2014 World Cup: Ranking the Round of 16 matches
There are eight matches in the round of 16 and Eye on World Cup has gone ahead and ranked them all for you.
For the first time since the tournament began, the World Cup took a day off Friday with the Round of 16 starting Saturday. With no actual soccer to watch for a day, there's only one thing you can do.
You rank the eight Round of 16 games arbitrarily in order of least- to most-appealing.
Well, it's either that or you try to get all the work you haven't been doing over the past two weeks done, but that's not exactly a lot of fun now, is it? So stop working or whatever you're doing and read these rankings instead. It's a much better use of your time.
8. France vs. Nigeria, 12 p.m. Monday (all times ET): Of all the teams remaining in the World Cup Nigeria has the lowest FIFA ranking, coming in at No. 44. Of course, the latest FIFA rankings don't include World Cup matches just yet, but even if the Nigerians will be moving up a bit, they're still the Cinderella of this group.
France, meanwhile, looked very strong in group play, scoring eight goals while only allowing two as it won Group E.
This is a match France should win, and probably will do so rather easily, which is why it's the least appealing of the eight matches. Of course I say that knowing full well that nothing seems to have gone according to plan in this World Cup, so I wouldn't be shocked if Nigeria wins 3-0 or something.
7. Costa Rica vs. Greece, 4 p.m. Sunday: While Nigeria may be the Cinderella, Costa Rica may be the biggest surprise of the tournament. Los Ticos were an afterthought in a group containing Italy, Uruguay and England, yet they won Group D, securing seven points in the process, and they did it with defense more than anything, as they allowed only one goal while scoring only four.
And that's a formula Greece is more than familiar with, as the Greeks managed to advance from group play even though they scored only two goals in three matches. In fact, Greece is the only team with a negative goal differential (it allowed four goals) in group play to move on.
So I'd expect a defensive affair here, one that could prove to be pretty boring.
6. Germany vs. Algeria, 4 p.m. Monday: Germany is easily the best team in this matchup, and it's been one of the more impressive squads through the first two weeks of a World Cup that hasn't really produced a dominant team. The Germans won Group G thanks to a 1-0 victory against the United States, one of Germany's two shutouts (the other a 4-0 win over Portugal). It's a complete team that can score goals in bunches while making sure you don't score any.
It will face an Algerian team that has shown its own penchant for putting the ball in the net (six goals in three matches) but isn't nearly as strong defensively as Germany, as it gave up five goals in group play. While there's explosiveness on offense at times, it's been hard to tell if that's more about Algeria or its opponent.
I don't expect Algeria to give Germany much trouble in this match.
5. Belgium vs. United States, 4 p.m. Tuesday: Obviously, this match is more important to Americans than any other on this list, but if we're looking at it objectively, fifth is about right.
I had high expectations for Belgium, and although it won Group H handily (five points ahead of second-place Algeria), the Belgians didn't look very dangerous with the ball while taking advantage a pretty weak group. That being said, there's a reason I had high expectations for it coming in, and the potential for this team to be really good is still there.
And then there's the United States. It thrilled us with its win over Ghana, broke our hearts with the draw against Portugal, and underwhelmed us in a loss to Germany. The truth is that ever since Jozy Altidore left the Ghana match the Americans haven't looked particularly potent with the ball, and a large part of that can be attributed to the struggles of Michael Bradley.
Belgium is by no means unbeatable, and I actually picked the United States to win this match in our predictions, but I have a feeling the first goal scored will be the last one.
4. Netherlands vs. Mexico, 12 p.m. Sunday: The Dutch were a bit bipolar in group play, destroying Spain in their first match, flirting with disaster against Australia in their second, and then finishing strong against Chile in their third. Which team will show up against Mexico? Well, I don't know for sure, but whichever team does it'll probably score some goals.
No team in this World Cup has scored more than the 10 goals by the Netherlands, and when you have dangerous players like Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben up front, that's to be expected.
Which means a Mexico team that allowed only one goal in group play, and managed to play Brazil to a 0-0 draw will have its hands full. Should Mexico continue to play strong defense, we could seen an upset.
I feel like this match could be a classic, or it could be a blowout for the Dutch. Either way, it's one I'd plan on watching if I were you.
3. Brazil vs. Chile, 12 p.m. Saturday: I fully expected Brazil to breeze through group play, and outside of that scoreless draw vs. Mexico, it did just that, outscoring Croatia and Cameroon by a combined 7-2. And since these matches are still being played in Brazil, these guys still have to be considered the favorite, especially as Neymar continues to show he may just ascend to the throne of best player in the world that's currently occupied by both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Chile won't be a pushover.
These are two South American teams playing a World Cup match in South America, and that generally leads to good things for fans watching.
Chile finished second in its group, but it did so because it took care of Australia easily (3-1) and also took down Spain (2-0). This team deserves to be here, and while beating Brazil in Brazil may just be too tall a mountain to climb, Chile is home to the Andes. Chileans have climbed plenty of mountains before.
2. Colombia vs. Uruguay, 4 p.m. Saturday: A match between Colombia and Uruguay in the World Cup is supposed to be a matchup of Colombia's Falcao against Uruguay's Luis Suarez. Unfortunately thanks to injury and a certain somebody's insatiable taste for human flesh, we won't be getting that matchup.
But this is still a very intriguing game.
Colombia has been one of the best teams in this tournament, and while a group consisting of Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan may have helped, the results speak for themselves. The Colombians picked up all nine points while scoring at least two goals in each of its games (nine total, compared to only two allowed). Falcao may not be playing, but this team still has plenty of firepower.
Then there's Uruguay, which didn't look overly impressive in its three matches, but it got the job done, beating England and Italy along the way. The biggest question will be how this team performs without Suarez, as the one match that the Uruguayans played without him was the only match they lost in this tournament, a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica.
1. Argentina vs. Switzerland, 12 p.m. Tuesday: This match is very important to American soccer fans, because if the United States manages to get past Belgium, it will play this winner.
There's not much to say about Argentina that isn't already known. Lio Messi is amazing, and he's been amazing for Argentina as it won Group F rather easily. However, Argentina has not been flawless through three matches that it should have won, but it will be interesting to see whether or not this team turns it up to 11 now that it's reached the knockout stage.
Messi has always been criticized for his play in the World Cup, and now that he's started scoring goals, he'll want to take home the trophy as well.
Then there's Switzerland, which has not looked like the Switzerland I'm used to seeing. The Swiss came into the World Cup known as a team that was trying to beat you 1-0, or maybe even settle for a scoreless draw. Suddenly they've become the equivalent of a basketball team that's trying to beat you 120-118.
The Swiss finished second in their group while scoring seven goals and allowing six in three matches. They finished things off thanks to a Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick in their final match against Honduras, and I'm really hoping the same team that's suddenly fun to watch shows up against Argentina.
I'm not saying I like Switzerland's chances here, but I know I'll be rooting for them.
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