. Young stars Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa came through with a combined three goals between the two of them, while Neymar finally performed to the ability we have come to expect.
Colombia, which is one of the few teams that can match Brazil offensively, likely doesn't have the defense necessary to keep this opponent in check when it is playing well. If the home team keeps its momentum from the latest win, it should be able to advance to the semifinals.
Prediction: Brazil 2, Colombia 1
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