By Norando Brown
The list of players returning home from the World Cup continues to rise and with heartbreak imminent, it’s the way of sports. The upsets continue to mount, and stars continue to rise and fall.
Brazil vs Mexico
Brazil head into this game as favourites, but the Mexicans have proved thus far that the title teams come with very little. In 2014, both teams played out a nil all draw in the group stages courtesy of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s brilliance. Today, he will need to be top class, as anything short of that will cost his team dearly. Brazil showed in their last game that they have match-winners all around the team and with Neymar still not at his best, they’ve been getting the job done. The pace at which Mexico counters will highlight the flaws in Miranda’s game but the ‘Samba Boys’ have more than what it takes to book a quarter final berth. Hirving Lozano will need to have another masterclass but with the depth and quality in the Brazilian team, it’s hard to see the Mexican efforts causing another upset.
Belgium vs Japan
Belgium, in my opinion, is possibly one of the two teams that have never won the World Cup that, has a realistic chance of taking it all this year. The “B” team easily walked over an English team filled with household names and against a hardworking Japan contingent, I expect the return of the “Big Boys”. Shinji Kagawa has been the dominant force in Japan’s midfield, but against Kevin DeBruyne, even some of the best seem average. Nagatomo against Meunier is also a good match-up and with the full-back’s Marcelo-type positioning, the Japanese winger should be allowed some freedom. Eden Hazard should be leading from the front and if needed, his younger brother Thorgan has shown that he is more than capable. Belgium should walk away victors and with the calibre of Romelu Lukaku’s service providers, it’s hard to see him not scoring. The rise of the golden generation will continue, and Belgium is heading to the final 8.
Sweden vs Switzerland
Both teams have conservative playing styles but the individual talent in the Swiss team affords them the luxury of allowing their stars to shine. Shaqiri has been having a wonderful tournament and against Sweden, it will be no different. Granit Xhaka would have had Arsenal fans furious as his World Cup performances have been stellar to say the least. He has been commanding midfield and against Sepp Larsson. It will be an extremely physical battle. Andreas Granqvist is Sweden’s top scorer and the towering defender has been the ideal leader thus far. He is perfect from the spot and should the Swiss have even the slightest lapse in concentration in their penalty box, he will be the one stepping up. In a game too close to call, I think in the team sport of football, individual talent will thrive on the day and will get the Swiss over the line.
Colombia vs England
England fielded a relatively young 23-man squad and have so far not been truly tested. Against Belgium they fielded a second 11 but regardless, the quality on their bench cannot be questioned. Colombia, on the other hand, are a balanced team with the perfect amount of flare, composure, experience, youth and creativity. Yerry Mina has, so far, scored more goals than Falcao and one would expect a fit James Rodrigues to run rampage in the middle of the pitch. England are graced with the services of an in-form world class striker in Harry Kane and going up against his Tottenham teammate Davinson Sanchez, it’s hard to see the latter winning. Both teams are equipped and capable of scoring and defending so this should be a really entertaining 90 minutes. England to progress but only because of captain Kane.
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