World Cup round of 16 preview29th Jun 2018 |
Croatia vs Denmark
Croatia were one of the most impressive performers in the group stage, yet it still feels like they are going under the radar ahead of the round of 16. Manager Zlatko Dalic will not mind that one bit, but he will be delighted with how well his charges have done so far, having amassed nine points – one of only three teams to boast a 100 per cent record – in a tough Group D. Denmark were also unbeaten, winning one and drawing two of their games, but their displays were not always convincing and they will probably have to improve if they are to see off the Vatreni, whose variety in attack has served them well thus far. Back Croatia to score the first goal in the first half at tempting odds of 7/5.
Brazil vs Mexico
Five-time world champions Brazil are eyeing a sixth trophy this summer and now look to be in a strong position having endured a sticky start to the group phase. Tite’s side came flying out of the traps in the first 20 minutes of their opening game against Switzerland, taking the lead and threatening to carve open their opponents at will. By the end of the match, though, the Swiss were good value for their point, before Brazil left it very late to beat Costa Rica in their next encounter. A 2-0 defeat of Serbia featured a much-improved display, though, and the Selecao will not fear Mexico despite their brilliant 1-0 triumph over Germany. El Tri ended the first round with a worrying 3-0 loss to Sweden, and I do not expect them to recover by shocking Brazil. Back the favourites to win a game featuring more than 2.5 goals at 13/10.
Belgium vs Japan
Belgium’s 1-0 victory over England earned them top spot in Group G and made it three wins from three for Roberto Martinez’s side. In truth, we have not really learned anything new from this Red Devils team: the Belgians have been scintillating going forward at times, scoring nine times in their 270 minutes of action, but they have also left space for opponents to exploit. Japan, meanwhile, exceeded expectations by qualifying in second spot in Group H, with their patient, passing football representing a return to the traditions which have tended to serve the Samurai Blue well in the last couple of decades. They may struggle to live with Belgium’s attacking firepower, however, but they could also find the net themselves – bet on goals for both teams at 6/5.
Sweden vs Switzerland
Sweden looked to be on the brink of an early elimination after their 2-1 defeat by holders Germany, with Toni Kroos’ last-minute goal leaving Joachim Low’s charges in pole position to advance. Yet the Germans’ shock 2-0 defeat by South Korea on Wednesday, together with Sweden’s superb 3-0 triumph over Mexico, sent Janne Andersson’s men through to the knockout stage as Group F winners. Switzerland also showed plenty of grit and resilience in the first round, coming from behind to draw with Brazil, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win against Serbia, and then getting the job done with a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica. This will be tight, so consider putting some money on a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes at 17/4.
Colombia vs England
England’s 1-0 loss to Belgium meant they finished second in Group G, while Colombia’s 1-0 triumph over Senegal in their final game brought a first-place finish. This is arguably the most finely poised of the eight knockout ties taking place over the next four days, and the fitness of James Rodriguez – withdrawn after half an hour of the Senegal success – could be key to determining the outcome. Rather than predicting a winner, it would be wise to put some money on the in-form Harry Kane finding the back of the net – the England captain can be backed at a relatively lengthy 11/10 to score anytime.