The World Cup Round of 16 in Russia will wrap up on Monday and Tuesday as favorites Brazil and England look to advance into the quarterfinals and keep their World Cup dreams alive.
Brazil vs Mexico (Monday in Samara)
Lukas Weese: This is the best match on paper in the Round of 16. You got a Brazil squad led by Neymar and Philippe Coutinho taking on Mexico who beat the defending champion German squad. Early on, Mexico wants to make this a cagey affair, trying to neutralize Brazil’s top two offensive players. Brazil will try to dictate possession, advancing the ball from the midfield to Neymar and Coutinho. Mexico’s has been the true underdog story this tournament but I think Brazil has a chip on their shoulder, after losing 7-1 in 2014 the last time they were in a knockout stage game. Brazil takes it in a close one. Brazil 2-1 (after extra time)
Steen Kirby: A massive moment for both teams. Brazil expects to win every time they take the field at the World Cup, while Mexico is dreaming of (finally) advancing beyond the Round of 16 and seeing El Tri in a meaningful late stage World Cup game. With so much at stake I’d expect a tight, cagey affair early, that could break open late. Brazil has been wasteful on attack for much of the tournament, but Mexico was exposed by Sweden after showing their talent in an upset of Germany. Mexico has a great keeper, and they have Hirving Lozano, but Brazil’s Coutinho should be the best player on the field and help them get over the line. Brazil 2-1 (after extra time)
Belgium vs Japan (Monday in Rostov)
Lukas: This is a complete mismatch. Belgium is one of the favourites of the tournament, filled with talent that can attack on both sides of the ball. Japan got into the Round of 16 off of few yellow cards and relies solely on defense and counter attack. Expect Belgium’s Lukaku (who has four goals this tournament) to set the pace early with a goal and then get Japan on their heels. Belgium advances to the quarter finals. Belgium 3-0
Steen: Japan scraped into the knockout rounds as a surprise packet but Belgium soared in their group stage matches, showing off a blistering attack that can compete with anyone left in the tournament. Japan won’t fade here but Lukaku and Belgium should secure passage regardless. Belgium 3-1
Sweden vs Switzerland (Tuesday in St. Petersburg)
Lukas: This is a very even matchup that is very difficult to predict. The Swedes know they are at their best on their set pieces, while the Swiss rely on their skill and crafty passing to generate scoring chances. This match will go to extra time or penalty kicks and I just think that Sweden’s tall forwards will find a way to score in the box to advance to the quarter finals. Sweden 1-0 (after extra time).
Steen: Perhaps the most balanced game of the round of 16. Both teams are good but not great UEFA sides who will be thrilled to reach the quarters and inspire future footballers in their respective nations. The Swedes are a gritty side that have shown they aren’t afraid of giants, competing with Germany, upsetting Mexico, and also playing fantastic in the World Cup qualifying rounds. Switzerland has been sparked by Shaqiri and Xhaka and I have a feeling they will secure a special goal to advance. Switzerland 2-1
Colombia vs England (Tuesday in Moscow)
Lukas: This is a compelling matchup with star players on both teams. England’s Harry Kane is the favourite to win the Golden Boot as he had five goals in the group stage. Colombia’s Quintero and Rodriguez will he critical pieces if they want to have success. England cannot commit stupid fouls otherwise they will be punished against the skill and execution of Colombia’s set pieces. This should be a fantastic game…I see England advancing and for football to inch closer to home. England 2-1
Steen: This game is a matter of which team shows up. Colombia at their best can compete with anyone, while England is stacked with EPL talent and have also shown they can be world beaters. England has been more consistent thus far though and Harry Kane is a difference maker. Look for Kane to poach a goal and John Stones to help the English backline contain Colombia. England 1-0