Brazil 2014

Quarterfinal World Cup madness [Part 1]

wc-1400859202The gift that keeps on giving in this years World Cup, eight wonderful matches made up the round of sixteen and now we’re left with 8 teams.

And for the first time, the eight group winners have made it through to the quarterfinals – a feat that is most impressive once you realize that Brazil, Argentina, France and others have yet to hit top gear and really get going.

Belgium overcame the heroics of Tim Howard’s record setting performance for the USA, while everyone’s darling nation Costa Rica continues to drive forward showing that CONCACAF are no pushovers.

 

Germany v France

thomas-muller-celebrating-goal-in-germany-4-0-portugal-fifa-world-cup-2014

Muller to continue his domination

How delightful is this matchup? As a pure fan of the game, this is about as delicious as it gets for a quarterfinal showdown – the resurgent French against a German team that has continued to impressive at the very peek of the sport.

There is no doubting the strength of the Germans: a fourth successive World Cup semifinal berth awaits them, but an athletic and resilient French side stand between them and that lofty goal.

The youth of France in Pogba, Griezman, Varane and Matuidi against the guile of experience in Klose, Muller, Ozil, Scheinsteiger and the younger Kroos.

During a Summer where the heat of Brazil was to suffocate the skill of European nations, France and Germany have both dealt with expectations but have yet to hit full throttle.

With a berth in the semifinal awaiting, expect a chess match like tension from the off with both sides trying to assert control of the ball – the pace and speed of France can cause fits to a flu-ridden German side, but I fully expect Muller to continue his venomous form and drag his side into the semifinals.

With so much youth and tensions high, I fear we’ll see a first half red card in Rio de Janeiro.

Prediction: Germany 3 – 1 France

Man of the Match: Thomas Muller

 

It is Neymar's time to shine.

It is Neymar’s time to shine.

Brazil v Colombia

A true battle of South America, a very real chance of Colombia upsetting the host nation and a team of superstars still waiting to click – Brazil v Colombia gives us so much and more.

I doubted Brazil would make it this far after some poor, but winning, performances but this is where Scolari’s team comes together – better to peek late than peek early and crash out of the tournament, right?

While Neymar has shown moments of brilliance and Brazil has flashed their skill and flair, they have yet to really get going – the weight of a nation, the pressure of a host nation and the desperation to win in the spotlight.

But with the monkey off their back after sneaking past Chile, I fully expect Brazil to stand up and be counted, showing their talent and snatching a spot in the semifinal.

Don’t get me wrong, Colombia is more than capable – as they have shown so far this Summer – and will be another stern test for the hosts, but this is where the party ends for the South American upstarts.

James Rodriguez has been brilliant, perhaps the best young player at this tournament, but much like Costa Rica against Netherlands I fear this is where they run out of steam.

Prediction: Brazil 2 – 1 Colombia

Man of the Match: Oscar

Round of 16 – Predictions! [Part 1]

Ohhh baby! We’re here – KNOCKOUT FOOTBALL!fifa-world-cup-feat21-1024x592

Italy. Gone.

England. Out.

Spain. Bye Bye.

Portugal. See ya later.

With European giants crashing out, the Netherlands held the banner high – but it has been the Americas that have set the World Cup alight. Costa Rica topped Group D, Chile stunned Group B and Colombia scored 9 goals without Falcao – seriously, I’m not making this up.

Toss in a mix of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay chewing their way through England and Italy, and you have 5 South American sides in the knockout rounds.

And here’s how we see the Round of 16 shaking out:

 

 

Brazil v Chile

Chile to upset Neymar and Co.

Chile to upset Neymar and Co.

Brazil didn’t exactly light the group stage on fire, while Chile showed they are a tough side to beat, a side who can score and counter extremely well.

With the weight of expectations on Brazil sky-high, this match will go two ways: Brazil dominates and scores for fun OR Chile suffocates their stars with pressure and sneaks a one goal win.

While Vidal will be massive in the midfield and the back four have to be spot on, it will be Claudio Bravo who must play the match of his life against Brazil – under siege for 90 minutes, he’ll need heroics to keep his side in it.

Prediction: Brazil 1 – 2 Chile

Man of the Match: Claudio Bravo

 

Colombia v Uruguay

With BiteGate in full effect, the sharks are circling and Uruguay will have to look somewhere other than Luis Suarez for goals. The Liverpool man (For Now…) struck gold for his side against England, and helped inspire them to a win over Italy – but Colombia is scoring goals for fun and Uruguay will find it tough to match their play.

James Rodriguez has impressed so far, I expect him to put on a masterclass against a slower Uruguayan side and push his team to the Quarterfinals.

Prediction: Colombia 1 – 0

Man of the Match: James Rodriguez

Netherlands v Mexico

Netherlands flying into the Quarterfinals

Netherlands flying into the Quarterfinals

The Dutch arrived at the World Cup in style, demolishing Spain but were less than convincing against the Socceroos.

A strong win against Chile put them back as favourites and while Mexico has impressed in their newest system, I fear that the Miguel Herrara’s side lack the depth to go toe-to-toe with the Netherlands for 90 minutes.

Mexico will have to be on point to keep the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie at bay, not to mention the rest of the lethal Dutch players.

Prediction: Netherlands 3 – 1 Mexico

Man of the Match: Arjen Robben

 

Costa Rica v Greece

Let’s be perfectly clear: the Greeks are here because of a very, very dodgy penalty call. They were boring, harsh on the eyes

Keylor Navas has been a rock in net for Costa Rica

Keylor Navas has been a rock in net for Costa Rica

and possibly the weakest side in the final 16.

Now that i’ve cleared that up: Costa Rica are fantastic.

Fun to watch, hard working and they will make you pay on the counter attack – I expect them to slice up their opponents and serve them up on a platter.

Keylor Navas has been brilliant in net, while Joel Campbell has lit it up and Bryan Ruiz has shown the craft and skill that was once expected of him.

Prediction: Costa Rica 3 – 0 Greece

Man of the Match: Joel Campbell

Predictions: How did we do in the Group Stage?

Costa Rica easily topped Group D

Costa Rica easily topped Group D

Annnnd, that’s a wrap.

The Groups are done with England, Italy, Portugal and Spain all sent packing, while South Americans reign supreme with Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina all progressing to the next stage.

So, how did our predictions go in the Group Stage? Here’s how:

 

Group A

Our prediction: Brazil, Croatia

What happened: Brazil, Mexico

Croatia can feel hurt by a controversial few calls in the first game against Brazil, but when they needed a win against Mexico to go through – they capitulated and a late red card killed any chance of a comeback.

Group B

Prediction: Spain, Chile

What Happened: Netherlands, Chile

The Dutch wave came crashing through Group B, slaughtering the Spaniards and setting up the Chileans to storm into the knockouts, a matchup with Brazil awaits the Group B runner ups.

Group C

Prediction: Ivory Coast, Colombia

What Happened: Colombia, Greece

Colombia won’t do anything without Falcao they said. Well, they did and they topped Group C with 9 goals, second only to the Dutch in the group stage. And Greece? Well, a cheeky Samaras penalty and some lucky snuck them through.

Group D

Prediction: England, Italy

What Happened: Costa Rica, Uruguay

– Costa Rica quickly became the darlings of the World Cup with a comprehensive win over Uruguay, but England and Italy also did little to impress – both losing matches to Uruguay and unable to book places in the final 16. England were especially lack lustre, frail and unimpressive – typical.

Group E

Prediction: France, Switzerland

What Happened: France, Switzerland

PERFECT! A perfect group, that’s all I have to say – France rallied after losing Ribery pre-tournament and look to be a real contender in Brazil.

Group F

Prediction: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina

What Happened: Argentina, Nigeria

Well, Leo Messi’s uncle might not be happy with his performance but his teammates will be okay with the timely goals the little magician scored to help Argentina top Group F. Nigeria played well enough to advance, but a payment row threatens to derail their knockout round before it starts.

Group G

Prediction: Germany, Portugal

What Happened: Germany, USA

Muller being Muller, Germany being Germany and the destruction of Portugal in their first match cemented the Germans atop Group G. And that demolition for Ronaldo and Company was the difference, as they ended up tied on points with the Americans, but down on goal difference. Tsk tsk.

Group H

Prediction: Belgium, South Korea

What Happened: Belgium, Algeria

Belgium was your hipster cousin’s choice, the real ‘dark horse’ of this tournament and they performed well enough – not convincingly though – to make it to the next round. Algeria was a big surprise, but it was always a toss up to see who the other team out of Group H was going to be.