World Cup Unfiltered - Knockout Preview

Brazil - Chile

The first of two all South American match ups, and wow, what a fixture. Two explosive sides, full of stars, that really don't like each other. Neymar is proving to the world what he can do on this, the biggest of big stages. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he's carrying his Brazilian teammates on his back at the moment. I hope you put him down for the Golden Boot is all I can say right now. Will Brazil move on? I think so, if they bowed out now it would be a national catastrophe. Chile is such a strong team and their stars have also been putting in lots of work. Neymar's Barcelona teammate Alexis Sanchez will be looked to lead the attack again, I think their somewhat meek performance against the Netherlands will inspire Chile. The crowd will be fiercely divided, lots of Chileans making their voices heard this tournament. Chile is an organized, quality side but look for Brazil to advance. I'm thinking 2-1, with Neymar netting at least one, and a red card at a minimum for someone from Chile, maybe Arturo Vidal.

Colombia - Uruguay

Another South American barn burner. Two more heated rivals going at it, it won't be nice. Colombia has been especially hot, even without their injured star striker Radamel Falcao, they were unbeaten in their group and aren't getting much hype. Speaking of missing strikers, no Luis Suarez means Uruguay is done. Their attack has looked impotent when Suarez is not in the side and I have a feeling they are not going to be in the right place mentally. Maybe they band together and win one without Luis Suarez, I don't think so though. Colombia is my current dark horse pick and I think they dominate this game, 3-0. James Rodriguez has propelled his side and I think he sets up a few goals here and there. It's too bad the winner must advance to most likely face the host Brazil, because I like Colombia a lot at the moment, although maybe they somehow have it in them to make a deep run. Uruguay will go out on a disappointing note it has to be said. Will Luis Suarez come back ever again to play for Uruguay after sinking his sides World Cup aspirations? This by the way is the second World Cup in a row he's been thrown out of, after his infamous hand ball against Ghana in 2010.

France - Nigeria

The Super Eagles moved on to the group stage, despite the World Cup rookie Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly being the more deserving side. That's the nature of the World Cup though. France on the other end has been arguably the best team thus far, never mind the Ecuador game, completing their Jekyll and Hyde transformation that takes place every four years. They are more than making the casual fan forget their absolutely embarrassing collapse and mutiny that took place in South Africa. Not only are they winning big, but they are an entertaining side, Karim Benzema is showing the world what he can really do. Who needs Frank Ribery when Benzema is on a rampage. This game will be no contest, watch it for the football clinic France is about to put on. Nigeria has been valiant and are one of two African sides in the final 16, they may get one goal if France falls asleep at the end. I think it'll be 3-1 with Benzema or Olivier Giroud putting one in the back of the net.

Germany - Algeria

Another Europea versus Africa match up that should prove to be more competitive than the aforementioned France versus Nigeria. Algeria has been loads of fun to watch since their first match with Belgium, a game where I felt they should have gone for it more. Algeria is a big, strong, high flying team that may give Germany problems if they can hold onto possession. That's a big if though, since Germany has had firm hold of the ball in every match. Germany's immobile back four might find a challenge against speedy Algeria, if they can lob some crosses in and hope for a big header they might have a chance. Germany controlled the game against the United States, but they haven't managed to recapture the form they displayed in their thrashing of Portugal. There were times they looked very exposed against the United States' wingers. Thomas Mueller is unstoppable in front of goal at the moment though, and I don't see the Algerians slowing him down. Germany will win 2-1 I think, with Mueller scoring and legendary super sub Miroslav Klose getting the World Cup goal record.

Netherlands - Mexico

Holland has been suffering no World Cup runner up hangover, they've been up there with France as team of the tournament thus far. Three wins, 10 goals, Arjen Robben playing beautifully. What more can they do? Meanwhile Mexico has also lived a charmed existence since the San Zusi goal against Panama that allowed them to even get a chance to qualify. Who knew it would take numerous coach changes, no Carlos Vela, the possibility of no qualification, a miracle American goal, and Chicharito having the worst year of his career to propel Mexico into the knockout stages? If anyone can slow down the Dutch it's Mexico. This could be the year of CONCACAF. Unfortunately I don't think they have it in them to beat the Oranje. The defense has been saved time and time again by Guillermo Ochoa, Holland won't miss the shots Brazil did. Expect a physical match, lots of hard fouls from both sides mingled with moments of brilliance. I think it'll be 3-1 Holland with Robin Van Persie scoring, Nigel De Jong kicking someone in the throat, and El Tri going out.

Costa Rica - Greece

Boy how about those Costa Ricans? Having surpassed every expectation, nay their wildest dreams, they make it out of the group of champions, and look great doing it. What's their reward? A match up with the worst team left. Greece only managed to score two goals and yet somehow made it to the knockout stages. Their journey ends here. I wish I could say I enjoyed watching them but I didn't. Can't say the same about Costa Rica, this is the year they find the respect that's been lacking above the equator and west of the Atlantic. Greece will try and slog this match down and pray for a one to nil finish somehow, or maybe even penalty kicks. They won't be able to stop the Ticos though. Costa Rica goes through 2-0 with Joel Campbell being involved throughout.

Argentina - Switzerland

Absolutely fair to say that Argentina has been a one man team, their defense is a sieve, and their goalkeeper doesn't even start for his club team. None of that matters when you're about that one man though. Lionel Messi has an absurd amount of pressure and weight placed on his shoulders and yet he still has delivered. Free kicks, goals from open play, astounding runs, he's done it all. Argentina expects to be in the finals, which for any other team would be crazy. That's how much Messi is relied upon. Switzerland looked poor against France, and then booted Honduras out of the cup. Xherdan Shaqiri was his own Swiss version of Lionel Messi and he will be relied upon again. Unfortunately for Switzerland it won't be enough, Argentina won't lose yet with Messi in the form of his life. Maybe it's a good thing he allegedly saved himself for the World Cup. I'm thinking it will be an open, high scoring match, 3-2 Argentina with you guessed it, Messi and Shaqiri scoring goals.

Belgium - USA

What other team could win their first match, and have it feel like a loss, tie their second match and feel like a win, and lose their third match and still get to celebrate? The United States of course. Will Jozy Altidore return? Will Clint Dempsey break his nose again while scoring with his face? Who plays center back? Not a lot of certainty right now, the US needs rest and time to heal after traveling over 9,000 miles already and playing in the middle of the Amazon. I try and tell people the way the US mens team is viewed in this country. We have absolute belief in their ability to beat any team, any given day, and yet when we lose it's not a surprise in the least. An entertaining, physical squad that lives and dies on the edge. I feel nervous just thinking about the next game. That is of course because it's against my mother's land of Belgium. The dark horse trendy pick for this years World Cup. They are a team full of individual stars from all over Europe, that hasn't looked like a cohesive unit yet. Can they finally pull it all together against the red, white, and blue? I can't predict this game whatsoever, for many reasons. I'm going with the US winning, somehow, someway, 2-1 with Tim Howard putting on a man of the match performance, and Chris Wondolowski putting in the game winner late. Will this actually happen? I'm not sure, it wouldn't be surprising for the US to go down 2-0 in the first 20 minutes off an own goal and a Eden Hazard 35 yarder.