Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Round of 16 Predictions
France vs. Argentina
France have got just about the most difficult draw or at least the most difficult draw based on reputation, if perhaps not based on performances so far. And even after this tough encounter the ties don’t get much easier. France have played only okay to date, nothing special, but have advanced relatively simply despite still searching for their identity. The reward for such advancement is a romantic World Cup game versus an in-disarray Argentina team that have the players and potential to beat anyone remaining in this competition. I’m predicting a better level of performance from Argentina in this game and I’m expecting a very competitive match, but my suggestion is that France will have the quality to come through versus Argentina.
France to win
Uruguay vs. Portugal
I think this game is an excellent match up, both teams have demonstrated that they can be effective teams, with some excellent players available. With greater defensive stability and an ever-improving front two I’m inclined to choose Uruguay. Suárez has been a little slow in starting through this tournament, but he is showing signs that he is getting better. Portugal’s supporting players have been a little underwhelming, I was expecting more from some high-profile players that haven’t played up to that reputation. I think Uruguay are a better all-round team, but Portugal have the special talent in Ronaldo.
Uruguay to win
Brazil vs. Mexico
This is an intriguing encounter. Some pundits are suggesting that this is a good match-up for Mexico, that perhaps the domination of possession for Brazil might open up some opportunity for the counter attacking play that has served Mexico so well so far, but I don’t buy that. I see that the Brazil front line will be too creative for Mexico and the balance that Brazil has with the two deep-lying midfielders in their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation should be prepared against the Mexico counter attacking threat. I increase the chances of a Brazil success the more field time that Firmino gets.
Brazil to win
Belgium vs. Japan
Belgium have perhaps been the most impressive in the World Cup tournament so far, they have scored plenty of goals, scored by plenty of different players; and very importantly they have had the opportunity to rest a few of their star guys. In contrast Japan have played with limited effectiveness, they play like they are just lucky to still be in the event. I just can’t see Japan causing Belgium enough problems, they might frustrate Belgium, but I can’t see them winning this game. And this proposed Belgium victory sets up a very interesting game with Brazil in the quarters.
Belgium to win
Spain vs. Russia
Home nation Russia have done amazingly well to even get out of the group, most people had them to drop out with a whimper very early. Spain have been steady if not yet spectacular. I still feel that there is more to come from a talented group of players, this will also be the last cycle for a bunch of high profile players, so you would assume that the motivation for those experienced players will be very much in evidence. Russia have been good value for their advancement, and certainly the home crowd will be well up for the challenge, but the greater ball possession, the greater experience and the greater quality of Spain should roll Russia over.
Spain to win
Croatia vs. Denmark
Croatia have qualified to the round of 16 in excellent style, the attacking midfield potential is world class, and the supporting cast of players around the midfield heartbeat are excellent, they are a pretty complete team and are playing in good form. Denmark are decent and were good value to get out of the group, but if Eriksen doesn’t shine then there is not much help from elsewhere. I predict Croatia to be able to shut down Eriksen and bring enough quality from that attacking midfield to win.
Croatia to win
Sweden vs. Switzerland
This is perhaps the most difficult game to call, these teams are well matched with obvious strengths and definite weaknesses. Sweden play with a direct style that suits the profile of their players and while the style is not great to watch, it is effective, and they are good at it. Switzerland are another pragmatic team that have been successful playing to their own strengths. I’m undecided how this game will end up, I suggest it will be slow and safe with two teams not risking much, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was low scoring with extra time and maybe PK’s required to settle the conversation.
Sweden to win
Columbia vs. England
Columbia come into the game in mixed form, great at times, poor at other times, and they have injury concerns. We’ve seen nothing from England to suggest that they are contenders to move on, but we also haven’t seen England play anyone significant yet, that Belgium game was farcical. England have the capacity to win this game, they have the capacity to win the next few games, but often they have failed to deliver on such ability. And even though I’m still skeptical of England I think they will be too strong for Columbia, Harry Kane to be very influential in any England success.
England to win
By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire