The sparring is over; the business is on – Germany v Sweden, England v Ecuador, Argentina v Mexico, Holland v Portugal, Italy v Australia, Switzerland v Ukraine, Brazil v Ghana and Spain v France. So, who’s getting knocked out and who’s staying?
Germany v Sweden: The Dutch-Indian, Leo Beenhakker did not leave Germany without disbursing a little of his famed wisdom. Lagerback, he told us, has the intelligence of a shrimp. Whatever the Swede did to upset the white-haired one, it’s quite clear that too much seafood may not be good for the latter. Lagerback has had respectable success with the Swedish team and Germany would be disgraced if they take them lightly. However, in this tournament, the Swedes have only been chugging along through determination, but this is as far as it would take them. You don’t do determination better than the Germans! With their countrymen roaring them on, Stockholm rather than the quarter-finals is the next destination for Sven’s countrymen.
England v Ecuador: Playing England is like playing Brazil or Argentina for Ecuador and in Luis Suarez, they have a wily coach who can deliver the upset of the tournament. But that is if England continue to play the way they’ve been playing. I’ve actually written something on this earlier in comment number 3 here.
And now it looks like Eriksson is going to do exactly that.
If he does, England wins comfortably.
Argentina v Mexico: Forget the FIFA rankings, the gulf in class will be too much to bear for the fainthearted. Argentina have too many ways to beat a team like Mexico. All they have to do is turn up for the match. Yeah, Mexico would naturally try to upset the Argentines and stop them from playing, but they don’t have what it takes to stop Pekerman’s advance.
Holland v Portugal: Okay, Big Phil won the World Cup, but it was with Brazil in 2002. This time, his Portuguese team, a pale imitation of Brazil of four years ago, won’t get past the Dutch. Marco van Basten’s team may be young and inexperienced, but they’re well-drilled, very mobile and organized. It would be a closely fought contest, but the newfound discipline of the Dutch will see them through.
Italy v Australia: An upset is on the cards here. The Italians are publicly rubbing their hands with glee after dispatching the sorry Czechs and topping their group, but I’m sure deep down inside, the memory of their loss against Korea at the last World Cup haunts them bad. Once they’re removed from their comfort zone, the Italians can be childishly temperamental with the capacity to instantly self-destruct. That is what Guus Hiddink’s men are counting on. Once they smell blood, it is Azzuris to the slaughter! If the Italians can keep their temperament under check, they have enough quality to dispatch the Australians, but I just think this one is going to be a tasty affair and Totti and co could be the dinner!
Switzerland v Ukraine: The Swiss are not playing great football, but they have been functional enough to reach here. They are difficult to break down and are really determined to do well. On the other hand, watching the Ukrainians waste the talent of Shevchenko in the games against Spain and Tunisia gives you the impression that they’re just happy to be here for the first time in their history. No doubt they’ve been the worst affected side by the heat, but they haven’t showed anything to tell me they aren’t going home now. Perhaps, now that this match is billed for late evening, the heat wouldn’t be much of a factor.
Brazil v Ghana: With Essien, Ghana had a 20% chance of upsetting the Brazilians, without him, they have none. Great that they’ve done Africa proud by coming back from that heart-wrenching defeat in the opening game and qualifying ahead of the otherwise talented Czechs and the Americans. Brazil, like Argentina have too much in their locker to be troubled by mere determination.
Spain v France: Having watched both teams, most neutrals would look to Spain to finish off the French. Well, I’m not one of those writing off the French. This is going to be the game of the round and I believe we will see a Zinedine Zidane inspired French side send out one of the best sides in the competition. Experience will do the trick!
Hey, now you guys don’t go getting your knickers in a twist over my prediction for the round. I have no crystal ball and no one has yet paid for this service. I’m just running my mouth like anyone. This is not science, just the usual blah, blah, blah from another fan of the Beautiful Game. Of course, I’ve given my prediction without much analysis in each case, but that’s only because I want to save you all from my usually long essays! So, over to you guys and gals, tell us which team you think will win in each match in the round of 16.