Out of the Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Lionel Messi dimension, only one world-beater will be left standing says our Vieri Capretta in his last-16 predictions
France, one of the candidates to win the whole thing, against an Argentina team that was all but out and then got themselves back in the tournament with a late, dramatic, winner. The Albiceleste will want to make the most of the momentum and the most of Lionel Messi, so it will be tough for France, but from what we saw in the group stages and from the players on either side, Didier Deschamps’ men should have no problems in winning this game.
The most balanced round of 16 game, with two very similar sides clashing. Both are solid, concede little at the back and have incredible strikers. Uruguay are slightly better in defence, Portugal in midfield, but the truth is that it will have to be the firepower to make a difference. So far in this tournament Uruguay have looked better, and this should be enough to see them through.
The hosts have impressed so far, and they’ll want to keep up the good work in front of their fans. Other than this, there is no reason why Spain should lose. They are infinitely better, even though they struggled more than expected in the group.
Possibly the best midfield at this World Cup with Croatia, against a team that was overall lucky to go through and depends entirely on one man, Christian Eriksen. Croatia should do the job fairly easily.
One of the most interesting encounters, because Mexico are exciting and excited, and because Brazil have struggled to convert the chances they have created in their games so far. The Mexicans have already knocked out Germany and could do it again, even though Tite’s men remain favourites for the final victory and should be able to make it past this round.
Possibly the most unbalanced clash, together with Spain versus Russia. Japan were extremely fortunate to make it this far, and Belgium right now are a deadly machine. Football can have surprises, and this is the only hope for the Japanese. Otherwise, it could be a disaster for them and a triumph for Belgium.
Both surprisingly still in the tournament, and both lucky to end up against each other. Sweden have impressed hugely, and deserve to be where they are, the Swiss struggled a lot more, managing to make their way here at the expense of a Serbia side that undoubtedly has more talent. It should be an extremely balanced game, but the feeling is the Swedes have more in them.
One of the most fun games, on paper, between two sides who have a lot of talent and relatively low expectations. Both have improved in their matches, and both could be a real issue for each other, playing on each other’s weaknesses. England have slightly more talent and experience, and this could just about give them the win.