It’s now crunch time with the World Cup reaching the last 16 stage after an enthralling round of group matches. The tournament has been as entertaining as anybody could’ve predicted and we’re only half way through. Hopefully it does continue and the knockout rounds begin with a South American clash between the hosts and Group A winners Brazil and dark horses Chile who finished runners-up in Group B. With the crowd behind Neymar and co and Chile playing some of the most entertaining football in the competition so far, it’s set up for an absolute cracker of a match.
Like in their two previous matches, Brazil weren’t fantastic against Cameroon but still did enough to win the game quite easily. Although Cameroon did look dangerous in the second half and did draw level at one stage, Brazil’s superiority in attack prevailed with Neymar again the star of the show. Fred will probably be the most relieved man in the country at the moment having finally got the goal that he as well as the nation needed. His early form in the tournament hasn’t been great but his goal to make it 2-1 will have given him a great deal of confidence which he can take into the game against the Chileans. Having finished first in the group, Brazil avoided a clash with an in-form Dutch team but Chile will be treated as equally having impressed in Group B and beating current World Champions Spain in the process.
Brazil won’t be making too many changes to their first 11, with Neymar, Oscar and Hulk providing the support for Fred up front.
Fernandinho came on at half time against Cameroon in place of Paulinho and impressed in the second half, capping his performance off with a goal late on. Scolari may decide to play the Man City man from the start in favour of the Spurs midfielder in Saturday’s contest.
Key Player: Neymar
Neymar has undoubtedly been the main man for the Samba Boys in this World Cup. There was much anticipation and excitement for the Barcelona man to perform at his best after giving the Brazil crowd a glimpse of his talent in the Confederations Cup last year. Well he hasn’t let the Brazilian faithful down with his goals being crucial to his team’s passage into the last 16. His two goals against Cameroon took his tally to four for the tournament, and will be eager to add to that if Brazil continue to progress through the competition. With a shooting accuracy of 89% from his first three games, Chile will be wary of giving the 22-year-old too much space in much of goal because more than likely, they will be punished.
Although they ended the group stage with a defeat, Chile have been excellent so far in terms of their football and team spirit. The Chileans base their play on quick and precise movement, with the smaller and skilful players being able to express themselves. Vargas, Sanchez and Diaz have all impressed and demonstrated their fluency in the final third whilst being protected by a warrior-like Arturo Vidal in the middle. Cardiff City’s Gary Medel has been fantastic at the back for Chile as has most of the team. Having outplayed the current holders of the competition, Spain, you can see that Chile haven’t come to Brazil to make up the numbers and will pose as a real threat to Brazil’s chances of winning the World Cup on home soil.
Vidal missed the 2-0 defeat to Holland in Chile’s last group game but is likely to come back in the squad, having figured as a crucial ball winner in the centre of midfield. The Juventus man recovered from a knee injury just in time for the tournament and will be hoping to make the most of the time and help his team progress.
The rest of the team are likely to be unchanged with Vargas and Sanchez spearheading the attack.
Key Player: Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez has been Chile’s equivalent to Neymar in the tournament so far and is finally being recognised as a top talent by many around the world. Many have spoken about his bright future and his performances have indicated that he may just be fulfilling his potential. A number of Premier League teams have been linked with the 25-year-old including Liverpool and Arsenal. After scoring against Australia in the first match, Sanchez has gone onto create five chances for his team mates, including one assist and his quick feet and clever movement has made defending against him very tricky thus far. Scolari will pinpoint Sanchez as the key man for Chile with David Luiz and Thiago Silva likely to keep their wits about him in their pending encounter.
Possible Line Up
I’m expecting an exciting game with plenty of chances, continuing the entertaining football that we’ve seen over the last few weeks. I’d love to see Chile progress because of the way they play football but I feel that Brazil may just have too much for them on the day