The group stages are over and this is where the truly serious part of the competition begins. Lose now and you’re going home. Here @0riginalfooty looks forward to the second round of the competition and offers predictions for the knockout matches taking place on Monday and Tuesday.
France vs Nigeria: Monday 30th June 5pm
France have been one of the most impressive teams to grace the World Cup so far. They humbled Honduras and Switzerland in their opening matches and were able to make numerous changes in personnel to get the draw required against Ecuador to seal top spot in the group. Nigeria will also be satisfied with their campaign. Placed in a group with Argentina, they were realistically only able to fight for the second qualifying spot, a feat they achieved. Nigeria also showed battling qualities against the Argentines in their final group match and lost narrowly. France, however, are a side brimming with confidence and it is hard to look past a comfortable French victory.
Prediction: France 4-1 Nigeria
Germany vs Algeria: Monday 30th June 9pm
There has been a large furore surrounding this matchup concerning an Algerian revenge mission for a fixture that took place in 1982. Algeria believed that the match was fixed by West Germany and Austria to knock the Algerians out of the World Cup. These allegations were never proven but there is a still significant ill feeling towards the Germans from the Algerian fan base. Whilst it may be a feisty encounter off the pitch, it is a real stretch of the imagination to see this game as anything other than a landslide German victory. Germany have been relatively comfortable in their qualifying efforts so far and you get the feeling that they are yet to move out of first gear. Algeria have exceeded expectations by reaching the second round and have been gifted their dream matchup. However, it seems unlikely that this Algerian side can really trouble the Germans and they will have to wait for another opportunity to dish out their revenge.
Prediction: Germany 4-0 Algeria
Argentina vs Switzerland: Tuesday 1st July 5pm
Argentina, whilst winning all their matches, have not really got going thus far in the tournament. Messi has carried them through a number of treacherous situations but Sabella will be hopeful that some of their other stars can start to share the load. Switzerland showed great character in recovering from a 5-2 hammering at the hands of the French to qualify for this round and it would be naïve to expect them to make the same mistakes again. Argentina have more than enough to win this match and to win it comfortably, however, I am expecting a slightly tighter affair than most, although with the same outcome.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Switzerland
Belgium vs USA: Tuesday 1st July 9pm
This is, on paper, the closest match in the last 16. Belgium may have won all their group stage matches but have been less than impressive against fairly weak opposition. The USA, on the other hand, have come through one of the toughest groups of the tournament and Jurgen Klinsmann’s men have performed well above expectations. Belgium may have the stronger pool of individual talent but the USA are well drilled and operate much better as a unit. Supporters of the Belgians may argue that they have ground out results, achieving 3 wins out of 3, and are now ready to find a higher level of performance and challenge the top sides in the tournament. It remains to be seen whether they can raise their level to truly test the best sides at the World Cup but they should sneak through this round, possibly on penalties.
Prediction: Belgium 1-1 USA