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.
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)
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)