The18’s World Cup Round Of 16 Predictions That Are Definitely Right This Time
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Through two weeks of scintillating soccer we’ve weeded out the pretenders (seeya, Germany) and kept the contenders (hello, Croatia). Now is when it gets really fun — when every match is do or die, win or go home. So it’s time to go over some more prognostications. These are our World Cup Round of 16 predictions.
Before that, feel free to check out our pre-tournament predictions, many of which were spot on, though not all. And check back every day for our individual match predictions.
World Cup Round of 16 Predictions
Which team has impressed you most so far?
Bryce Badwan (@BBadss): I think the answer for most will be Croatia, but Sweden has been rock solid. They battered a high-spirited Mexico team, they lost on some magic vs. die Germans and took care of business against South Korea. They have their system and they believe in it. The Swedes have experience vs. the big boys in Europe and know how to finish their chances. So I'm rollin’ with the Scandinavians.
Connor Fleming (@ConmanFleming): Sweden
Travis Yoesting (@TravisYoesting): Croatia without a doubt. To win one of the most complex groups with three wins is impressive. The way the Blazers dominated Nigeria and Argentina is the most impressive thing I’ve seen at this tournament, let alone the win over Iceland while barely trying. Honorable mention to Russia though for already winning more matches than anyone expected.
Which team was least impressive of those in the Round of 16?
BB: Argentina could go here. France could as well with all of its talent that's been put into slow motion. But for me it's been Denmark. I don't really know why they are there. Aside from Christian Eriksen's finish vs. Australia, they haven't shown me anything that get's me excited. They are the definition of blah.
TY: Given the competition it faced, Uruguay was pretty disappointing. Sure Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani got on the score sheet, but the offense never really seemed to get going, even in the 3-0 win over 10-man Russia.
Aside from Germany, which team was the most disappointing of those eliminated?
BB: Poland. The biggest frauds in the tournament. Serves them right after working the system to keep their high FIFA ranking. But that team was terrible and I don't even know how they made it to the quarters of the Euros. Oh, yeah I do. They beat up on Ukraine and Northern Ireland and then got lucky in penalties.
TY: Poland. Robert Lewandowski and company still fail to bring it on the biggest stages. Poland’s only wins at the 2016 Euros and 2018 World Cup came over Northern Ireland, Ukraine and an uninterested Japan.
What was the best moment of the group stage?
BB: Jesus. So many to choose from. My biased self says Lionel Messi's goal, because of all the shit he's been getting from the media and the immense pressure that's put on him when he's wearing the Albiceleste shirt. The South Korea-Germany-Mexico-Sweden madness was wild too. But pretty much the entire Spain-Portugal game was the best moment. The game was going 100 mph and had everything you could want in a World Cup match. Toni Kroos's free kick at the death was up there as well. So ... THE WHOLE GROUP STAGE!
CF: Marcos Rojo’s winner against Nigeria.
TY: The crazy ending to Group B, with VAR center stage. Simultaneous kickoffs are the best.
What was the worst moment of the group stage?
BB: Christian Cueva missing his penalty vs. Denmark. That really got to me. If he had he buried that, Peru's World Cup fortunes would have been completely different and they'd be sitting in the Round of 16, no doubt in my mind. Their fans were the best in the tournament and it was a moment that will haunt him forever. Lo siento, Peru.
CF: Portugal’s victory over Morocco left me feeling kind of nauseous.
TY: Germany’s shockingly limp departure. Not only did the loss to South Korea deprive the world of what should have been one of the best teams in the tournament, but it reconfirmed Mexico’s status as the luckiest national team in the world after the U.S. saved its hide in 2014 World Cup qualifying.
BB: It giveth and it taketh. But for the most part, I've been pretty pleased with it. I think there will forever be a consistency issue with it, especially for when it's used. But for determining offside on goals and potential fouls that could disrupt a game, I'm onboard. They've also been very fast when doing it, which is something the NBA could learn. Its lack of consistency and continuity from call to call can be frustrating. But that's kind of in every sport.
CF: Loving it — can’t wait to have some incredibly tense, incredibly physical knockout games without the worry of a terrible call ruining everything.
TY: I love it. Get the dang calls right. The reviews haven’t been too long or laborious and we’re seeing the game clean up a bit with defenders knowing they generally can’t get away with murder.
How’s Fox doing?
BB: Meh. My biggest problem with their broadcasts right now is the lack of replays. I still don't think I've seen the replay of Peru's near equalizer off the post vs. France, amongst others. I think their halftime crew is pretty subpar but they got some gems with Jorge Perez-Navarro, Mariano Trujillo and Aly Wagner. I also think Stu Holden has been on point.
CF: Stu Holden is the man. Jorge Perez-Navarro’s Socratic questioning makes me giggle like a schoolgirl. But I’m just not a big fan of JP Dellacamera. I watch the excellent Fox Sports Go Match 360 feed before games (just shots of the stadium, players, the building crowd noise, etc. and no talking) and I mute the halftime show. Don’t watch the post-game show.
TY: Not great. It has become apparent how poor your broadcast is when you do not spend the appropriate money on necessary announcers, or even allow them to be in the damn country. Miles behind ESPN’s last three broadcasts.
How bad was Concacaf?
BB: Bad. Mexico was the saving grace but El Tri might not be who we thought they were. But there is opportunity for them to carry the torch.
CF: It was disappointing that Panama refused to play and resorted to some pretty unsavory tactics against Belgium and England. Regardless of how poor the third match was, Mexico’s performances against Germany and South Korea will live long in the memory — it’s too bad that the score against Germany wasn’t something like four or five to zero, which it really could’ve.
TY: Mexico’s win over Germany stands as the only quality result for Concacaf right now. Costa Rica played well but couldn’t get results while Panama didn’t play well and got worse results. Not a good look, Concacaf. Better make it easier for the U.S. to quality next time around.
Thoughts on just two non-UEFA or CONMEBOL teams in the Round of 16 (Japan and Mexico)?
BB: It doesn't really surprise me. Europe and South America produce the most talent in the world. No African nation is a little off, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
CF: Before the tournament, we all thought that Asia might struggle in this one. It’s more surprising that Africa isn’t represented in the Round of 16 — Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal played some excellent stuff at times and can all feel somewhat hard done by the exit.
TY: On the one hand it’s made for some enticing matchups, on the other hand you’d like to see another Cinderella or two in there.
Which team has the best draw?
BB: England is probably the right answer here. Harry Kane is on one right now, but I'm still not 100 percent on them after beating up on two poor sides in their group and not really caring vs. Belgium. I think Sweden has a pretty favorable draw to make a run. They open up vs. Switzerland, which will be a very even matchup between two similar teams. But Sweden is better at that style than Switzerland, and then it would face Colombia or England who, as I said I'm not 100 percent on right now.
CF: France. Jorge Sampaoli can’t play conservatively with the makeup of his team, and France will enjoy themselves.
TY: Spain. First it’s Russia then probably Croatia, a team built around its midfield and Spain just happens to have a killer midfield too.
Which team blows it thanks to a boneheaded red card?
BB: England. Because — England. I could maybe see Sergio Ramos or Pique doing something stupid too.
CF: Croatia. Full of thundering self-confidence, Dejan Lovren just clatters someone.
TY: England. Because that seems like a good way for this narrative to end.
Which of the non-traditional powers has the best chance to reach the final?
BB: I think Belgium has a good chance. They are similar to England for me in that I'm not 100 percent sure on them because of who they've played, but they have all the pieces. Their defense could be leaky but they have the whole package. Croatia does as well and should they meet with Spain, I think they know how to play against that style because of the players they have.
CF: Belgium. If it ends up being Belgium vs. Brazil in the quarters and the Red Devils prevail, they’ll win it all.
TY: Sweden. The way they’re playing and with the bracket they face, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them squeak their way into the final.
Will we have a first-time winner?
BB: If there was a World Cup for it, this is it. It's not a very fun answer, but I feel like no one should hold a candle to Brazil and France when they click. Problem is, those two teams haven't clicked yet.
CF: I don’t think so. You still have to feel pretty good about France, Brazil and Spain here.
TY: I’d like to say yes, but it’s hard to pick Belgium, Croatia or Portugal against the field.
Of the teams in the Round of 16, whose coach gets fired first?
BB: Probably Jorge Sampaoli because they play before Mexico does. But Juan Carlos is coaching for his job on Monday.
CF: Vladimir Petkovic. Switzerland lose to Sweden and he’s out the door.
TY: Argentina’s Jorge Sampaoli, if he’s even still the coach by the time you read this.
Which team has the better chance to make a run, France or Argentina?
BB: France. They are just so loaded and it's hard to pick against. I wouldn't be surprised if they turned on the jets and thrashed Argentina. Argentina has shown a lot of problems and I don't think that defense and midfield can go head to head with France's. I expect Messi to be shadowed by N'golo Kante and for it to be a long day. But I will say this. If Argentina pull off another miracle — then they're going to the final.
TY: France. Les Bleus haven’t gotten things rolling yet, but if they do, watch out.
Can Mexico end its Round of 16 curse?
BB: I think they can, but I don't think they will. Brazil seems close to breaking through but just hasn’t clicked yet. I think Roberto Firmino should get the start over Gabriel Jesus. But defensively they've been solid. Mexico needs to get back to defending as a unit. Early on vs. Sweden they were being peppered and it ended being a pretty good indicator of how the match was going to go.
CF: Yes. The mentality in the second half against Sweden was a massive red flag, but I think being risen from the dead by our lord and savior South Korea might help this team actually get after Brazil rather than shit the bed at the sight of Neymar’s hair.
TY: No. After that insipid performance against Sweden, it would be hard to pick them to beat Japan let alone Brazil.
Was Belgium dumb for winning Group G?
BB: Yeah. They get to play Japan first, so there is that consolation, but your route the next two matches is brutal. I don't think winning that game does anything for the psyche of the team and Colombia didn't look too impressive against Senegal and are probably without James Rodriguez. They should have just gotten the draw and let fair play figure it out.
CF: Not really. Belgium should view itself as a world-beater by this point. No one’s going to have an easy time once the quarterfinals begin, but a Round of 16 match against Japan is infinitely more desirable than a clash with Colombia.
Now that the bracket is set, who is your pick to win it all? Has it changed?
BB: My pick at the beginning of the tournament was Brazil and I'm going to stick to it. Neymar hasn't really done much yet and his time has to be coming. Coutinho has been a monster and they've been solid defensively. But with the way this World Cup is going I wouldn't be floored if they got booted.
CF: I’ll just keep riding Brazil because I don’t want to take the easy way out.
TY: I haven’t seen any reason to pick against France, so I’m sticking with my pick. None of the other major contenders have really impressed either, so I think Les Bleus put it together and succeed where Napoleon failed 200 years ago.