World Cup Last 16 Predictions
Saturday, 30th June:
France vs Argentina (3pm) – The knockout stages kickoff with surely the tie of the round – a clash between two traditional footballing powerhouses, both of whom however didn’t enjoy the best of group stage showings. France topped Group C but hardly set the world alight in any of their 3 games while the Argentines only scraped through courtesy of a late winner against Nigeria. As always, Argentina will hope that the talismanic Lionel Messi can propel them past “Les Bleus” but I believe that it will be France and their incredible attacking depth that will win the day.
Uruguay vs Portugal (7pm) – A very tough fixture to call, as the teams are pretty even in terms of overall quality and both deploy the same dogged tactics, especially in the face of potential elimination. Expect therefore for this meeting in Kazan to be something of an exhibition of the dark arts of the game. For me, the match will boil down to whoever comes out on top in the battle between the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo and Uruguay’s defensive general Diego Godin. Ultimately I believe Uruguay’s quality throughout their team will see them through, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if this one goes all the way to penalties.
Sunday, 1st July:
Spain vs Russia (3pm) – The hosts have already exceeded many people’s expectations by getting this far in the tournament and realistically, any further success would be as remarkable as it is unlikely for a side that came into the tournament ranked 70th in the world. Fernando Hierro’s Spanish outfit were unconvincing in their group, winning just one of the three games they played, but still managed to finish top. Spain’s experienced campaigners such as Andreas Iniesta and Gerard Pique, who have won the tournament before will also know that if they get their act together now and propel their nation to glory, then their stuttering start will be completely forgotten. All signs point to victory for “La Roja”.
Croatia vs Denmark (7pm) – Croatia have arguably been the team of the tournament so far, winning all three of their games in what was generally regarded as the toughest group in the competition. For the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric this tournament surely represents the last chance of them to make their mark on the global game and as a result of finishing first in group D they have given themselves the best chance of making the deepest possible run. Denmark did well to get out of their group and of course boast the supremely talented Christian Eriksen, but in truth a last 16 exit is probably the best they could’ve hoped for at the start of this tournament and should really be no match for the superior creativity and energy of the Croatian outfit.
Monday, 2nd July:
Brazil vs Mexico (3pm) – The Mexicans were superb in their opening 2 games against Germany and South Korea, dazzling audiences with victories in both games and leading to the likes of Javier Hernandez and Hirving Lozano being mooted as early frontrunners for the golden ball. However a lacklustre 3-0 defeat to Sweden in their final game saw them drop to second in their group and ensured they would face the mighty Brazilians in the last 16. A seventh consecutive elimination at this stage now appears likely for Mexico, as although Brazil were somewhat underwhelming in the group stage, it’s expected that this side, with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Neymar in its ranks, will gradually reach a crescendo as the tournament progresses into the latter stages.
Belgium vs Japan (7pm) – You can debate for days whether Belgium were right to play for the win against England in their final group game and in doing so give themselves a supposedly tougher route to the final. Ultimately however you can only play who’s in front of you and at present for the Belgians it is Japan, a matchup that will see them go in as overwhelming favourites. The Japanese have confounded most expectations by getting this far and only crept in by virtue of a better disciplinary record than Senegal. Their limitations are pretty obvious with regards to clear lack of overall quality and the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard should have no problem driving Belgium to victory assuming they play to their full potential.
Tuesday 3rd July:
Sweden vs Switzerland (3pm) – The prospect of a quarter-final berth for either of these teams is certainly a tantalising one, and whoever wins this tie will undoubtedly have enjoyed a very successful tournament. This is also a very tough tie to decipher; Sweden bounced back superbly from their traumatic loss to Germany by thrashing Mexico in their last game, while Switzerland enjoyed a relatively comfortable group stage despite being drawn with powerhouses Brazil. Ultimately I believe that individual Swiss talents such as Xherdan Shaqiri will possess enough quality to get their country over the line against the more cohesive and harmonious Swedish outfit that boasts no true superstar. This tie could really go either way though.
Colombia vs England (7pm) – The England fans celebrating their second place finish in Group G and a potentially easier route to the latter stages can be considered at best naïve and at worst incredibly ignorant. They appear to have completely forgotten this Colombia team was one of the best sides at the last World Cup and, with a largely unchanged squad (assuming James Rodriguez is fit) will be considered favourites for this tie in certain circles. However I would still back England to edge this one, with the likes of Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling no doubt capable of giving Colombia’s suspect backline serious problems. If one thing is guaranteed though, it’s that fans of the Three Lions should expect to be in for a nerve-shredding Tuesday evening.