The fourth and final day of the round of 16 is upon us, as Argentina with Lionel Messi will take on Switzerland while the slightly disappointing Belgium side will be facing the United States later on to wrap up the first knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup.
The day begins in Sao Paulo as Argentina, finishing first in their group, ahead of the already knocked out Nigeria, Bosnia and Iran, finishing first with a perfect record, take on Switzerland. The Swiss won twice against Honduras and Ecuador, and are hoping that their run against Latin American teams continues, but obviously the challenge they’ve got to cope with is much more difficult this time.
One thing seem to be critical in this matchup: How the Swiss central defense holds up. After Steve von Bergen was taken off with an injury against France everything fell apart as Senderos and Djourou couldn’t keep up with the pace and passing of the French attack. We might see Fabian Schar of Basel playing next to Djourou instead of the slow and predictable Senderos, and we’ll probably see Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami playing a lot closer to the back four.
Sergio Aguero isn’t playing, but he’s been in poor form in this tournament. Argentina as a whole haven’t been great, but they have the Lionel Messi they’ve been dreaming about when it comes to World Cups. He has scored four goals in three matches and seems to be there with that perfect finishing touch whenever his team needs him. Ezequiel Lavezzi attacking the right side of the Swiss defense, which hasn’t been great so far, is another thing for Switzerland to worry about, although Shaqiri, Inler, Mehmedi and Drnic might also offer the Argentinian defending a lot of problems.
Two hours (unless we get extra time and penalty kicks) later in Salvador we get Belgium playing against the United States. The Americans might not be bursting with individual talent or master dribblers, but they have an incredibly strong and dynamic midfield unit with Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, that have been a big problem for all their opponents so far, including Germany in that garbage time match.
Belgium haven’t been playing well, but that hasn’t stopped them from making it through with a perfect record. Their defensive weakness is on the flanks, with the speed, or lack thereof, of Vertonghen and Alderweireld has been something that has slowed down their attack and might be an exposing factor if the United States try to attack by getting people by them.
One problem for the United States will be at striker, as Clint Dempsey as the lone man up front is a tough sell, especially against Van Buyten and Vincent Kompany. Jozy Altidore will likely start the match on the bench, but if the United States don’t get an early goal through their incredible pressure on defensive midfield and back fours, his physicality to help Dempsey move into open space might be needed quite early.