Welcome to the round of 16, the next stage of the World Cup, where every game is single elimination and (rejoice, Americans) there are no more draws. From here on out, games that are tied when time runs out will play two 15-minute overtime periods. If the game is still drawn at that point, penalty kicks decide the outcome. People say they hate penalty kicks…but they don’t mean it. Here’s how the round of 16 shakes out.
Brazil vs. Chile, Saturday, June 28, Noon EDT: The hosts managed to top their relatively rough group, while never really impressing all that much (Neymar aside). They were held even by Mexico, needed the ref to beat Croatia, and were only able to beat already eliminated Cameroon because of Neymar’s superstar performance. Chile, on the other hand, managed to put the previous tournament’s winners, Spain, to bed with a minimum of fuss. Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal have been two of the breakout stars of the Cup, but will they be enough to beat the mighty Brazilians in their own backyard?
Prediction: Chile will make this hard, but Brazil will come out on top, particularly if Neymar can build on his performance against Cameroon. Brazil 3, Chile 1
Colombia vs. Uruguay, Saturday, June 28, 4 p.m. EDT: Another South American showdown, but the biggest talking point will obviously be the enforced absence of Luis Suarez. The bitey racist will be sitting on the sidelines of the beautiful game until at least fall, and without him Uruguay has looked … toothless (sorry). Colombia, for its part, came out of its group with nine points and nine goals, and seems to be the real deal.
Prediction: If Colombia can continue to perform as in the group stages, it’s going a long way in this Cup and a Suarez-less Uruguay will struggle to keep up. Colombia 2, Uruguay 0
Netherlands vs. Mexico, Sunday, June 29, Noon EDT: Probably the tastiest match up in the round of 16 sees the high-scoring Dutch face off against the stubborn Mexicans. Both teams will go into the game knowing that the winner will face the winner of Costa Rica vs. Greece in what should be an easy quarterfinal match (in theory). The Dutch have had both Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie playing at the top of their game, but both the team and those specific players do have a penchant for self-destructing in the later stages of the tournament.
Prediction: I’d love for it to be Mexico, on the off chance that the U.S. makes it far enough to face them, but the Dutch will probably prevail. Holland 3, Mexico 1
Costa Rica vs. Greece, Sunday, June 29, 4 p.m. EDT: Neither of these teams was supposed to advance this far, and both will be grateful for the quality of the opposition. It may not be fair to hold Greece’s Euro 2004 winning team against this Greek team, but seriously, if there is any justice in sport the Greeks will go no further.
Prediction: Personal biases aside, the Costa Ricans have been the more impressive side and should progress to face the winner of Holland vs. Mexico in the quarters. Costa Rica 1, Greece 0
France vs. Nigeria, Monday, June 30, Noon EDT: France’s easy ride is set to continue. After totally dominating the second-easiest group in the Cup, the French are rewarded with a match against a Nigeria team that only escaped from its group due to the failures of others (yes, yes, we could say the same thing about the U.S.).
Prediction: Don’t expect a French blowout, as the Nigerians can still defend quite well. Still, given that ties aren’t an option at this stage, I suspect the French will take a narrow win here. France 1, Nigeria 0
Germany vs. Algeria, Monday, June 30, 4 p.m. EDT: The Algerians showed a considerable amount of pluck to make it this far, but come on….with Spain out of the running, and Brazil and Argentina yet to totally convince, the Germans currently sit as favorites to win the whole thing.
Prediction: Total domination. Germany 4, Algeria 0
Argentina vs. Switzerland, Tuesday, July 1, Noon EDT: This one could be interesting. Argentina topped its group with a perfect record, but the team still feels as if it’s massively underachieving. It has been defensively shaky, keeper Sergio Romero has been questionable, and all of the expensive strikers (except, of course, Messi) have drawn blanks. Despite being mauling by the French, the Swiss have a mean defense and in Xherdan Shaqiri (I wonder how many Google searches he registers just from journalists looking to spell his name correctly) they have an attacking force to be reckoned with. At his best, Messi is unplayable, but the little man does have his “off” days…and he’s yet to have one at the World Cup. The question remains, if Messi is quiet, does the rest of the team have it in them to fill the gap?
Prediction: A tough one, but I’ll continue to back Messi in this World Cup, at a point in time where he is still in his prime. Argentina 2, Swiss 1
Belgium vs U.S., Tuesday, July 1, 4 p.m. EDT: After having survived the “Group of Death,” the U.S. team has slightly better luck in its round of 16 draw. The Belgian squad is a group of talented players, but despite topping their (relatively weak) group with a 100 percent record, they’ve yet to be 100 percent convincing as a team. Romelu Lukaku has not shown the kind of fearsome form that makes him one of the most sought-after young strikers in the game, and Eden Hazard seems to only show up for about five minutes per game.
Prediction: It will not be easy, but if the U.S. team could hold the German steamroller to just one goal, it can keep the Belgians quiet. U.S. 2, Belgium 1
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