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This Week At The World Cup


The group stages of the World Cup came to a close on Thursday, leaving 16 teams with a chance of lifting that famous gold trophy in two weeks.

Entertaining games, explosive goals and surprise performances made it the best opening round in World Cup history, and one with plenty of storylines.

Championship hopefuls Spain, Italy, England and Portugal have all packed up and headed home, while relative minnows like Costa Rica, Algeria and Nigeria are headed to the knockout stages.

The dark side of football also made an unwelcome appearance at the tournament.

A player revolt forced the Ghanaian authorities to fly in $3 million before the team’s final game, while the team also sent home a pair of players for abusive behavior.

Then there was the pettiness of FIFA reportedly investigating Brazil’s Neymar over flashing his underpants (seriously).

Of course, the biggest headlines to be splurged on the back pages related to Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez, who was suspended for nine international games and four months for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

While the incident itself was deplorable, not least because it marked at least the third time the striker had bitten another player, it did lead to this gem of a headline: “You have a higher chance of being bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez than by a shark.”

Updated World Cup Odds

Looking ahead, the round of 16 commences Saturday with the host nation kicking off proceedings in Belo Horizonte. Over the next four days the field will be whittled down to eight, with that trophy moving ever closer.

Here’s how the second round is shaping up.

Brazil vs. Chile

Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto, Belo Horizonte – Saturday, Noon ET

The knockout stages of the tournament begin on Saturday with a mouthwatering matchup. For the second straight World Cup, Brazil and Chile will meet in the round of16, with a valuable spot in the quarterfinals up for grabs.

Brazil has historically dominated the head-to-head matchup, winning 50 of 70 matches, including the last three meetings in the World Cup finals. Chile hasn’t won in the knockout stages since 1962.

Colombia vs. Uruguay

Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro – Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET

In the second of Saturday’s all-South American double-header, Colombia will look to upset Uruguay in the first World Cup meeting between the sides since 1962.

Colombia appears in the second round for the first time since 1990, while two-time champions Uruguay – who will be playing without the injured Suarez – will make their second appearance. As an aside, Uruguay recorded one of, if not the most famous victory at the Maracanã, defeating Brazil in the 1950 World Cup final.

Netherlands vs. Mexico

Estádio Plácido Aderaldo Castelo, Fortaleza – Sunday, Noon ET

Both Mexico and the Netherlands are well versed when it comes to playing in the knockout stages. The Dutch have made it this far in their last eight tournaments and El Tri in its last six. The latter hasn’t won an elimination game since 1986 though.

The matchup itself is one of the more intriguing on the schedule. The Netherlands have played free-flowing, high-scoring football while the Mexicans have proved they’ll not back down from anyone (just ask Brazil). This should be a good one.

Costa Rica vs. Greece

Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, Recife – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Two underdogs will meet for the very first time in Recife on Sunday as Group D winners Costa Rica meet Group C runners up Greece. Neither side was fancied heading into the tournament, but one is going to go through to the quarterfinals to meet the winner of the Netherlands-Mexico match.

France vs. Nigeria

Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília – Monday, Noon ET

France will appear in the knockout stages for the third time in five tournaments. The last two times the side made it this far, it finished first (1998) and second (2006) in the tournament. That’s bad news for a Nigerian side making its first appearance in the second round since 1998.

That being said, Nigeria owns a victory over France in the only head-to-head meeting between the two nations, and after doing just enough – or rather benefitting from Bosnia and Herzegovina doing just enough – could prove to be a tricky prospect for Le Bleu.

Germany vs. Algeria

Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre – Monday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Germany has played in 18 World Cup tournaments. It’s made it to the knockout stages on 17 occasions, including the last 16. That’s (easily) better than any other team.

While the Germans advancing to the knockout stage is by no means a surprise, it’s a different story for their opponents. Algeria has never made it this far, which made Thursday’s stoic performance against Russia even sweeter.

Algeria has beaten Germany in both head-to-head matches, including a stunner in the 1982 World Cup. The infamous German-Austrian Anschluss of that tournament saw Algeria dumped out at the group stages. Will retribution be in the air in Porto Alegre?

Argentina vs. Switzerland

Arena Corinthians, São Paulo – Tuesday, Noon ET

The final day of second round action features an intriguing matchup between Argentia and Switzerland.

The South American side has yet to truly hit the form it’s capable of, while Switzerland – ranked No. 6 in the FIFA rankings – hasn’t been all that impressive. In six head-to-head matches, Argentina has never lost to Switzerland, winning four. Can the Swiss change that on Tuesday?

Belgium vs. USA

Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador – Tuesday, 4:00 pm. ET

The final game of the second round sees the United States look to upset Belgium, a team ranked fifth by bookmakers ahead of the tournament.

The United States’ record of advancing to the knockout stage is good, having advanced in four of the last six tournaments, but the side has only won one of those games, a 2-0 victory over Mexico in 2002.

Things haven’t been much better for Belgium. The side has been eliminated in three of its four second round appearances, the only success coming in 1986, when the team finished fourth in the competition.

In five previous head-to-head matchups, the United States has never beaten Belgium, losing four and drawing one.


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