World Cup preview — the Round of 16

The Round of 16, which begins today, usually doesn’t produce many upsets. And, although this year’s World Cup has been exceptional, I wouldn’t expect major upsets this time around, either.

Argentina, France, and Germany have all drawn clearly inferior opponents (Switzerland, Nigeria, and Algeria, respectively). Brazil faces a good opponent in Chile, but it would take a very brave man to pick Chile to defeat Brazil in Brazil. Still, the match should tell us plenty about Brazil’s ability to defend against a quality attack, especially if Chilean star Arturo Vidal is fully fit.

Holland against Mexico is perhaps the most competitive match among those featuring two teams that have impressed so far. Holland will be favored because of its two superstar forwards, Van Persie and Robben. Mexico deploys three pretty good center backs, which may have them a chance to cope with these two (at some point, Holland may bring on a third forward — probably the exciting Memphis Depay). However, Mexico also likes to attack, which could play into the hands the counter attacking Dutch.

Colombia versus Uruguay is a classic “silk vs. steel” matchup. Colombia has been fantastic in attack; Uruguay is dogged and resourceful on defense. I’m particularly looking forward to the probable matchup between defensive midfielder Arevalo (who marked Steven Gerrard out of Uruguay’s match against England) and James Rodriguez, the tournament’s Golden Boy.

Colombia will be pretty heavily favored based on their superior form and the absence of Uruguay’s star man Luis Suarez, who is banned for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.

Few expected Costa Rica and Greece to make the Round of 16. But here they are, playing each other for a spot in the quarterfinals,

Costa Rica has been by far the more impressive of the two teams. But they have only scored once in the last two matches, and Greece is strong defensively. Will Costa Rica be able to break the Greeks down, or will this match be a low (or no) scoring affair that perhaps requires extra time, and maybe penalty kicks, to decide.

Going into the tournament, the U.S. would have been considered big underdogs against the fancied Belgian team. But Belgium hasn’t played well.

As for the U.S., it finished play in the “Group of Death” with a win, a draw, and a loss. We scored four goals and conceded four.

If one considers Belgium comparable to a composite of our three Group of Death opponents (Germany, Portugal, and Ghana), then one can regard this match as a contest of equals.

Belgium’s attacking players are clearly superior to ours. However, Belgian lacks proper starting fullbacks. Perhaps the U.S. will find success attacking down the flanks, as we did working the right flank against Portugal.

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