This is it then. Proper knockout football, with the Round of 16 due to commence tomorrow.
This has been the best World Cup since the 1980s, but its legacy will be defined by what happens from here on in. The first couple of weeks in 2002 were fantastic in terms of the early upsets, but once it got to this stage it was pretty obvious things were heading for a Germany v Brazil final, and it fell away drastically.
In this case the upsets have been there, but the cream has still risen to the top. And the draw, being a funny thing has meant that there are eight clear favourites coming into this round, and in most occasions it would do the tournament good if those teams progressed. And you can see the odds here
So then; prediction time.
Brazil 2 -1 Chile.
This is one that could go either way, but you would have to back the hosts. Chile were at their best in dismantling the crumbling Spanish, and have one of the best counter attacking sides around.
But you know Brazil will get the rub of the green, and it is still early enough in the competition for the weight of expectation to become too suffocating.
It is not a great Brazil side though; surely a side starting with Fred and Paulhino cannot win a World Cup
Colombia 3 – 0 Uruguay.
Still in the South American quadrant of the draw. Logic would suggest that a Uruguay side without national hero Suarez will be no match for the side that has played the best football in the tournament to date.
And let’s hope so.
Word of warning though. Columbia were in probably the weakest group, and there is a danger their opponents might gather round, sharpen the studs, and try to make some kind of point.
Netherlands 2 -1 Mexico
A match worthy of a Quarter Final. Mexico is the only second placed side not to have dropped a match, they could have beaten Brazil, and they are looking good.
But The Orange have been quite something, and that second half against Spain is still the best team performance to date. People are saying they peaked too early, but they should have just enough here. Their young players are contributing too.
In theory, an easy Quarter Final awaits.
Costa Rica 1 – 0 Greece
Not the most glamorous of the fixtures in this round. But please, please, can Costa Rica go through. Even if they couldn’t beat England; let’s hope that was an aberration.
France 2 – 0 Nigeria
A really good World Cup needs a really good French side, and hopefully we’ve got that here. Their performance against Switzerland rivalled the Dutch show against Spain, and they would appear to be totally unified and playing it in the right fashion.
Nigeria. Not so much.
Germany 2 – 1 Algeria
Old friends reunite for the first time since 1982. Unlike the matches above, an upset here would go down a treat. Utu etc.
It is unlikely to happen though, although Germany haven’t quite matched their opening game demolition of Portugal. They’re probably pacing themselves though; they are good at that.
Argentina 3 – 2 Switzerland.
Still picking Argentina to win this thing. But they will need to find more ways fo scoring other than Lionel FIFA Messi.
The good news is that Switzerland will keep coming at them. Even when getting rolled over by France they managed a couple of consolation goals.
Belgium 1 – 0 USA!!!!!
In 1986 the hype was around small European nation Denmark, and their Golden Generation. They were placed in a Group of Death. In group play they outclassed defending champs West Germany, and put six past South American champs Uruguay, and they even beat Scotalnd.
Peak too soon? In the Round of 16 they lost 5-1 to Spain.
This time around the hype has been around small European nation Belgium, and their Golden Generation. And they’ve decided to do it differently. Three games, four goals. Three of them by substitutes, and the fourth by a defender. Over 270 minutes they led for 28 of them; yet finished with three wins.
So they are either pacing this beautifully or they’re not quite up to the hype.
Here is a stat “USA has travelled 14,302km in the group stage. 3 games in north. Belgium just 1,642km. 3 games in south.
Belgium have rested / paced their best players. USA has played Dempsey, 33, in every minute.
It’s all about pacing it.