As the first stage draws to a close we take a look at who is likely to make it through from each group, and what the likely Round of 16 ties will be! The winner of Group A will face the runner up of Group B and vice-versa, so it makes sense to run through them in pairs…
Groups A and B
Brazil may have stuttered thus far in the competition, being stifled to a 0-0 draw in their second game whilst yours truly was sat on the beach (along with 50,000 others) hoping for a Brazilian party, but they have enough to get past a floundering Cameroon side, and should top the group. The second spot will go to Croatia – the final game is basically a play-off between Mexico and Croatia, but with the Mexicans having scored just once all tournament, and the Croatians having played some excellent free-flowing football in their second match, we expect a red-and-white win.
Group B’s qualifiers have already been decided, with Spain shockingly falling by the wayside with a -6 goal difference! The Netherlands only need a draw against Chile to top the group, and even with a weakened squad they should make it, and will probably win.
Round of 16 ties – Brazil vs Chile, Netherlands vs Croatia
Groups C and D
Two goals in three minutes were enough for Ivory Coast to take the lead against Japan, and it might well have been the killer blow to the Japanese campaign. Whilst Drogba et al face a relatively easy match against Greece to confirm their spot, Japan face a Colombia side that has been all about power, pace and goals, and who will top the group.
Group D hasn’t really gone to plan for any of the big three teams, and will see two of the sides occupying a place in FIFA’s top 10 flying home early. Costa Rica should overpower an England team that will favour youth, especially on current form. Uruguay have a chance to qualify if they beat Italy, but the Azzurri looked so good in the first match, and have the tactical expertise and players to eke out the draw they need to finish as runners up.
Round of 16 ties – Colombia vs Italy, Costa Rica vs Ivory Coast
Groups E and F
France have been re-born in this tournament, after a hideous experience in 2010. Deschamps admitted that he tried to build an effective team rather than take all of the best French players, and this has paid dividends – with Les Blues looking like a cohesive unit, with a fantastic team-spirit. When everyone passes and is on form, these could be formidable opponents. You would expect the French to do Switzerland a favour by beating Ecuador, so the Swiss can claim the runners-up spot by taking a point (or better) from Honduras.
Argentina left it late against Iran, and just about came away with 1 goal in what was supposed to be the most one-sided match-up of the World Cup. The lack of goals may help Iran to qualify – if they beat Bosnia, and Argentina beat Nigeria, then they will qualify as runners up, which would be a fantastic achievement. With Argentina keen to impress, and probably finding more space to excel against the Nigerians, we think Iran might just do it!
Round of 16 ties – France vs Iran, Argentina vs Switzerland
Groups G and H
Portugal still need a few favours from Germany in Group G. Having been panned in the first match, Ronaldo and his buddies just about managed a draw against the US, but will need to win comfortably against the Ghanaians to progress. We can’t see many goals in that match, so it looks like tears for the Portuguese. Germany will top the group, with the US squeezing into second.
Belgium were many pundit’s dark horses for the whole tournament, so it’s probably pleasing for many to see them sitting pretty in Group H, even if it was an easy group. Algeria will be hoping the Belgian’s rest a few key players, as they need a point to qualify. That said, if either Russia or South Korea can win by two clear goals then they will go through instead! We think Belgium will draw, and Russia will edge out the South Koreans 1-0, which puts Algeria through, just!
Round of 16 ties – Germany vs South Korea, Belgium vs USA
Thoughts? Tweet me – @ftbllr