Michael Owen’s attempt to take down The Colossus!
WELL, not many would have forecast a last 16 without the likes of Spain, Italy and England, but it just goes to show that sport is played as much in the head as it is on the pitch.
Because few would doubt that those teams had the raw talent to have progressed from the group stages.
The Spanish couldn’t recover from their second-half capitulation against the Netherlands in their opening game, and they’ll be wondering what might have been for them had David Silva taken that chance to give them a 2-0 lead in that game; Italy clearly took their foot off the gas after beating England and paid the price; and then we have England.
Despite seemingly all the evidence to the contrary, I am convinced that we have the players to make an impact in these tournaments. But a lack of mental toughness, and an inability to close out matches, proved their undoing again.
Perhaps now that youth will be given its chance, then the shackles can finally come off as we attempt to qualify for Euro 2016.
But that’s a long way down the line, and we have to focus on this tournament, for which Brazil have kept their favourite’s tag after the opening set of matches.
To be honest, they haven’t been that impressive so far. They were flattered by their opening 3-1 defeat of Croatia, only drew 0-0 with Mexico, and didn’t meet much resistance against Cameroon last time.
But Neymar is looking very sharp, and Brazil appear to have the Indian sign over their South American neighbours Chile.
Brazil haven’t lost to Chile since 2000, and have scored four goals or more in 4 of their last 10 meetings.
So while Chile have looked good in this tournament and saw off Spain 2-0 – and they played better than a 2-0 loss to the Netherlands indicates last time – I have to side with Brazil.
But you have to keep your options open in the first leg of the Colossus, so I am going 2-1, with back-up scorelines of 1-0, Any Other Home (AOH) – an early goal could see them cut loose again – and a 1-1 draw.
I suppose that you have to start with Luis Suarez when assessing the Colombia-Uruguay game.
The ban is probably fair. You simply can’t do things like that and a four-month worldwide ban is a hefty sentence.
We all get frustrated in the heat of battle but biting is unacceptable and if he does it again he may be banned for life. Four months is not only a tough punishment but I’d guess a final warning, too.
Whatever you think of his ban, then his absence for Uruguay in this match is huge. He was clearly their main man.
But on the flip side of the coin, perhaps a sense of misguided injustice will see this Uruguay squad adopt a siege mentality and want to make a point to the world.
I think this has all the hallmarks of a tough, uncompromising match and I take Colombia to nick a low-scoring match 1-0, with 0-0 and 1-1 added in, too.
The Netherlands have silenced the doubters so far in this tournament, and Robben looks to be on fire. Throw in Van Persie, and you have real attacking intent.
They clearly won’t have it all their own way against a Mexico side that drew with Brazil and will test their defence – possibly their weak point – but I take the Netherlands to edge another tight one 2-1 or 1-0, with 1-1 again included.
I don’t think that I have seen a side dominate and have so many chances and not score, as France did in their 0-0 draw with Ecuador.
But they didn’t have any trouble in front of goal when slamming Switzerland 5-2, and I have to fancy them to beat Nigeria, even though the African side are improving and gave Argentina a real game in a 3-2 in their final group match.
France 2-1 or 2-0 for me.
Algeria bounced back well from their opening 2-1 loss to Belgium, where they let a 1-0 lead slip, but I think their tournament is coming to an end when they face Germany.
The Germans haven’t really built on that opening 4-0 defeat of Portugal, but they progressed comfortably enough and I can see them easing past the Algerians 3-1 or 2-0.
Before the tournament I would have said Argentina losing Aguero would be a massive blow, but he had not been playing well before his injury, and I think they have able back-up there.
And I can see them cutting loose against a Switzerland side, who France showed were vulnerable defensively. I take Argentina 2-0 and AOH.
Belgium v USA rounds off the Colossus.
Belgium haven’t set the pulse racing so far in this tournament, and have looked pretty toothless up front. But they have not conceded a goal in open play, and it could be more of the same here.
The USA have clearly done tremendously well to reach the last 16, with only a last-minute equaliser denying them a win against Portugal, going down just 1-0 to Germany on Thursday night, as well as beating Ghana 2-1.
But Belgium will look to stifle them, and I can take them to grind out another 1-0 win.