World Cup Last 16 - Preview
The group stage of the World Cup is already over, the sheep have been separated from the goats and the real deal is about to begin. After one day of rest, the first football free day so far in the tournament, we are now ready to kick off the round of 16. Some big shocks came during the first 3 rounds, such as Germany, the defending world champion, bowing out along with the weak form of many other big favourites. If the group stage had little margin for error, the margin is now completely gone, one mistake here and your team could be 4 years away from another World Cup match. So what can we expect from the upcoming eight games that will once again cut the number of teams in half?
France vs Argentina: 30th of June at 16:00 CET
The knockout rounds will start with a bang as two big favourites go head to head in Kazan. France impressed nobody in the group stage but nevertheless got away with the 1st place, they will now be desperate to pick up some more quality as they go into the knockouts. On the other side of the field will be Argentina who were extremely close to going out in the group stage before Messi finally found back to himself and saved them against Nigeria with some good help from Rojo. So what we are left with in this first round of 16 game is two teams with a point to prove and a lot of doubts and doubters to shake off. Only one can progress and for the moment you will find that bookmakers hold France as the favourites, but last time’s finalists can never be doubted until they are out, something the drama in group D was evidence of. With Messi getting back on form and acting as the captain his nation expects him to be and a France yet to find a talisman in this tournament, we are set for a thrilling encounter that quickly could go all the way to penalties.
Uruguay vs Portugal: 30th of June at 20:00 CET
Not long after the two blues are finished we will be presented with yet another exciting matchup. Uruguay was one of only three teams to win all their games in the group stage and both their top strikers, Suarez and Cavani have shown some good form going into the next round. Their opponent will be a Portugal driven by their captain, Ronaldo who has been vital so far in the tournament, scoring a hattrick against Spain and winning the game against Morocco more or less by himself. It’s set to be a thrilling encounter with a lot of attacking football and most likely a few goals. Bookmakers hold Uruguay as very slight favourites but we have seen that a Cristiano Ronaldo on form can defy any odds, meaning that once again we will see comparisons run between Messi and Ronaldo at the end of the night. If we are lucky enough we could even see them square up between themselves in the quarter final!
Spain vs Russia: 1st of July at 16:00 CET
Another pre-tournament favourite that hasn’t delivered to expectations is Spain who were given quite a few warning signs in the three group stage games. They will go up against the hosts, Russia, who impressed everyone in their first two games before they fell badly in their first real test of the summer against Uruguay. As you would expect, Spain are ruled as huge favourites ahead of this game but if you take a look at how they’ve been playing so far you start to wonder if they are as dominant as they are predicted to be. Russia may have struggled against Uruguay but this is a different game altogether in which the motivation and stake will be much higher, and along with the advantage that exists when you play in your home country there are a lot of questions left to be answered by this game. Even if a Spain that hits top form at just the right moment should win without issues, no such things are given in football.
Croatia vs Denmark: 1st of July at 20:00 CET
Croatia was easily one of the most impressive teams during the group stage, winning three from three and humiliating Argentina 3-0 in the second game. Their midfield, led by Modric, has been majestic and their defence has been very challenging to break down. On the other half a Denmark that seem to struggle with finding themselves in this tournament will be waiting. They grabbed the second place of their group but at no point so far have they sparkled. Christian Eriksen has provided a couple of his brilliant moments but so far none of his brilliant games, he will be needed at top form in order for Denmark to stand a chance. The odds are of course in favour of Croatia in this one but as mentioned the Danes could prove a tough nut to crack on a good day. If they can find back to themselves and the reason that they are in this World Cup we could get a close affair.
Brazil vs Mexico: 2nd of July at 16:00 CET
A Brazil getting back to their old self and a Mexico that has been delivering some amazing attacking football so far in the tournament, what more could you ask for? It must be said that Mexico suffered a hard blow against Sweden in their last game but once again; the last 16 is a completely different game. As you would expect; the bookies favour Brazil greatly here and they can’t be blamed for it. But Mexico are unlikely to go down without a fight, especially with their dangerous counter attacks capable of punishing Brazil’s mistakes; Neymar has given the ball away far more than any other player so far in the World Cup. But with out without counter attacks Brazil should not have any difficulty going through on a normal day, luckily for Mexico this tournament has been full of abnormal days and who says there won’t be more? Another thrilling match with a lot of quality on display is nevertheless guaranteed!
Belgium vs Japan: 2nd of July at 20:00 CET
In this writer’s humble opinion there has been no better team so far this World Cup than Belgium. They have had absolutely everything you can ask from a football team and more, winning every group stage game including against England while missing their biggest goalscorer. Where most big teams have shown weaknesses and cast doubts upon themselves, Belgium have done the opposite and left many wondering if this could be the tournament in which their golden generation get the glory they have been chasing. But no matter how good Belgium have looked we should not forget that Japan have made it here too after battling their way through a very challenging group. They are hardworking, efficient and they pretty much always come complete with an underdog stamp that they take advantage of. This is set to be a great game in which Belgium are the favourites and Japan the underdogs, let’s see who thrives between the two!
Sweden vs Switzerland: 3rd of July at 16:00 CET
Sweden did not have an easy task at hand when they were put in the same group as both Germany and Mexico, and when they lost to Germany 5 minutes into overtime most people believed that the group stage would be it for the Swedes. In the end they were sat atop of the group with Germany crashing out instead and you can’t say it’s not deserved after their 3-0 thrashing of Mexico in the last game. Easy is not the word to describe Switzerland’s path to the knockout rounds either, but their draw against Brazil, overtime winner against Serbia and stalemate with Costa Rica was enough to secure 2nd spot in group E. This is set to be a very close matchup but Switzerland are slight favourites for most bookies. This of course just means more money for our Swedish players if their dreams are realised on Tuesday. Definitely a game to watch!
Colombia vs England: 3rd of June at 20:00 CET
The last and final last 16 game is definitely not one to miss either! Colombia vs England should be enough to make any football fan’s mouth water at least a little bit because this is a very fun matchup! Colombia delivered some mixed performances as they collected 6 points in their group, with the highlight being the 3-0 beating of Poland. This is a side that knows how to score goals, many goals if needed, and the same can be said about their opponents. England fell 1-0 to Belgium in the group final while resting many of their key players, but with the tournament’s current top scorer and a rather solid-looking defence this could be a good World Cup for England. The bookmakers definitely believe in them but the Colombians would love to spoil the English tea party.
These 8 games are, as we’ve seen, very difficult to predict, especially when you think of what has happened so far in the World Cup but if your gut feeling is telling you something the bookies don’t know: ScandiBet have sky high odds on all games this summer so you can maximise your winnings! Best of luck!