World Cup Last 16 Preview
After a thrilling round of group games, the World Cup now arrives at the last 16 stage. Looking through the teams left in the competition, Germany are a glaring omission, and it is strange seeing a World Cup move to this stage without them. Another of the big guns, Argentina, have disappointed so far and will be desperate to turn things around, although they have the tough task of playing France at this stage.
Of the smaller nations, this will be mission accomplished for teams like Russia, Denmark, Japan and Sweden, who will have targeted this stage as their primary goal for the tournament. Anything else is a bonus on top for them, so they can play without fear of disappointment when they head out onto the field.
The last 16 games are spread across Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with two games taking place each day. Here is a brief look at each game, and what you can expect when the teams meet.
France vs Argentina – Saturday 3 pm
While the focus going into this game will all be on how poorly Argentina have played so far, the French haven’t done anything to show the support for them ahead of the tournament was justified. They have stumbled their way through the group stage and played out a tedious 0-0 draw in their final game after making many changes. France have the talent to win this competition but we are yet to see anything from them that will make the other teams worried. We all know about Argentina’s problems at the tournament, and it took a late winner for them to reach this stage.
Despite the French not being at their best yet, I feel there is more to come from them and they can take advantage of an Argentina team in disarray here and make the quarter finals.
Uruguay vs Portugal – Saturday 7 pm
When you have Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez on the same field, you know the game is going to be worth watching. These two both have the ability to be dark horses in the tournament, but on paper, they probably lack a star player or two to go all the way. They did end the group stages in different styles, Uruguay were very impressive in their final game, a 3-0 victory over Russia to win the group, while Portugal finished with a 1-1 draw against Iran. With the better current form in the book, Uruguay look to be better prepared for this game and they have more momentum behind them.
Portugal are dangerous, and Ronaldo is a match winner, but with momentum and confidence running through the camp, I’m going to side with Uruguay to make the quarter-finals from this game.
Spain vs Russia – Sunday 3 pm
Spain were the team everyone was talking about before the tournament after sacking their head coach just days before their first game. That was a brave move by the Spanish FA, and so far it doesn’t appear to be having an impact on the players. Spain only won one of their three group games, and haven’t set the world alight just yet, but they should have more than enough in the locker to beat Russia. The hosts were found out when they faced their first real test, a game that resulted in a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay. They began the tournament well, but we now have too many strong teams in it for them to make an impact.
Spain are not at their best yet, but they won’t need to be to beat Russia and they can qualify with ease to knock the hosts out of their own World Cup.
Croatia vs Denmark – Sunday 7 pm
It could be argued that Croatia have been the most impressive team at the World Cup so far, and they are one of just three teams who won each of their group games, Uruguay and Belgium the others. With seven goals scored and only one conceded throughout their group, they have indeed laid down a marker. One win and two draws was enough for Denmark to get through into the knockout round and that would have been their aim when arriving in Russia. They are a solid team and showed their defensive capabilities by conceding just one goal in the group stages, but this may prove to be a step too far for them.
Brazil vs Mexico – Monday 3 pm
This game looks sure to be a contender for being the best game in the round, with two attacking teams full of creativity going head to head. As we have seen so far from Mexico, they will play to win this game, and Brazil are going to do the same. The fear I have for Mexico is that they peaked too soon when winning their opening game against Germany. While that was a great win, they haven’t performed to the same level since that. Brazil, on the other hand, look like they are still in first gear, and hopefully, now we have reached the knockout round they go from strength to strength.
Mexico have been great to watch at the tournament, but this looks to be a step too far and Brazil can be the team to advance from this tie.
Belgium vs Japan – Monday 7 pm
Belgium won their group by beating England in their final game and while that does give them an easier looking match here, it does put them on the tough side of the draw. One thing Belgium do have is momentum, they have won every game at the tournament so far and that is despite resting players in their final group game. Japan will be happy to make this stage and that would have been their aim before starting the tournament, however coming up against Belgium means this is likely to be their final game in Russia.
Belgium have a great chance of going far at the World Cup and should find this a relatively easy path into the quarter-finals.
Sweden v Switzerland – Tuesday 3 pm
Of all the games in the last 16, this certainly looks to be the toughest to solve. Both Sweden and Switzerland have shown glimpses of promise throughout the tournament, but do appear to be lacking a player or two to contend for the trophy genuinely. Looking at both teams on paper, Switzerland look to have the slightly better team and more match winners, which can prove to be the difference in what is sure to be a tight and well-contested game.
In a tough one to solve, the slight edge goes with Switzerland, who appear to have more match-winners in their squad.
England vs Colombia – Tuesday 7pm
England finished second in their group to set up a game against Colombia. Much of this game will rest on the fitness of James Rodriguez, who is at the heart of everything that Colombia produce in attack. If he plays this will be a real test for England, but without him, they should come out on top in a more comfortable fashion. England have been impressive so far, and with players rested ahead of the knockout round, Gareth Southgate’s men are sure to be ready for this one on Tuesday. After putting six past Panama, there is no danger that England have goals in them, and I don’t think Colombia will have the fire power to keep up.
England have a nice draw in the knockout round, starting with a game against Colombia that they are more than capable of winning.
Spain (4/7), Croatia (17/20), Brazil (1/2) and Belgium (2/5) are going to be the teams that punters are targeting in the last 16 round. Those four are the four odds on favourites, and should all of them win there are likely to be a lot of winning betting slips around.
Those looking for more value will certainly be taken by the 11/10 on offer that England can beat Colombia. Should James Rodriguez not play then England look to have a great chance of winning, and should really be odds on. France are 13/10 against the struggling Argentina which will appeal to some, while the two biggest prices that take the eye are Uruguay at 7/4 and Switzerland at 17/10.
Ladbrokes – New Customer Offer Spain to Qualify 40/1
Of all the games in the last 16 round, Spain look to have a great chance of progressing to the quarter- finals. They have not been at their best but can dispatch of Russia with ease. Ladbrokes are offering their new customers the chance to back Spain to qualify at 40/1 for this game, which is a huge price. The bet is limited to a maximum stake of £1, and winnings are paid out in free bets, this is a fantastic offer for the last 16 round.
Betfred – Back England and get Money Back if Lose on Penalties
At this stage, after a good start to the tournament, many people will be looking at England and considering backing them to win the tournament. If you are going to do this, then Betfred have a great consolation that you can use when placing your bet. They are offering customers their money back as cash in full if you back England and they lose on penalties. With the penalty record, England have, this is indeed a possibility.