Match Previews: June 25

Tuesday was an eventful day at the World Cup for good and bad reasons. Uruguay’s victory over Italy was overshadowed by Luis Suarez’s apparent bite Giorgio Chiellini. This story will continue all week and I assume there will be extra discipline for Suarez, who wasn’t punished at the time of the incident. Greece pulled off heroics in the later games of the day with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on a last minute penalty kick. They are through to the round of 16 to play Costa Rica. Group E and Group F wraps up on Wednesday.

Group F

Argentina are in the round of 16 and need at least a draw to win the group. Bosnia were surprisingly eliminated after only two matches. Nigeria will progress to the knockout stage with at least one point or a Iran draw or loss.

Match: Nigeria vs. Argentina in Salvador

What to watch for: Nigeria took advantage of a disallowed Bosnia goal, and held strong defensively to put themselves in great position to finish second in the group. The Super Eagles are fortunate to play Argentina in the last group match after earning four points in their first two games. Argentina hasn’t impressed anyone in their two wins at the World Cup. Their blushes were spared by Lionel Messi whose late moment of magic gave Argentina a 1-0 victory over Iran. La Albiceleste need Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria to play better. The Argentina defense looked vulnerable at times against Iran so Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike could have a few scoring chances. I think Argentina will struggle again but break through twice in the second half.

Prediction: Argentina 2 (Aguero, Higuain), Nigeria 0

Match: Bosnia vs. Iran in Salvador

What to watch for: Bosnia started well against Nigeria and scored a goal that was ruled out on a phantom offsides call. Then they conceded a goal shortly after and probably switched to a 4-4-2 too late in the second half. Iran defended so well against Argentina and created a few decent scoring chances of their own. However, they fell victim to a great shot by Lionel Messi and now need to win to stay alive. Bosnia has nothing to play for and Iran have trouble scoring. This feels like a goalless stalemate.

Prediction: Bosnia 0, Iran 0

Group E 

No one is this group has mathematically clinched a round of 16 berth or been eliminated from the tournament. France is on the verge with six points and a goal differential of +6. They will likely win the group and can make that official with a point. Ecuador and Switzerland have three points, and Honduras has zero. Honduras needs to win and have France beat Ecuador to give them hope.

Match: Honduras vs. Switzerland in Manaus

What to watch for: This is the fourth and final game of this tournament in humid Manaus. Honduras played better against Ecuador than they did against France, and were unlucky to not at least get a draw. Switzerland’s defense had a forgettable performance against France. They need to rebound with a win and help their goal differential just in case Ecuador matches their result. The two late goals against France could end up being big for the Swiss.

Prediction: Switzerland 1 (Xhaka), Honduras 0

Match: Ecuador vs. France in Rio De Janeiro

What to watch for: Ecuador got the necessary three points against Honduras after a heartbreaking loss to Switzerland. Now they face tournament darlings France who have been the best team of the World Cup through two games. Ecuador’s defense must be at their best to try to stop an attack led by Karim Benzema. France might play a safe game knowing they just need a point to win the group. Ecuador will play well but will be overmatched and eliminated form the World Cup.

Prediction: France 2 (Sissoko, Giroud), Ecuador 1 (Caicedo)

 

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Match Previews: June 24

Netherlands, Chile, Brazil and Mexico are set in the round of 16. Costa Rica and Colombia have booked their place in the next phase and they will be joined by two more countries todays.

Group D

Costa Rica shocked the world with wins over Uruguay and Italy in the first two matches, and are through to the knockout stage. This sets up a huge encounter between Italy and Uruguay. The Italians can get through with a win or draw, and Uruguay must win. Costa Rica just needs a point against England to secure first place in the group.

Match: Italy vs. Uruguay in Natal

What to watch for: There might not be a more valuable player in the world than Luis Suarez. If the EPL gave out a MVP award, the Liverpool striker would’ve certainly taken that silverware. He proved his importance for his country with two-goal performance to defeat England. Uruguay now controls their own destiny to get out of the group, which seemed unlikely after losing to Costa Rica with Suarez out of the lineup. Italy looked like a completely different team in their loss to Costa Rica. They were solid against England and need to rebound. Mario Balotelli wasted two early chances against Costa Rica and was frustrated. He needs to finish any opportunity he gets to match the level of his counterpart Suarez. Uruguay needs a win and I can see them getting it done in humid Natal.

Prediction: Uruguay 2 (Suarez, Rodriguez), Italy 1 (Marchisio)

Match: Costa Rica vs. England in Belo Horizonte

What to watch for: Costa Rica will be still motivated to win the group. Getting a point will make that a formality regardless of what happens in the other match. Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz have been breakout stars this tournament. The Ticos have only allowed one goal and that was through an Uruguay penalty kick. England disappointingly were eliminated from the tournament. They were unlucky to not get a result against Italy and had no answer for Suarez last Thursday. They are planning on starting nine new players so the Three Lions are already thinking ahead to the Euro 2016 qualifying cycle. Costa Rica would love to play the second place team in Group C so I think they at least get a point.

Prediction: Costa Rica 1 (Campbell), England 1 (Barkley)

Group C

Colombia haven’t officially won the group but have the two wins and a significant goal differential so they will likely top Group C. Japan and Greece need wins with help in the other games. Ivory Coast controls their own destiny to advance out of the group.

Match: Japan vs. Colombia in Cuiaba

What to watch for: Japan has been disappointing this tournament. The midfield duo of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa had high expectations in Brazil but haven’t delivered. Japan played more than a half with a man advantage against Greece, and were not able to score. Colombia has looked great in stadiums with pro-Colombian support. They’ll know before the match who they can play in the round of 16. Japan’s goal scoring drought will continue and Colombia will top the group with a maximum nine points.

Prediction: Colombia 2 (Cuadrado, Gutierrez), Japan 0

Match: Greece vs. Ivory Coast in Fortaleza

What to watch for: Greece hasn’t scored in two matches but do have a point from their draw against Japan. Greece was in a similar situation at Euro 2012 when they only picked up a point in their first two matches. Then the shocked Russia, and finished second in the group with help from Czech Republic defeating Poland. This might be too much of a challenge for Greece against an Ivory Coast team who will probably just need a point. Didier Drogba hasn’t started a match yet but has been on the field for all three Ivory Coast goals as a substitute. He has been wisely rested because of his age and fitness but might get the starting call in this vital contest.

Prediction: Ivory Coast 3 (Droba, Toure, Kalou), Greece 1 (Mitroglou)

 

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