“Are you not entertained?”
It’s Monday, and I’m sure most of us are at work needing coffee to wake up from the dream weekend of games we’ve just witnessed. I will admit Saturday was better, but the drama of penalties on Sunday made up for some less than sensational football. Overall, we were entertained. We move ahead to the next eight teams hoping to join France, Uruguay, Russia, and Croatia in the quarterfinals.
Brazil vs Mexico
Brazil always gets to the quarterfinals, let’s just move on to the game. That attitude may be OK for fans to indulge, but make no mistake, Tite will not be underestimating his opponents. The Canarinho won Group E but are yet to look like the favorite for the title. With news that first choice full backs Marcelo and Danilo may not start, they begin the game without some major weapons.
with the poor performance against Sweden, El Tri lost their chance at the easier route to the quarterfinals. Juan Carlos Osorio has shown an ability to strategize for the opposition, and he will have been in the video room looking for a weakness to exploit. He will have to get it done without Hector Moreno who is suspended.
Belgium vs Japan
We’ve heard for the past few years that Belgium are the next big thing, that they will explode in a tournament because of all the young talent Roberto Martinez has at his disposal... The time to show it is now. Romelu Lukaku is fit after missing the England game, and Vincent Kompany may be ready to join the lineup.
Japan are here because they were gifted game 1 and then accumulated fewer yellow cards than Senegal. Despite how they got here, Akira Nishino will have to focus on what’s next to get his team further than the round of 16, which Japan is yet to do. Keisuke Honda may be the man to provide some magic late.
Sweden vs Switzerland
Let’s get this out of the way: Those who said Janne Andersson made a big mistake leaving Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of the Sweden squad can go sit in the corner. Winning a group featuring world champions Germany and Mexico is a great accomplishment, and the ride can only get better with a win here. Emil Forsberg and Marcus Berg have not scored yet in Russia despite looking dangerous, which means there may be more to come from this team.
As usual Xerdan Shaqiri is the man receiving the attention for Switzerland. He has done well so far and will again be expected to provide the inspiration. Stephan Lichtsteiner is suspended, which leaves the team without a leader. Vladimir Petkovic will need others to step up. This should be an even game, and one of these nations will be surpassing pre-tournament expectations.
Colombia vs England
Things got off to a calamitous start for Colombia in Russia; an early red card in the opening fixture led to a loss. They did well to go on to win Group H, and with the attacking players in the squad, they will believe they can trouble anyone they have to face. James Rodriguez, star of 2014, may not be fully fit for this encounter. However, the Cafeteros can call up Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Juan Quintero to create havoc for any defense.
I’ve lived in New York for seventeen years; the media here are merciless when it comes to sports team coverage. The entire England squad will be aware that the English media can be even harsher — a loss here after resting players and not winning the group against Belgium will see them eviscerated by the London press. Harry Kane will be the man charged with responsibility for leading the team to victory here, and Gareth Southgate will have to use the fresh legs of those who rested to overcome the Colombians.
Players to watch
Let’s see if I can improve my recommendations from the first set of games. Starting with Monday, I’ll take Jan Vertonghen, Gabriel Jesus, and Romelu Lukaku. Tuesday picks are Andreas Granqvist, Juan Cuadrado, and Harry Kane.
Do you expect more penalty shootouts to decide games over the course of the next two days or will we see games decided in 90 minutes? What about upsets, will one of the favorites be sent home? Let’s enjoy the games, join the comments.