By: Chris Dagonas
Over the past two weeks, I executed some lovely dribbles around the group stage of the World Cup (kicking off today!) Based on my predictions for those groups, I have put together a handy prediction sheet (betting guide) for the knockout rounds.
ROUND OF 16
Brazil vs. Netherlands – At home, against a Dutch side that might already be internally crumbling, the Brazilians will smile and Samba their way to victory, showing the Oranje how soccer is meant to be played.
Colombia vs. Uruguay – Without Falcao, the Colombians could still win their group. That’s the easy part. However, an immediate run-in with 2010’s third-place finishers will be too much to handle. Luis Suarez and company will move on quite handily.
Spain vs. Croatia – I love Croatia, I hope I made that clear. But they are not on Spain’s level, and will fall to the defending champions.
Italy vs. Japan – Size matters. Unless the Japanese find some way to sneak Godzilla into their roster, they have no defender capable of controlling Italy’s Mario Balotelli. He might not even have to score a goal to have an impact. He will likely win more than half of the long balls his defence sends his way, which will be the springboard to numerous Italian attacks.
France vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina – Even without the injured Franck Ribery, the French have too much experience and quality to go down to the upstart Bosnians. But people will remember the former Yugoslav Republic’s first appearance.
Germany vs. South Korea – Germany will easily power through the last remaining Asian nation.
Argentina vs. Switzerland – Switzerland is a good young team, and might do some damage in Russia in 2018. But this year, against this Argentina squad, they have no chance. Lionel Messi and friends will make light work of the Swiss.
Belgium vs. Portugal – Belgium will convince the rest of the doubters in a big statement game, by knocking out the heavily favoured Portuguese. By the way, if USA or Ghana make it out of the group instead of Portugal, Belgium will send them home as well.
Brazil vs. Uruguay – In 1950, Brazil hosted their first World Cup. They were the favourites to win the entire tournament. They faced little opposition, until the final match. There they met Uruguay, and the visitors snatched the World Cup victory from the hosts. Sixty-four years later, Brazil will get their revenge. Uruguay will impress, but Brazil will advance.
Spain vs. Italy – This will be the closest of the four quarter-final matches, and the hardest to predict. Spain’s patient, precise buildup play is just fine with Italy’s disciplined defense, while Mario Balotelli and the Italian attack will be hard-pressed to break through the Spanish line. I’m leaning towards Spain, but not by much.
France vs. Germany – By this point in the tournament, the French will be hating each other and having daily food fights involving baguettes and wine bottles. The Germans, emotionless robots as they are, will be hitting their stride and make light work of the French.
Argentina vs. Belgium – It will be sad to see Belgium go, but they will have gained millions of fans, and made significant headway against top-level competition. At least they will fall to another entertaining, fun-to-watch team. Ole.
Brazil vs. Spain – Spain will be run down from tough games against Croatia and Italy, while the host Brazilians will be in fine form and enjoying their soccer. International soccer’s most recent dynasty, Spain, will be defeated once and for all. It was a great run, but the Spanish will have to step aside for the Brazilians to take the throne.
Germany vs. Argentina – Argentina will have the benefit of playing in their home continent, right in their own backyard. Between two incredible, evenly-matched teams, that might be enough to swing the match. Argentina will advance, for an all-South-American final.
Brazil vs. Argentina – This would be an incredible match. These two teams have an almost perfectly even record against each other, and a long history of rivalry and conflict. It would also feature Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar, as well as several other superstars on either side. The stadium atmosphere would be electric, as would the style of play on the field. All told, Brazil will emerge as the victors, and lift the World Cup trophy as hosts for the first time since France did it in 1998.
PROJECTED TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
GK – Thibault Courtois – Belgium
DF – Vincent Kompany – Belgium
DF – Mats Hummels – Germany
DF – Pablo Zabaleta – Argentina
DF – Giorgio Chiellini – Italy
MF – Arturo Vidal – Chile
MF – Luka Modric – Croatia
MF – Angel Di Maria – Argentina
FW – Mario Balotelli – Italy
FW – Neymar – Brazil
FW – Lionel Messi – Argentina
And a bonus graphic!
That’s it for me! Enjoy the tournament, and I’ll see you again when I emerge from my pillow fort, some time in mid-July.