It’s win or go home time. Down to the final 16, and there are some big surprises that made it out of the group stage (as there are every world cup). Here’s how I see the knockout stage shaking out:
Brazil vs. Chile
Brazil hasn’t lost a competitive home match since 1975. Even with how well Chile has been playing and the talent they have on their roster, I don’t see this being the time that streak ends. It will be close though, but Neymar scores the game winner.
Prediction: Brazil 2, Chile 1
Netherlands vs. Mexico
After an ugly qualifying performance that left them a Graham Zusi goal away from qualifying, Mexico has rebounded under Miguel Herrera. They are playing attractive football and creating chances. Guillermo Ochoa saved their bacon against Brazil, and this team has a fighting chance against the Netherlands. Robin van Persie is back for the Dutch side who have looked very strong in the group stage. I think this goes into extra time, and from there either side can win.
Prediction: Mexico 3, Netherlands 2 a.e.t.
Colombia vs. Uruguay
It’s hard for me to see Uruguay responding positively after the Suarez incident, the whole country is crushed and deflated. Colombia has been one of the best teams in the group stage and they roll here.
Prediction: Colombia 3, Uruguay 0
Costa Rica vs. Greece
Did I just write that?! If you had this matchup predicted, you should be in Vegas right now. Oh, but I did put two bucks down on Costa Rica winning the group (although I did not predict that in a previous post) for a $100 dollar return. Anyway, the combination of Campbell and Ruiz for Costa Rica has been a big reason they made it this far, and they continue to roll over a defensive minded Greek side that needed a last minute penalty just to get here.
Prediction: Costa Rica 2, Greece 0
France vs. Nigeria
Nigeria did just enough to get through, but their just enough is going to be no match for a very strong French side that is firing on all cylinders. Benzema bags a brace, Valbuena with another and Les Bleus roll.
Prediction: France 3, Nigeria 0
Argentina vs. Switzerland
Although their defense looked like it had more holes than their cheese against France, I think the Swiss have a chance here. Argentina has been wholly underwhelming despite earning all 9 points after the group stage. Without Messi, this side might not even have made it out of the group stage. Switzerland is a small step up from Nigeria, Iran, and Bosnia. This one is tough to call…
Prediction: Argentina 1 (4), Swizterland 1 (3) in a Penalty Shootout
Germany vs. Algeria
The Algerians are another surprise team to make it to the round of 16, but unlike Costa Rica, their road ends here. The Germans are several levels above this Algerian squad. They’ve put up a great run, but it ends here at the hands of Müller et al.
Prediction: Germany 4, Algeria 0
United States vs. Belgium
Belgium, like Argentina, is another team that earned all 9 points despite looking rather pedestrian. Belgium led for all of 24 minutes in the group stage, and played three dreadful matches (I deleted all the Belgian games from my DVR). The United States is motivated, they fight for each other, and while possibly lack the talent Belgium has, does not lack in teamwork, passion, and national pride. I believe that we will win.
Prediction: USA 3, Belgium 1
Quarterfinals and Beyond
I won’t give any descriptions of the picks from this point forward, but here’s how I see the rest of the tournament shaking out (I will create a new post as we advance toward each round).
Colombia 2 (5) Brazil 2 (3) in a Penalty Shootout
Germany 3 France 2
Costa Rica 1 Mexico 0
Argentina 2 United States 1 a.e.t.
Germany 2 Colombia 1
Argentina 2 Costa Rica 0
Third place and Finals
Colombia 2 Costa Rica 0
Germany 3 Argentina 1