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Friday, June 25, 2010

Round of 16

All the first round group stage games are complete. Now its time for the real World Cup action, the knockout stages. The field of 16 is set, and the match-ups range from two unlikely opponents, to old rivalries, to expected finals meetings.

I'll obviously be looking forward to the matches tomorrow, first to see who will be the USA's potential next competition, then to see if they can get past Ghana to play another round.

Picks: Uruguay to face USA. I don't think South Korea can keep up any longer, and Uruguay seemed to have no trouble in their group play. As for the USA, I know Ghana will have the support of an entire continent as their 12th man, but I think the US has too much momentum, and are too ready to move on.

On Sunday, perhaps the four biggest names in the greatest sporting event on earth will square off. England, the dark horse of the tournament, up against Germany, 2006's third place finisher, and Argentina, my personal favorite to win, against Mexico, who looked uncharacteristically shaky in group play.

Picks: Germany to face Argentina. Some big names have already fallen from the tournament, and England's performance in Group C doesn't give me any confidence in them. And many people have had their shots to take at Diego Maradona, but I think his knowledge of the game has rubbed off on La Albiceleste and will give them yet another reason for the upper hand against Mexico.

To start your Monday off right, the powerhouse Netherlands team, winning all three group stage games, will take on Slovakia, capitalizing on Italy's early exit from Group F. Then perennial favorite, Brazil will take on fellow South Americans, Chile.

Picks: Netherlands to face Brazil. The Netherlands have just rolled over their competition, and seem too strong to be stopped by the Slovaks. While Chile battled valiantly against La Furia, I don't think that Brazil will go down easy. They know what is at stake, and have not played fewer than 5 matches since 1990. They are experienced, and I have no doubt they want to establish themselves as the top South American team.

And the final day of the Round of 16 on Tuesday, features Paraguay and the surprise nation of Japan. The later match will be another pre-Cup potential Finals match-up. A hungry Portugal squad will face the favorites, star-studded Spain.

Picks: Paraguay to face Spain. South American is harvested respect from the entire world, and I don't think that Japan's style of play will hold up for 90 minutes against Paraguay. Brazil-Portugal will probably be the most exciting game of this round. The two teams are heavily favorited, but since flopping doesn't appear anywhere on the stat sheet, the Portuguese will be headed home at night's end.

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