Alright, folks: we're done with World Cup group play. The Japans and Hondurases and Spains (!!!) have headed back to their respective corners of the globe before club seasons start. What we're left with are 16 teams who could still capture that gold World Cup trophy, whether it be the hosts Brazil or tournament favorites Germany or even--even!--a scrappy underdog like Costa Rica or The Netherlands (bear with us here).
With the initial set of matches out of the way and knowing what we know now, we're going to make some predictions about what will happen throughout the rest of the tournament. We could be wrong, but we're pretty sure this is what will go down. We think.
France's Group Leaves Them Unprepared
Karim Benzema’s in form and France's healthy rotation of midfielders and defenders have maintained their shape consistently, save for a few brain farts. Les Bleus also played the tournament’s easiest group and didn’t win all their games. There’s some doubt over whether or not this team’s legit because of its slight opposition but it's not lacking in any of their lines. -- S. Cadet
Belgium Gon’ Belgium
They’ve got the youth and talent but haven’t shown they can really thrash anyone. Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens have been tough covers thus far. Then again the squad's veterans haven't demonstratively lead this team out of their apparent nervousness.
Everyone's on the USMNT bandwagon but the U.S. have to like this match-up since they've already faced a stronger team in Germany. Belgium's got the edge on class but the match should be tight. At any rate Belgium's performances thus far show they're four years away from reaching their potential. -- S. Cadet
No Falcao, No Problem For Colombia
Colombia hasn’t copped any excuses for missing their world-class ace. They’ve instead racked up wondrous, open play goals of all varieties. James Rodriguez, Cuadrado and Jackson Martinez have been making defenders sick and there isn’t a country on their side of the bracket they can’t break down. This country’s fine with turning games into shootouts so, when you see them go 5-4 against someone, don’t act like it’s a surprise. -- S. Cadet
Argentina's Reliance on "The Messi Show" May Lead To Their Downfall
Everything looks all good since Argentina comes out their group with a sweep. Then, when people realize four of their six goals came from Lionel Messi, eyebrows ought to raise with concern. Sergio Aguero hasn't been 100 percent and should miss at least their Round of 16 match. Gonzalo Higuain's on a milk carton. Angel Di Maria's struggling to link up well going forward.
Their side of the bracket is thankfully not THAT difficult. Plus Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta should continue holding things down on their side of the field. Nevertheless, this squad needs to get it together in the attacking third or they're set for a disappointing exit. They have too many individual talents to put all their hopes on one guy. -- S. Cadet
Potential Upset Brewing Between Brazil and Chile?
Alexis Sanchez has been one of the tournament's best players as his tricky movement, finishing, ability to set up teammates and pace make him tough to guard. On the other hand, Arturo Vidal's forward passing hasn't been the greatest, but Brazil hasn't faced a disruptive box-to-box presence like him. Moreover, Oscar could struggle to create while Vidal's constantly hovering around him.
Chile's playing greater than the sum of their parts but their 3-5-2 leaves them susceptible for Neymar to do damage from the wing. Either way Brazil shouldn't expect a cakewalk on Saturday. -- S. Cadet
The Netherlands Are Anonymous, Talented And Will Make A Run
You have to understand, The Netherlands heading into this World Cup were nothing but four players and about half of Eredevisie club Feyenoord’s team. Shit, they are literally starting a Canadian in the midfield, but that didn’t stop them from curb-stomping venerable Spain 5-1 and running roughshod over a (formerly) tough Group B. They proved they can hang with anyone, and they’ll face an equally young and talented Mexican team in the Round of 16, which should make for a great game. If they defeat Mexico, the sky's the limit. -- Ryan J.
Death By Greece
I stopped caring about Greece approximately five minutes into their first match. Many others did, too, especially when the Greeks had one point after two games. Somehow, they advanced from their group--this boring, uninspired, pack-it-in European squad--and face Costa Rica next. Don’t be surprised when Greece drags Los Ticos into the mud with it since that’s how they overcame their group. Their advancing past the Round of 16 is probably a long-shot, though. -- Ryan J.
Don't Count Out Uruguay
Uruguay's chances in the knockout rounds are not entirely lost without Luis Suarez. FIFA laid down the hammer on the Liverpool striker, but Columbia might be susceptible to Uruguay's other top dog, Edinson Cavani. Don't forget Diego Forlan, the 2010 Golden Ball winner. He may have a goal or two up his sleeve, too. -- Jason H.
Neymar Finishes With More Goals Than Messi
Given several factors (Neymar's recent form; Brazil looking less reliant on their star than Argentina) two of the world’s best players, who currently have four goals apiece, will have different goal marks once the World Cup concludes, Neymar's having the higher number. But Neymar will score more simply because we believe the hosts advance further than Argentina, if not win the entire thing, with the spiky-haired striker possibly securing the Golden Boot, too, depending on Germany’s run with Thomas Muller. -- Ryan J.
A CONCACAF Team Will Reach The Quarterfinals
For the first time ever, three CONCACAF teams--national squads from North and Central America and the Caribbean--have made the knockout round. Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States are the trio, and while Mexico and the United States face tough opponents, Costa Rica has Greece (explained above), so Los Ticos are the most likely CONCACAF representative in the quarterfinals. But don't count out a spritely Mexican bunch against the Dutch; and America, of course, could advance if its defense plays error-free and Belgium allows the Americans to pass and play as Portugal did. -- Ryan J.