FIFA World Cup: Knockout Stage Primer

The wildly dramatic group stage has officially come to a close. We saw Germany’s early exit, Ronaldo outshine Messi, and dominance from Roberto Martinez’s Belgium side.

After all the fireworks, we’ve been left with a lopsided bracket. Spain, one of the tourney’s early favorites could possibly have their toughest matchup in the quarterfinals against Group D champions, Croatia. Go ahead and pencil in the winner of that match all the way to the final.

The left side will be an absolute gauntlet. As to who will reach the final, your guess is as good as mine.

That being said, lets preview each round of 16 matchup.

Note: All odds according to Bovada.

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France v. Argentina

It hasn’t looked like Messi’s tournament, and it won’t be Messi’s tournament. Argentina has arguably the greatest player of all time on their side, but France’s talent will prevail. I expect N’Golo Kante to pester Messi for a full 90 minutes. Should Argentina come out on top, it will be due to a fast start like their showing against Nigeria.

Prediction: France 2, Argentina 1

Odds: France +140, Argentina +240, Draw +200

Uruguay v. Portugal

Luis Suarez’s Uruguay and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will match up in the second game of the round of 16. These La Liga rivals will surely be the two players to watch. Despite brick wall Diego Godín captaining the Uruguayan defence, I have to give the Portuguese the nod here simply because of Ronaldo’s unwillingness to lose.

Prediction: Portugal 1, Uruguay 0

Odds: Uruguay +180, Portugal +190, Draw +185

Spain v. Russia

The host nation came in hotter than hell with a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the tourney’s opener. Unfortunately for Putin and co., the Spanish squad is comprised of world class player’s all over the pitch. Diego Costa will continue to chase Harry Kane for the Golden Boot. I predict a brace from the bully spearheading the Spanish attack.

Prediction: Spain 4, Russia 1 with a late consolation goal

Odds: Spain -180, Russia +575, Draw +290

Croatia v. Denmark

Croatia is the true dark horse of this tourney. Luka Modric may be the best midfielder in the world and led the Croats to the most impressive team showing in the group stage. As magical as Denmark’s Christian Eriksen may be, the Danish simply won’t have enough firepower to move on.

Prediction: Croatia 2, Denmark 0

Odds: Croatia -120, Denmark +400, Draw +225

Brazil v. Mexico

Will we see the Mexico side that throttled the Germans or the side that laid down against Sweden? Mexico has a tendency to play to the level of their opponents. If they do so against Neymar’s Brazil, I expect this to be the most entertaining game of this round.

Prediction: Brazil 3, Mexico 2

Odds: Brazil -200, Mexico +600, Draw +315

Belgium v. Japan

It’s no longer trendy to call Belgium the dark horses of ANY international tournament. They are obviously pretty damn good at football. On the other hand, Japan only made it this far due to FIFA’s new ‘Fair Play’ tiebreaker system. Yellow cards won’t be enough to advance the Japanese further than the round of 16.

Prediction: Belgium with a tidy 2-nil victory

Odds: Belgium -260, Japan +750, Draw +360

Sweden v. Switzerland

I can’t believe I’m saying this — Sweden may be better without Zlatan. In qualifying they knocked out Italy and the Netherlands, and they would have earned a point against Die Mannschaft if it wasn’t for Toni Kroos’s epic free-kick winner. Switzerland advanced out of one of the weakest groups in the competition. The cameramen, like the rest of us, are surely rooting for the Swedish to advance in this tie.

Prediction: Sweden 1, Switzerland 0

Odds: Sweden +205, Switzerland +165, Draw +200

Colombia v. England

For the sake of the viewers, we can only hope Colombia’s James Rodriguez will be ready to roll against the English. Colombia manager Jose Pekerman told reporters James’s injury will likely keep him out of the starting lineup. Should he miss this knockout match, I have to give England the nod. Harry Kane, please make me sound smart.

Prediction: England 2, Colombia 1 (England chokes against Sweden next round)

Odds: Colombia +295, England +110, Draw +215

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