World Cup Picks: DI sports staff predicts World Cup round of 16

The+Original+FIFA+World+Cup+Trophy+is+on+display+for+one+day+only+during+the+FIFA+World+Cup+Trophy+Tour+in+East+Rutherford+on+Nov.+8.

Photo courtesy of Julian Leshay/TNS

The Original FIFA World Cup Trophy is on display for one day only during the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour in East Rutherford on Nov. 8.

By Sports Staff

2022 is the year of the underdog. A record-high three Asian federation nations, just one from CONCACAF and just two South American nations have moved onto the round of 16 in Qatar. Just seven of the FIFA World Top 10 nations have moved out of the groups, with world No. 38 Australia upsetting No. 10 Denmark against all odds to move on.

With so many upsets, our group stage picks could not have been more wrong. Uruguay and Denmark most notably faltered despite being picked as favorites to move on. After 48 matches, we have made better judgements of where these teams are at now that they are finally in Doha.

Just 16 matches remain, and now each match is winner-take-all, adding even more layers to an already enthralling competition. If teams like Japan and Morocco have the clutch factor, there is no telling how far they can go up against the best.

Here is the DI sports section’s picks for the round of 16, with some notes about what we’ve seen thus far:

Netherlands (A1) vs. USA (B2): Ben Fader

After finishing on top of Group A, the Netherlands will take on the United States (USA), second-place finishers in Group B. The Match will kick off the round of 16 for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and take place at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, at 9 a.m.

The Netherlands had a relatively easy path to the round of 16, outscoring opponents 5-1 and finishing 2-1-0. Cody Gakpo has emerged as a premier offensive threat, scoring in all three matches, as the 23-year-old is shining at his first World Cup.

However, goals have not come easy against their new opponent, as the Red, White and Blue have conceded zero goals in open play this Cup. The USA finished 1-2-0 in their group, outscoring opponents 2-1. The only goal allowed came off a questionable tackle in the box leading to a penalty for Wales. They appeared stronger and more confident in every game leading up to this point, but star winger, Christian Pulisic, is day-to-day with a pelvic contusion. While he has told the team and media that he intends to play, his status will not be confirmed until later this week.

While inclined to pick the USA because of the chip on their shoulder and how well they are playing, I believe their inexperience and youth will affect them. They have failed to capitalize on multiple key situations in each game thus far, which will hurt them Saturday. I, disappointingly, pick Netherlands to advance to the top eight, with a 3-1 win.

@benfader7

[email protected]

 

England (B1) vs. Senegal (A2): Conor Blount

After punching their ticket to the elimination stages with a 2-1 victory over Ecuador, Senegal only had to wait a few hours to find out who their opponent would be. Keeping a clean sheet and scoring three goals against Wales put England squarely on top of group B with seven points and a +7 goal differential.

Despite England’s seemingly impressive resume in the group stages, they most certainly had moments of vulnerability. One of their goals conceded to Iran occurred despite having seven defenders in and around the box, and I don’t even need to mention how failing to beat the USA was embarrassing for The Three Lions.

While Senegal has definitely had shaky moments of their own, a 2-0 loss to the Netherlands for example, every negative moment has been accompanied by encouraging signs. In the aforementioned loss, Senegal had more shots and shots on goal than the Netherlands and have outscored their opponents 5-2 since the loss.

It will surely be a close match, but Senegal’s strong finish to their group stage combined with England’s unconvincing play in a group they were supposed to dominate makes me believe Senegal will defeat England 1-0.

@blountco21

[email protected]

 

Argentina (C1) vs. Australia (D2): Adam Rosen

The group stages were full of intrigue, drama, and excitement across the table. Going into the round of 16, it was expected that Lionel Messi’s Argentinian squad would face Denmark, who were expected to finish second in Group D. It did not go that way, as the Australian national team shocked many, finishing second in the group stage. 

The Argentinian squad has faced some struggles in the tournament, being upset by Saudi Arabia on day one, and struggling to finish off Mexico and Poland until late. However, they won the group, and are in a prime position to push towards a storybook ending to Lionel Messi’s international career. 

Australia, led by Mathew Leckie, looks to bust some brackets and stun Argentina much like how he and the rest of the Socceroos busted many group predictions.

However, the incredible opportunity that Argentina has seems far too great for the Australians to overcome, and I expect Argentina to end the Aussie’s fairy tale run with a 3-1 victory, I expect Lautaro Martinez to get it going with a brace, and Messi to score the dagger third goal, as they will advance to face either the Dutch or the Americans in the quarter-finals.

@arrosen76

[email protected]

 

France (D1) vs. Poland (C2): Martin O’Connor

After an impressive group stage, barring France’s game against Tunisia, the young French squad look strong and ready to go far in this World Cup, starting with a round of 16 matchup against Poland. 

Poland will look to veteran striker Robert Lewandowski to have a stellar performance against France, but all eyes will truly be on the French prodigy Kylian Mbappe. With 3 goals in 3 games, Mbappe will look to continue his good form. Young stars combined with few veteran presences seem to be the answer for France, who have been left without world class veterans Paul Pogba and N‘Ggolo Kante. Both Aurelien Tchouameni and Antoine Griezmann have linked up beautifully this World Cup, with Griezmann really finding himself in his free flowing false 9 role.

France’s biggest challenge versus Poland will be scoring however, with Wojciech Szczesny’s impeccable form so far this World Cup. Szczesny has saved a penalty from Argentina’s Lionel Messi as well as Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al Dawsari in Poland’s group stage matches.

Although this game may start off close, with expected chances to be had by both France and Poland, it will be France that comes through victorious in the end. 

My Prediction:

France 3 – 1 Poland 

Mbappe x2, Griezmann x1 – Lewandowski x1

[email protected]

 

Japan (E1) vs. Croatia (F2): Drew Friberg

Japan has been one of the biggest surprises of this tournament. Beating both Spain and Germany en route to a first place finish in Group E has taken much of the world by surprise. I was surprised in the first place finish, but not with them getting out.

Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma have worked wonders off the bench, transforming the Japanese formation and allowing the Samurai Blue to have an incredibly high press, which has squeezed mistakes out of some of the world’s best possession players in Pedri and Joshua Kimmich.

Croatia have been relatively quiet up to this point, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. With a similar formula to the previous World Cup, which saw them place second, Luka Modric and his midfield trio of Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic boast the World’s strongest midfield in terms of technical security. When Andrej Kramaric is firing on all cylinders, the sky is the limit.

That being said, I think this match will act as the passing of the torch, from one Cinderella story to another. Croatia’s aging legs likely won’t be able to keep up with a full 90 minutes of Japanese pressing. I’m thinking this could be another moment to add to Doan and Mitoma’s already strong catalogue of cameos, and the Samurai Blue will squeeze out yet another 2-1 victory.

As a big fan of Mitoma I want to believe he can recreate more magic and strike where the Croatian backline is at its weakest: on the right flank.

@DrewFriberg9

[email protected]

 

Morocco (F1) vs. Spain (E2): Theo Gary

The Spanish team does a lot of passing. With a panoply of midfielders, old hands in defense and Alvaro Morata (of struggling at Chelsea fame) in attack, Spain will play how they always play and either look really good or really stupid in the process. This is no exaggeration. 

When that rotating, constant extraordinarily technical passing they play works it’s fantastic, when it doesn’t you want to rip the hair out of your skull and then rip the hair out of Luis Enrique’s skull because instead of trying to score the ball has rotated backwards for the 100th time and you need Spain to get a goal so Germany goes through….

Anyways, Morocco is good too. They’ve got guys in Europe, players like Hakim Ziyech (who also struggles at Chelsea) and Achraf Hakimi, who plays for the most expensive losers in the world — PSG. 

Morocco is exciting and technical, but makes mistakes at crucial moments, losing focus at the worst of times. Spain is built to beat that sort of squad, the Spanish excel at forcing a defense to concentrate. But if Morocco can, if they hold up and stay strong, there’s no reason this match can’t be dragged into extra time and the random number generator that is penalties.

No prediction. Spain has better players. They’ll have most of the ball. Which team scores? That’s anyone’s guess.   

[email protected]

 

Brazil (G1) vs. Korea Republic (H2): James Kim

While the presence of title contenders Brazil in the Round of 16 comes as little surprise, South Korea enter the knockout stages as a refreshing inclusion. The South Koreans’ qualification came down to the wire after Son Heung-Min linked up with Hwang Hee-Chan to score a 91st minute goal to beat Portugal, sending Uruguay and Ghana home on the final group match day.

Brazil, on the other hand, are coming off a shocking 1-0 defeat to Cameroon but still managed to top Group G. Heading into the World Cup as one of the favorites to win it all, Brazil easily could have won all three of its matches by significant margins. That being said, the loss to Cameroon proved that the Brazilians aren’t invincible, which should provide some hope to South Korea heading into the Round of 16.

With the Portugal win and a draw against Uruguay under their belts, it is safe to say South Korea have been defying expectations in Qatar. Because of this, when making a prediction for their matchup with Brazil there’s that part of me that believes there is serious potential upset on the cards.

In spite of this, the star-studded squad that Brazil boasts is too hard to overlook. Star forward Neymar Jr. is currently out after suffering an injury in his country’s 2-0 win over Serbia. However, it’s sounding like there’s a possibility that he’ll be ready to take the pitch. Whether or not Neymar plays, the Brazilians still very much have the depth to progress to the quarterfinals.

I’m predicting a scrappy 2-1 victory for Brazil, but I would love to see South Korea stun the world yet again at this World Cup.

@james_kim15

[email protected]

 

Portugal (H1) vs. Switzerland (G2): Jonathan Alday

In a thrilling final game of the group stages, South Korea managed to squeak their way past World Cup favorite Portugal in a 2-1 final score line. While Portugal felt comfortable at the top of the group, noticeable moments of vulnerability have raised eyebrows on the true heights that they could reach.

Switzerland, has found consistent results in the World Cup, making their way out of the group stages but never quite getting past their first draw.

Prior to their final match against Serbia, Switzerland managed to navigate group stages without any major score differential, which is good for morale but shows that they struggled to find the back of the net on multiple occasions. After a 1-0 loss to Brazil, Xherdan Shaqiri and Switzerland needed to show that they’re capable of coming back from a deficit, which they did 3-2 to send Serbia home.

Unfortunately for the Swiss, they will also head into this match as major underdogs. Christian’s Ronaldo and Co. will likely be too much to handle for Switzerland, sending them home in the group stages once again.

Final Score Prediction: 1-0

@JonathanAlday7

[email protected]