It’s been difficult, but I’ve been trying to avoid posting all of my World Cup picks at once! I managed to make it a day before caving with this post. I’m sticking to the FotMob app for visuals.
I am particularly excited for the Quarters, especially if my Round of 16 predictions come true. The Germany / Poland and Spain / Argentina rivalries would be awesome to see on this stage. Brazil / England would be a classic showdown as well, and I think Uruguay vs Croatia would make for a refreshing mix-up to the final eight this year.
Quarterfinal Matches and Predictions (W indicates Winner)
Uruguay vs Croatia
Last World Cup, I felt as though Belgium was a true dark horse- lots of young, motivated and talented players taking their first legitimate stab at a major trophy. I was disappointed to see them crash out early (though I must say I was happy to see Messi and company progress). This year, I think Croatia is the dark horse, but in a different sense. This team is more experienced than Belgium was at the time; Croatia has proven, world-class players across the board. I don’t have the chance to watch Serie A as much as I’d like, but there are a number of Croatian gems spread across the best Italian clubs (not to mention the Bundesliga, Russian league, etc.). Not to bring up the midfield again after my last post, but with Modrić, Rakitić, and Kovačić handling the center of the pitch, I think they’ll be orchestrating the offense beautifully, and getting the best out of guys like Perišić, Brozović, and Mandžukić.
As much as I respect Uruguay and the consistency with which they’ve reached the later rounds of the World Cup, I think Croatia will be clever enough to tough out a win.
Brazil vs England
This prediction I’m sure will be met with some “all right, dude” and “ya, ok” type comments, but I am behind England to make some waves this World Cup. I realize this is what we all say almost every World Cup, but there are cold-blooded players all across this lineup. Without a doubt, Brazil is bringing a skillful squad this year with guys that love to have fun on the pitch (and destroy other teams while doing so). In England, though, we are looking at a nicely-mixed lineup with leaders in defense, midfield and up top who have all experienced success at the highest levels; skillful, cheeky players that have proven they can go toe-to-toe with the toughest defenders; and players with ice in their veins to score goals in the most dire moments of a match. It can certainly be argued that Brazil brings that same level to this match, but…England has to break through at some point, right? Why not this year?
Germany vs Poland
This match is an exciting prospect for many reasons, but the classic Germany / Poland rivalry speaks for itself. Can Lewandowski can pull off a signature performance against the country that pays him a fortune for his services? Will some of the goal-scoring weight he carries for Poland be lifted by his supporting cast? Poland has a strong side this year- its amazing to think of the talent they have in each position, and the quality of club teams these players support (Napoli, Dortmund, Monaco, Wolfsburg). Unfortunately for Poland, a prediction of Germany in the semifinals just makes too much sense. Germany’s starting lineup is loaded with World Cup winners, still in their prime, who have as good a chance as anyone to reach the final (again). It will be strange to see Germany without Klose in the World Cup, but Die Mannschaft will not be lacking in the striker department. I expect a good performance from Poland; that being said, Germany basically breathes as a unit, and a team in-sync to that degree will just be too much for their neighbors to the east.
Spain vs Argentina
The final prediction for this set of matches is another difficult choice. This match may have the most drama behind it, at least for me. The Spanish giants vs my favorite international squad, the Albiceleste (yes, I still love my United States). This is a match that is only fitting for this World Cup. Perhaps Messi’s last true, realistic go at the World Cup trophy will require a path through his current club teammates and his biggest club foes combined. Argentina’s faithful can only pray that Higuain finally takes his goal scoring form from club and puts it on display for country. The attacking options this year for Argentina are incredible, per usual. Despite this, the team always finds a way to lean on the “mercurial magic”, as Ray Hudson might say, of Lio. However, I believe this World Cup will be different. Call me a dreamer, but I think Argentina finally clicks; they are well overdue (just like England) for what I would call a “complete” tournament, not just the Messi show. From the Spaniards, we will see defensive tenacity (do I need to mention Sergio Ramos?), fluid passing and high percentages of possession. I also anticipate frustration from numerous characters that could be their downfall, especially if La Pulga and the gang are up to the challenge. I just see Argentina on a mission in this match; losing to Spain to end this World Cup for Messi just does not fit the script for me. I’m sticking with Argentina to put on an emotional and exciting display of football for their country and the world.
Thanks for reading everyone- I will be posting my predictions for the semis and the finals in the coming days. Enjoy the rest of the week!