The minnows and the major shocks, the in-house fighting and on-field biting. The ruined reputations and the exceeded expectations. The group stages of the World Cup were as good as we’ve seen in many a tournament, but the knock-out stages are when the fun really begins.
Half the teams that plonked themselves in Brazil at the start of the month have gone home, and yet Greece are still here. Go figure. Nevertheless, the majority of teams left in the tournament deserve to be here. As expected, South American teams have done well so far. Chile and Colombia have been two of the more impressive teams to make it to the last 16, while Brazil and Argentina have been carried this far by the genius of their Messi and Neymar.
Tonight sees the hosts take on Chile in the first of the knock-out games, followed by Colombia’s clash with a Uruguay side lacking some bite. (Sorry)
Here’s a short preview of the two games.
Brazil vs Chile – 5pm
If you get a sense of deja vu from this game it’s because these sides met at the same stage at the last world cup. On that occasion Brazil advanced to the quarter finals but on present form Chile have nothing to fear tonight.
With the exception of Neymar and possibly Thiago Silva, none of the Brazil side has performed at an optimum level so far in this tournament. Chile on the other hand have been a revelation of sorts, with the talents of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez complemented by an intense pressing game which puts pressure on opponents high up the pitch. They may have capitulated to the Dutch in their last game of the group stages but by then they had already qualified, and Juventus star Vidal was rested.
If Chile play in the same manner they did against Spain, Brazil may be leaving this tournament three games earlier than they’d like. However with Neymar in the form he has been in so far, they can hurt Chile on the counter. The Barcelona forward has been magnificent, particularly when you take into account the pressure that rests on his shoulders. Only a superlative performance from the Mexican goalkeeper in the second group game prevents him from being the top scorer so far, but he’ll be keen to add to his four goal tally this evening.
Intriguing sub plots include Real Madrid’s Marcelo being tasked with keeping Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez quiet. Chile fans would be happy to see something like this.
It’s a tough game to call but Brazil have Fred up front so Chile to progress.
Colombia vs Uruguay
This fixture is without two of the best strikers in world football, and is all the more intriguing for it. Radamel Falcao was never going to make this game, or indeed the World Cup, but a moment of madness has cost Luis Suarez his role as the the spearhead of the Uruguay attack.
There’s no denying that Uruguay are a weaker proposition without the Liverpool striker, particularly as Edinson Cavani appears to struggle for goals on the international stage. However Colombia seem to be doing pretty well for themselves without Falcao. James Rodriguez has been a stand out perfomer at this World Cup so far, with solid supporting roles played by the likes of Teofillo Gutierrez.
The Colombians had the luxury of resting 8 players against Japan, and without Suarez it’s difficult to see Uruguay progressing against their fresher South American counterparts.