Kris Fernandes (email@example.com)
is a Toronto based soccer & futsal writer for Inside Soccer Magazine. Deeply immersed in soccer fandom and culture, he has been actively involved in spreading the love of the beautiful game in a uniquely Canadian way for a decade through media coverage, administration and coaching. He covered the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and the 2008 UEFA European Championships from Austria/Switzerland for both CBC Sports Online and ISM.
Today is the most highly anticipated one so far of this World Cup and rightfully so. With two monstrous battles setup where the loser goes home the world is going to enjoy an epic Sunday indeed. Here are my predictions for the games today and who the bookies are liking.
ARGENTINA vs MEXICO
Every fan on the planet is hoping and wishing that these two finely tuned Latin squads emulate the epic classic they put on in Leipzig, also in the round of 16, back in 2006.
It’s hard to imagine, but both teams look even better at this tournament than they did 4 years ago and we can expect a very strategic and calculating game where both teams will be looking to exploit any mistakes and pounce on the opportunities. As much as we’d all like to see a balls-to-the-walls offensive juggernaut, there is just too much at stake for either squad to take unnecessary risks.
Mexico will need a career-launching performance out of forward Giovani Dos Santos in order to penetrate the stingy Argie backline (1 goal allowed in 3 games), while Mexican captain, Rafa Marquez, will need to maximize all of his insider knowledge to help keep his Barcelona teammate, and the world’s best player, Lionel Messi at bay. Even if Mexico attempt to double and triple-team Messi, Argentina just have so many other potent options upfront, the most deadly being striker Gonzalo Higuain who is currently in a 5-way tie for the Golden Boot with 3 goals.
Despite a more than rocky qualifying campaign that saw Argentina get in on the last matchday, they have shown tremendous ability thus far in the tournament with the win over South Korea the most eye-opening performance any team has showcased to date. For that reason alone I’m taking Argentina to progress via a 2-0 victory. If it turns out to ring true their prize will be a date with either England or Germany. My, oh my.
ARGENTINA to win 2-0
ARGENTINA 1.75 DRAW 3.75 MEXICO 7.00 (Draw means at the end of 90 minutes)
GERMANY vs ENGLAND
So the soccer lords have blessed us with another über-hyped clash between ze Germans and the English. The 5th installment of the intense rivalry (3 of their 4 matches have at gone to extra time with Germany having a slight 2-1 edge in wins) should be a nail-biter from start to finish.
England, expected by many to finish atop of a relatively light group, had to clinch their round of 16 ticket in their final match against Slovenia. They have failed to provide any reason why they are considered contenders for the title and will need to step it a few notches to stave off this young and hungry German squad that showed flashes of brilliance (see the highlights of their demolition of Australia) in their opening 3 games.
Rooney will need to chip at the cinder block that is weighing on his shoulders for England to have any real hope of putting any goals past keeper, Manuel Neuer. Helping the cause upfront will be the speedy and hard working Jermain Defoe who is widely expected to start. David James will need to continue his strong play in net while John Terry is going to have to find a way to stop Michael Ballack’s replacement, Mesut Özil, who has been nearly unstoppable so far.
Germany would have swept their group if not for the dismal performances of Lukas Podolski, who couldn’t hit the side of a barn in the last 2 games. Miroslav Klose will need to pick up that slack if Germany are hoping to move on as England have a far superior defense than any of the 3 teams they’ve faced.
The midfield is where Germany have excelled at as Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller, my pick for the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament, along with Ozil have been mostly rock solid from box-to-box. Captain Philip Lahm, Germany’s most consistent player over the last few years, will be looking to shutdown the starving Rooney while Per Mertesacker will need to use his intelligent positioning to cut off chances from Defoe, Gerrard, and Lampard.
Despite Coach Capello’s assertions that England are as confident and focused as ever for this match I am tipping Germany to win a Klose one with a 2-1 victor in extra time (history repeating itself)
Germany 2-1 After extra time
GERMANY 3.00 DRAW 3.00 ENGLAND 2.62