Match: Colombia vs. Ivory Coast in Brasilia
What to watch for: Both teams earned three points their in opening Group C matches. Colombia defeated Greece 3-0, and Ivory Coast cameback with two quick second half goals to beat Japan. Colombia played well but got some good fortune early on. A flukey fifth minute goal shocked the Greeks and they never really seemed to recover. Colombia should have another home field advantage with many fans in Brasilia. Ivory Coast gave up a goal in the first half but controlled most of the play against Japan. The 62nd minute introduction of Didier Drogba led to two goals in as many minutes from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho. It’s a not a guarantee Drogba starts in this match but his inspiration should give the Ivory Coast confidence going forward. Ivory Coast has a much better attack than Greece so Colombia’s defense has to play stronger.
Players to watch: Colombia defender Mario Yepes is the oldest non-goalkeeper at the World Cup. The 38-year-old will be challenged by the Ivory Coast striker whether it’s Bony and Drogba. Cheick Tiote is the Ivory Coast holding midfielder that will need to keep an eye on Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez.
Prediction: Colombia 1 (Gutierrez), Ivory Coast 1 (Bony)
I predicted a draw in this match before the tournament and will stick with that pick. Colombia will draw first blood and Ivory Coast will overcome another deficit.
Match: Uruguay vs. England in Sao Paulo
What to watch for: The health of Luis Suarez is the big story before this match. His offensive wizardry and presence was missed in Uruguay’s loss to Costa Rica. The Liverpool striker targeted to be fit for the England match and he claims he is ready to go. England played well against Italy but fell short. Italy scored two brilliant goals, and it looked like the humidity of Manaus caught up with the Three Lions towards the end of the match. The question in this match is how much Uruguay will improve with Suarez on the field. Their defense and midfield doesn’t match up well against England, so Suarez needs to connect with fellow striker Edison Cavani. England might make a change or two to their starting lineup. Adam Lallana or Ross Barkley could get the nod over Danny Welbeck.
Players to watch: Diego Lugano is out with an injury so Uruguay likely calls on 23-year-old Sebastian Coates to fill in at center back. Coates is a Liverpool player and it is almost a certainty that club teammate Daniel Sturridge will challenge the inexperienced defender. Every major tournament is another chance for the English press to create massive expectations for Wayne Rooney. He has never scored in a World Cup and this game would seem like a perfect time to break his duck in the tournament.
Prediction: Uruguay 2 (Suarez, Cavani), England 2 (Sterling, Rooney)
Both teams need to win so I expect an open match. I think Suarez will look good despite not being in action for over a month. Rooney will finally score but neither side will be satisfied with this result.
Match: Japan vs. Greece in Natal
What to watch for: Each team are desperate for three points after disappointing losses Saturday. Japan struggled to create chances and were overmatched by Didier Drogba when he entered the game. Keisuke Honda scored a great goal but his teammate Shinji Kagawa struggled. Greece were unlucky early and chased the game for 85 minutes. Theofanis Gekas had a great chance when they were trailing 2-0 that hit the crossbar. You never know how the game would’ve ended if Gekas scored in the second half. Greece had 54 percent of the possession against Colombia and it will be vital for them to continue to have control of the ball. Japan needs better performances from Honda and Kagawa.
Players to watch: Japan full back Atsuto Uchida provided width and crosses for Japan against Ivory Coast. He has the ability to give Greece problems especially if Giorgos Samaras has any defensive responsibility on the wing. Speaking of Samaras, he had a few bright spots against Colombia. He is very inconsistent player but only needs one or two moments to influence a match.
Prediction: Japan 2 (Osako, Honda), Greece 1 (Salpigidis)
I think Japan starts strong and gets two goals early. Greece draws closer in the second half but will run out of ideas late.