Entertainment and goals were an integral part of the group stages of the 2014 World Cup and it is to be hoped that the knockout phase will continue the trend. Eight games spread over four days constitute the next Round of 16 ties and those matches are summarised below.
Brazil v Chile
Brazil will start favourites and with passionate home support, they are expected to win but have so far failed to convince as potential World Cup winners. Chile are a decent counter-attacking team with Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas capable of exposing the home defence. Yet Brazil beat Chile 2-1 in November and a similar scoreline is possible especially as Neymar is showing his goal prowess in this tournament.
Colombia v Uruguay
Much will depend upon the attitude of the Uruguay team in the wake of the Luis Suarez scandal but they have lost their main goal threat in attack. Meanwhile Colombia may be one the better outsiders in this tournament after three impressive wins and nine goals scored, despite the loss of Radamel Falcao. Monaco’s James Rodriguez has scored in every match to date and he could fire Colombia to another victory.
Netherlands v Mexico
Netherlands have won every game to date scoring ten goals whereas Mexico have conceded only one late goal to Croatia when assured of qualification. Astute tactics by Louis van Gaal allowed the Dutch to stifle the creativity of both Spain and Chile and with Robin van Persie returning to the starting eleven after suspension, Netherlands may be just too strong for Mexico.
Costa Rica v Greece
One of the least expected pairings in the Round of 16, but Costa Rica have confounded the experts by winning two Group D matches and then drawing with England. Greece have experienced a mixed set of result and last minute penalty against Ivory Coast secured their second placing in Group C. It may be a low scoring game but the Greeks are improving and may shock the Costa Ricans
France v Nigeria
After two impressive wins, France just could not beat Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez in a 0-0 stalemate and will face French based ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal. Nigeria have a sound defence which had not been breached until encountering Lionel Messi and this could be a very close match with possible penalties deciding the outcome.
Germany v Algeria
Germany would appear to be overwhelming favourites to win this game but they have not impressed since their opening 4-0 win against Portugal. Meanwhile, Algeria regard this as a grudge match after they accused both teams of collusion when Germany beat Austria 1-0 in 1982 to eliminate the Algerians at the group stage. However, the cooler weather of Porto Alegre could favour the Germans and it may be a comfortable win.
Argentina v Switzerland
Lionel Messi has inspired Argentina to three wins to date but the rest of the team seem reliant on his goal prowess. There is talent in the squad and they should improve but Switzerland are normally a difficult team to beat. The Swiss were unbeaten in a moderate UEFA qualifying group, but their limitations were exposed in a 5-2 defeat by France. Expect another Messi inspired Argentina win.
Belgium v USA
Although Belgium have won all three matches to date, their displays have been workmanlike rather than stylish but they do produce results. USA are also a hard working team but qualification from Group G may be considered an achievement for a fairly limited squad. Belgium have only conceded one goal in this tournament and may secure their third 1-0 victory.