2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Knockout stage preview

Published: June 27, 2014, 10:47 pm, by Scott Kaniewski

Win and go on. Lose and go home. It’s playoff time.

World Cup 2014 in Brazil moves into the knockout stages starting Saturday. No more round robin group play. The field of 32 has been chopped in half. The final 16 teams now must win to advance. No second and third chances.

Saturday

Brazil (2-0-1) v. Chile (2-1-0)

Time: 10 a.m.

What to know: Brazil finally looked like the team everyone expected when the hosts beat Cameroon 4-1 in the final Group A game. Star Neymar (video above) has lived up to the billing, scoring four times in three games. … Chile are one of the surprises of the tournament, getting out of Group B while sending defending champion Spain home in the process. The Chileans also attacked Group B winner the Netherlands, only to fall short when the Dutch caught them on counterattacks. There are early rumblings that Chile, which was knocked out by Brazil four years ago, could return the favor and send the hosts out early.

Colombia (3-0) v. Uruguay (2-1)

Time: 2 p.m.

What to know: Colombia romped through an easy Group C, scoring nine times in their three games. James Rodriguez led the way with three goals, including this beauty (fast forward to 2:07) … Uruguay will obviously be without talisman Luis Suarez after he got hungry during the game with Italy. That will leave Uruguay hoping Diego Forlan is healthy and able to score. Uruguay made it through the second hardest group at the tournament, outlasting England and Italy to advance.

 

Sunday

Netherlands (3-0) v. Mexico (2-0-1)

Time: 10 a.m.

What to know: Is there a tastier elimination-round matchup? We think not. The Netherlands is proving that being a finalist in 2010 just whet their appetite for the Brazilian World Cup. Shocking Spain with a 5-1 win marked the Dutch as a team to be reckoned with. Nobody scored more goals than the Dutch’s 10 in group play. … Mexico, on the other hand, held Brazil scoreless, thanks to an heroic effort from goalie Guillermo Ochoa (video above). But Ochoa isn’t the only reason Mexico didn’t drop a game in group play. Plenty of solid midfield play has the Mexicans –who’ve surrendered only one goal — thinking they can leave this game with a win.

Costa Rica (2-0-1) v. Greece (1-1-1)

Time: 2 p.m.

What to know: No team is more surprised to be in this situation than Costa Rica — not even Greece. Costa Rica torched Uruguay, beat Italy, then drew with England in a game Los Ticos didn’t need. And their reward is a Greece team that took advantage of a weak group to move on. … The Greeks will sit back as they did throughout group play (they are the only team to advance with two goals) and hope to counter, or wait until penalty kicks.

 

Monday

France (2-0-1) v. Nigeria (1-1-1)

Time: 10 a.m.

What to know: When news broke that Franck Ribery would miss the World Cup with a back injury, French hopes sagged. They aren’t sagging any more. The French were one of the most exciting teams to watch in group play, led by Karim Benzema (video above) and his three goals. Three games, eight goals scored, two goals allowed. And now they get Nigeria. … Unless Nigeria score a lucky goal and play all 11 men inside their half, plus maybe sneak another couple off the bench, France will be moving on.

Germany (3-0) v. Algeria (1-1-1)

Time: 2 p.m.

What to know: Algeria definitely a surprise here. Germany, not so much. As expected, the Germans won all three of their games, including topping the United States 1-0 on Thursday. They were rewarded handsomely, getting an Algerian team that is making its first appearance in the knockout stages. German striker Thomas Mueller, who scored against the US, is tied for the tournament lead with four goals. Algeria scored five total.

 

Tuesday

Argentina (3-0) v. Switzerland (2-1)

Time: 10 a.m.

What to know: Argentina and Lionel Messi, the best player in the world still playing in the World Cup, have to love this match. Messi has four goals in three games (video above). Argentina will be missing striker Sergio Aguero with an injury, but with so much talent, it shouldn’t matter. … The Swiss are somehow here with a pair of wins. They opened with a come-from-behind, stoppage-time win against Ecuador, then gave up five goals to France, then held Honduras scoreless to qualify for the knockout stages. Which Swiss team will show up?

Belgium (3-0) v. United States (1-1-1)

Time: 2 p.m.

What to know: Belgium won all of its games in uninspiring fashion. That should give the US some hope. Belgium entered the tournament a dark-horse favorite. But after scoring four goals in three games in a weak group, some of those expectations might have faded a bit. … The US, however, has reached the knockout stages for the second consecutive tournament for the first time. And their hopes have to be rising. After navigating the Group of Death, the US should be fresh for the match. And it’s one they can definitely win.