After a day of rest, the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup can begin. The round of 16 opens with Brazil playing against Chile in Belo Horizonte, followed by another All-South American clash between Colombia and the frustrated Uruguay team, playing in Rio de Janeiro.
The storm still hasn’t subsided from the four-month suspension Luis Suarez received from FIFA. Uruguay might appeal, but it won’t help them in this tournament. Luis Suarez is back home, and it doesn’t matter now how anyone feels about the severity of his punishment. At least the referee in this match, Bjorn Kuipers of the Netherlands, should do a much better job than the Mexican referee in the match between Italy and Uruguay.
Colombia were probably the best performers of the group stage. James Rodriguez was the MVP of all the tournament so far, showing exactly why Monaco paid so much money for him. The absence of Falcao hasn’t been felt as Colombia showcase a long list of strikers capable of filling in, while the trio that plays behind: Rodriguez, Cuadrado and Ibarbo do most of the creative work that’s been too much to handle for Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan.
Uruguay haven’t played good football in this tournament. Their only decent performance came thanks to Luis Suarez in the win over England. Beating Italy? That wasn’t for their famous fighting spirit or Suarez himself. That was a bad referee who ruined the match. So will this be the Uruguay we saw against Costa Rica? A team that doesn’t know what to do with possession, and lacks creativity or speed up front?
Colombia are an attacking, fun to watch team, but as is the trend these days, keeping the ball for too long isn’t their plan. It’s about attacking quickly and efficiently. Uruguay offer a much more methodical grind, but the absence of Suarez, while hurting them in quality, might serve as a bringing together catalyst for a disappointing team that hasn’t played well enough to deserve a spot in the round of 16.
For Chile, the round of 16 has been a roadblock too many times, especially against Brazil. In terms of the football we’ve seen from both sides in the tournament, Chile might be the superior team. However, with the match being played in Brazil, Alexis Sanchez was right to say the only thing his side actually fears is how the referees react to everything. That’s a dirty psychological trick, but it comes from a true place, and it might work.
Mexico, who play in a similar formation to Chile, gave Brazil a lot of problems, but made it through that day without conceding because of a huge match from Guillermo Ochoa. Claudio Bravo has had a very good tournament as well, and the front two for Chile, Vargas and Alexis Sanchez, are faster and more dangerous than what Mexico had to offer. The fitness and ability of Arturo Vidal will determine whether or not this will be another embarrassing performance from the Brazilian midfield.
All eyes or on Neymar. He can’t do it all for Brazil, but a fast start from him gets the fans into the match and pulls the rest of the team forward. The return of Hulk is very meaningful, and making Fred as meaningless as possible in the match worked out just fine against Cameroon. Chile are a much more dangerous team than that African side, but what worked so well against Spain and Australia will need to be a bit more cautious this time.