Ok, so that was an interesting group stage, to say the least! Between Suarez’s biting, the poor officiating, the major upsets early on, and the unexpected results of Team USA (but in a good way; US has been able to beat the odds more than once so far in this tournament), I can safely say that my own personal bracket has been busted. I am really starting to miss Paul the Octopus right about now…but then again he would run me out of a job! In lieu of a magic octopus, I shall try my best to bring you the most accurate predictions my meager human magic can muster, without fear of being bested by a cephalopod.
France vs. Nigeria
France. Need I say more? Well, actually, I probably should. See, Nigeria benefitted from facing opponents that had trouble living up to their potential, allowing them to swoop in and take the 2nd seed away from Bosnia and Herzegovina. This does not mean, however, that Nigeria is a complete team. Nigeria has many holes in its defense just waiting to be exploited, and while France did not live up to expectations against Ecuador, it is still safe to assume that Les Bleus will fully exploit those holes and dominate. At the same time, however, France must exercise caution, since it still has yet to fully shake its habit of losing to teams it should have easily won against. If France wants to avoid a near-repeat of 2010, then it should not take Nigeria lightly.
Germany vs. Algeria
Germany has been given a gift this round; Algeria cannot possibly field a team that can beat the Germans. Algeria, much like Nigeria, benefitted from opponents that for the most part underperformed (with the exception of Belgium) in the Group Stage. Germany is not the type of team to just suddenly underperform this late in the tournament. Admittedly, Germany did show that it still needed to work out a few kinks during its later Group Stage matches, but these were minor issues at best. Even the worst of Germany’s players can still find a way to score on Algeria. That being said, don’t expect starters like Muller, Ozil, and Schweinsteiger to be relegated to sub roles as Germany is here to win, no matter the costs.
Netherlands vs. Mexico
Ok, so El Tri was able to beat the odds and advance, but that still doesn’t mean they have what it takes to take down The Netherlands. The Netherlands squad has been on a roll since the tournament started, and they do not show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. That being said, I also do not think that the Oranje will be pulling off a victory with a large goal differential. Mexico’s squad is hungry, and Chichirito seems to be getting back to his usual self. Expect a close match here, with both sides on the attack for the majority of the match.
Costa Rica vs. Greece
Costa Rica has beaten the odds and made it to the Round of 16. The real question is, can they do it again? My vote is yes. Greece is an incomplete team that, in my opinion, should not have even made it into the tournament this year. As good as Greek players like Samaras are, they are not as fast, and not as strong as their counterparts on the Costa Rican side. Costa Rica plays the fast-paced, offensive style of soccer common in Latin American teams, whereas Greece still plays the old-school European style; slower, with more emphasis on defense. The traditional style works when the defense is good, but Greece does not have the players required for that to happen. Expect Costa Rica to run laps around its opponents, while Greece struggles to score.
Winner– Costa Rica
Argentina vs. Switzerland
This match is a surprisingly tough one to call; Argentina, much like Brazil, has not quite lived up to expectations this year. If they continue to underperform, Argentina could expect to exit earlier than anyone could have imagined, and against a team that on paper is severely outclassed here. Messi has yet to show up, dramatic late-game goals notwithstanding. Messi is just not stepping up to be the leader he needs to be, and the team that has been built around him is hurting as a result. Because of Messi’s lack of performance, Switzerland might just be able to pull off one more win here. I am by no means suggesting that Switzerland can win it all this year, but the Swiss side might be able to come together again just long enough to hold off a weak Argentina side. Switzerland was, after all, favored for a deep run by many analysts this year, and might just be able to live up to its expectations.
Belgium vs. USA
Belgium and the US, now this will be talked about for some time. If the Yanks can make it past a formidable Red Devil defense, then it is possible that the US could pull off an upset. This already difficult task has, however, been made even worse with the loss of Jozy Altidore, and the numerous other injuries that seem to perpetually plague our boys. Therefore, I expect Belgium to come out on top, but for the US to give it their all against an opponent they have yet to beat even in friendlies. Klinsmann has hopefully learned from past mistakes, but that does not mean that he is destined to lead us to victory this time around; Belgium is healthier and stronger than the US at the moment, and will likely have a few new tricks up their sleeve to throw at our boys.