World Cup RO16 Predictions; Underdogs, Favorites?

With the group stage concluding on Friday, the two highest point-scoring scoring teams through 8 groups will advance to the Round of 16, where there are no second chances or redemption opportunities. Many players have stood out in the group stages, many teams have been disappointed in the group stages and lots of surprises are up for grabs. 

On the first day of knockouts, Netherlands vs. USA will precede Argentina vs. Australia, and the winners of each fixture will play each other. The Netherlands are currently heavily unsustainable; an unconvincing win against Senegal, a narrow draw against Ecuador, and a slightly more comfortable win against Qatar. The United States, however, have played far better, but don’t have the results to show. I think catalysts Cody Gakpo and Frenkie de Jong will be too much for a young, inexperienced United States side to contain. Netherlands to win.

  Argentina have been lackluster, despite playing very well, but the lack of a proper striker has gotten to them. After losing to a considerably inferior Saudi Arabia side, Argentina picked up the pace and beat Mexico and Poland. Wojciech Szczesny did absolutely everything he could, however, Poland’s lack of creativity couldn’t help them to get a point out of Argentina. Australia beat Denmark in a close match and walked past Tunisia to win both games 1-0. However, I think Australia’s lack of high-quality players will cost them. Argentina to go through.

The next day, France vs. Poland will be followed by England vs. Senegal. Poland have looked very good on defense, conceding just two goals to Argentina on Wednesday in their group. Szczesny has been their unanimous player of the tournament so far, hoping that Robert Lewandowski can turn up and create something for them. Despite their rotational loss to Tunisia, France is still the best team in the competition. Forwards Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele will rip apart Poland’s lack of pace at the back. France win.

Senegal vs. England will be a very close match in my opinion. Kalidou Koulibaly’s amazing physicality, combined with Senegal’s quick ability in transition, might be uncontainable for England’s slow build-up. England looks very poor coming out of the group stages, however, their forwards and center-backs are performing at the top of their game. If Phil Foden and Saka wake up on the right side of the bed, I can see England progressing. England to go through.

Japan vs. Croatia the next day promises to be exciting, as the last event’s finalists go against a very excited and capable Japanese team. Croatia are very dominant in midfield and on the wings, as well as a very strong and talented backline led by Joško Gvardiol. Modric and co will want to one-up their silver medal finish in 2018, and with Japan’s lack of experience and star presence, Croatia are favorites. 

Taking the headlines after that game is Tite’s Brazil against Korea. Tite has confirmed Neymar is fit to play, although, the absence of Alex Telles and Sandro will surely cause problems. This means Danilo has to start at left-back and Militao at right-back, both unfamiliar positions for the players. With Korea’s quick pace and high volume of shots, they are not to be taken lightly. With Neymar just returning from injury, I can expect to see a major upset, as Brazil are considered by many the favorites to win the World Cup. Korea to advance. 

                          The day after, group toppers Morocco face an imposing Luis Enrique Spanish side. From the historical data available, it shows us that this current Spain is the most possession-dominant team EVER. However, Morocco are not to be taken lightly; conceding just a mere own goal in a group of Croatia, Belgium, and Canada. Nonetheless, I think Spain have recently found their form in front of goal, and seem unstoppable at the moment. Spain to the quarters.

Switzerland vs. Portugal as the last game of the Round of 16 promises to be a classic. Switzerland are highly aggressive off the ball and very efficient on it. Quick, technical players such as Breel Embolo, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ruben Vargas, and Granit Xhaka have the quality to dominate Portugal’s dysfunctional midfield. With all of their defenders being very tall, they can keep Ronaldo and co at bay aerially. Expect Portugal to rely heavily on flanks, as that is where Switzerland are weakest. Bruno Fernandes is playing out of his mind, and I cannot see a Portugal with Ronaldo, as hungry as he is, going out so soon to a team like Switzerland. Portugal going through. 

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