Breaking down each Round of 16 match-up


16 teams have gone home and now the last 16 remain to battle it out on Brazil.

On Saturday the Round of 16 kicks off as eight matches will take place to usher in the knockout stages. We have some absolute beauties coming your way as three CONCACAF, five South American, two African and six European teams continue their quests to win it all.

[ RELATED: Full schedule for last 16 matches ]

As Jurgen Klinsmann said after the USA sealed their qualification to the knockout round “this is now the start of a whole new tournament.”

Lets take a quick gander at all eight mouth-watering ties and see what we can expect. The full-size bracket can be seen at the bottom of the post.

[ RELATED: Complete bracket for Round of 16, more ]

Round of 16 matches

Brazil vs. Chile – Saturday, 28 June, 12 p.m. ET, Belo Horizonte

The hosts take on one of South America’s most likeable sides in a real humdinger. Brazil’s attacking flair will be made to work extremely hard by a Chilean side that love to pressure high. There will be thousands of Chileans in the crowd to create a superb atmosphere and this is where the hosts could come unstuck. Can Neymar be the hero or will Arturo Vidal’s Chile provide a not so huge shock?

Key men

Brazil: Neymar

Chile: Arturo Vidal

Colombia vs. Uruguay – Saturday, 28 June, 4 p.m. ET, Rio de Janerio

Another all-South American clash awaits on Saturday as Colombia and Uruguay clash at the Maracana. Colombia have been one of the stories of the tournament so far as they banged home nine goals in the group stage and won all three games to set up this tie. Their young attacking duo of James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez have torn teams apart. As for Uruguay, they narrowly beat Italy and England to advance but are now without star man Luis Suarez for the rest of the tournament after he bit Giorgio Chiellini. These two are familiar foes, with Uruguay winning 18 of the 38 games they’ve played.

Key men

Colombia: James Rodriguez

Uruguay: Diego Godin

source: AP
Ochoa will have to carry Mexico, once again, when El Tri takes on the Dutch.

Netherlands vs. Mexico – Sunday, 29 June, 12 p.m. ET, Fortaleza

This one is a really intriguing match up as free-flowing Holland have swept aside Spain, Chile and Australia thus far. Mexico’s stubborn defense led by inspired goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will provide a really tough test for RVP, Arjen Robben and co. Can the attack-minded Dutch break down the stubborn Mexican resistance?

Key men

Netherlands: Robin van Persie

Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa

Costa Rica vs. Greece – Sunday, 29 June, 4 p.m. ET, Recife

This is not a match many had lined up for the last 16, as both teams qualified for the knockout stages as huge shocks. Costa Rica were phenomenal in qualifying as they beat Italy and Uruguay on their way to winning Group D. As for Greece, a last minute PK vs. the Ivory Coast saw them advance in dramatic fashion but it’s hardly been vintage stuff from the Europeans. Both teams will be relying on their defenses to guide them through.

Key men

Costa Rica: Joel Campbell

Greece: Giorgios Samaras

France vs. Nigeria – Monday, 30 June, 12 p.m. ET, Brasilia

The French have looked imperious thus far, banging in goals for fun and looking incredibly solid under Didier Dechamps. The last two teams to win both of their opening group games by three goal margins have gone on to win the trophy. A good omen? as for Nigeria, they are just happy to be in the last 16 after narrowly beating Bosnia. They gave Argentina a run for their money and if star ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama is on form, France could struggle.

Key men

France: Karem Benzema

Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama

source: AP
Messi is tearing teams apart at this World Cup. Next up: Switzerland.

Germany vs. Algeria – Monday, 30 June, 4 p.m. ET, Porto Alegre

The Germans are looking like the same old ruthless machine at this World Cup as they coasted out of the Group of Death. Thomas Muller is on fire with four goals so far and the Bayern Munich man now has nine goals in nine World Cup games. Algeria have beaten Germany on both of their previous World Cup meetings, but the African side will be up against it as Die Mannschaft aim to go deep in Brazil.

Key men

Germany: Thomas Muller

Algeria: Islam Slimani

Argentina vs. Switzerland – Tuesday, 1 July, 12 p.m. ET, Sa0 Paulo

The Argentine’s will fancy their chances here, as Messi is the tournament’s leading scorer with four and it finally seems like he’s going to lead them all the way to a World Cup title. That said, Switzerland blow so hot and cold that you don’t know what you’re going to get. They demolished Honduras 3-0 in their final group game but were hammered 5-2 by France in a topsy-turvy game. This game is all about one man and if the Swiss can stop him. I think not. Messi will win this for Argentina.

Key men

Argentina: Lionel Messi

Switzerland: Xherdan Shaqiri

Belgium vs. USA – Tuesday, 1 July, 4 p.m. ET, Salvador

Belgium won all three group games. 2-1. 1-0. 1-0. They are tight at the back and clinical going forward but fail to create many chances… Sound familiar? The U.S. and the Belgians are extremely similar, have played twice recently in friendlies which reuslted in Belgian victories but this could go all the way to penalty kicks. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will likely have to sit back and defend for most of this one, as the form of ‘keeper Tim Howard is key. Can the stubborn American defense stop the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard and co.?

Key men

Belgium: Eden Hazard

USA: Tim Howard


Conte: My Chelsea will never play for a draw, home or away

HULL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea reacts to his team scoring during the Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KCOM Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte knows what he’s doing — he’s playing the game made popular the world over by his predecessor and Sunday opponent, Jose Mourinho, and so many others who went before him.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Where other managers shy away from the controversy and the spotlight brought upon themselves by the psychological warfare waged by so many of the giants of the managerial profession, Conte has embraced the added attention he’ll now face when Chelsea host Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

While Mourinho hasn’t been quiet in the build-up to his return to Stamford Bridge — how could he, given the considerable demand for comment? — he has mostly kept the cheap shots to himself and attempted to treat the affair like any other. Of course, it’s not that for him; for the Chelsea fans; for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who made the decision to fire Mourinho 10 months ago; and now, for Conte, who’s suddenly thrust onto the other side of the battlefield ahead of Mourinho’s grudge match — quotes from Goal.com:

“No, I think it is always right to play for a win. I try to transfer these thoughts to my players always. If you play at home or away, it must be the same.

“You must start the game with only one target: to win. Not to play for a draw. I don’t like this. It is not football. I don’t like this.”

“I think it is important to win, but for me also, it is important to win in the right way. Because, sometimes, it happened to me. I won in the past with other clubs, but I wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“When you win is important, but it is important to also play good football, to play with a good intensity, to show always the will to win, the passion. For me, that’s important.”

The obvious inference here is that Mourinho’s teams have always been set out to play in a defensive manner — often times aiming for, or, at the very least, achieving 0-0 draws — something the Portuguese did earlier this week, away to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Conte didn’t ask to be the anti-Mourinho when he was named Chelsea’s new boss — not directly so, at least — but it comes as part of the territory when taking over from a mountain of a manager like Mourinho. Cool as ever, Conte is relishing his new role.

Introducing Zabivaka, Russia’s 2018 World Cup mascot

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: Official Mascot Wolf was chosen as Official Mascot of FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia and Nazario Ronaldo during 'Vecherniy Urgant' (Evening Urgant) TV show on Channel 1 at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) Russia has chosen a cocky wolf wearing sporty goggles as the mascot for the 2018 football World Cup.

The wolf was chosen in online voting over two other mascot candidates — a cat and a tiger wearing a space suit.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

The announcement was made early Saturday at the end of an hour-long broadcast on state Channel One television. More than 1 million Russians voted in the contest, according to the broadcast.

World Cup matches are to take place in 11 cities in June and July 2018. The venues are in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Wolf, the winer of FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia Official Mascot, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vitaly Mutko, TV host Ivan Urgant and Nazario Ronaldo attend at 'Vecherniy (Evening) Urgant' TV show on Channel 1 during at Ostankino on October 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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Aguero looking vulnerable as Man City evolves under Guardiola

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City shows dejection after the final whistle during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at Etihad Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester City’s spine of goalkeeper Joe Hart, center back Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and striker Sergio Aguero has anchored the team since 2011 in the most decorated period in its history.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

One by one, it is being dismantled by Pep Guardiola.

Hart has been sent out on loan to Italy.

The injury-hampered Kompany no longer appears first choice.

Toure has been ostracized.

And the seemingly unthinkable is happening: Aguero is coming under pressure for his place.

Aguero started on the bench for the English Premier League game against Everton on Saturday after playing two matches for Argentina during the international break. More surprisingly, he stayed among the substitutes for the Champions League match at Barcelona on Wednesday, when Guardiola preferred to play midfielder Kevin De Bruyne up front.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Aguero has been untouchable, a guaranteed starter since joining from Atletico Madrid in July 2011. Suddenly, possibly the most popular player among City fans – and a scorer of 102 league goals in his first five seasons at the club – is vulnerable and seemingly dispensable, even if he is likely to regain his place for the Premier League match against Southampton on Sunday.

When asked if Aguero was being phased out, Guardiola said on Friday the player’s future was at City.

“When Sergio decides to leave Manchester City, it will be his decision,” Guardiola said. Then, echoing comments he made about Hart in August before allowing him to leave, Guardiola added: “I appreciate him (as) a football player. I appreciate (as) a man what he did here.”

It’s not just the recent selection decisions that hint at a sense of unease between Guardiola and Aguero.

Guardiola has said publicly on at least two occasions this season that he wants more from Aguero than just goals, just like he wanted more from Hart than simply making saves. After Aguero’s hat trick in the Champions League win over Borussia Moenchengladbach, Guardiola said: “I cannot teach him (about his talent in the penalty box) but he has to know that behind, the rest of the team wants to help him and that is what I want to convince him.”

While on international duty with Argentina this month, Aguero was quoted as telling Argentine media that Guardiola “is very picky about everything, (and) it’s good.

“The good thing is that I’m getting used to him and automatically going straight into pressing the centre backs.”

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL preview — Mourinho back at the Bridge; City-Saints ]

Aguero, who is contracted to City until 2020, has 11 goals in 10 appearances this season, and 19 in his last 20 dating to last season. There are few better, attainable strikers around and it will be intriguing to see how the situation pans out, especially with Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus due to arrive in December to provide competition up front.

Guardiola said on Friday he had no regrets about his decision to drop Aguero for the Barcelona game, which City lost 4-0 after having goalkeeper Claudio Bravo red-carded. That made it four games without a win for Guardiola, and a failure to beat Southampton would equal the longest streak without a victory in his coaching career.

In an answer that lasted more than 6 1/2 minutes on Friday, he defended his tactics at Camp Nou and praised the personality of his young players like John Stones and De Bruyne.

Guardiola repeated he will not change his style.

“I think about that, yes,” he said. “But after that, the solution is not better than what I believe. So I cannot. Do you know why as well? Because in seven years (at Barcelona and Bayern Munich), I won 21 titles. … So it’s three titles per year playing in that way.

“No, no, I’m not going to change. First, it’s going to happen that (if) it’s not going well in the future, next season isn’t going well in that way, I will go home.”

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Messi wins it late for Barca; AC Milan shock Juve

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 22:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his team mates as Neymar Jr. and Luis Suarez reacts on the pitch after being hit by objects thrown from the seats after scoring his team's third from the penalty spot during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Mestalla stadium on October 22, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

Valencia 2-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez led Barcelona back from 2-1 down to take all three points at the Mestalla Stadium and reclaim the top spot in La Liga. There’s lots to unpack here, beginning with the nasty tackle that’ll keep Andres Iniesta (knee ligament damage) out of action for up to two months. Then there was the controversial fashion in which Messi gave Barca an early lead.

Valencia hit back twice before Suarez drew the visitors level again, and Messi converted from the penalty spot in the 93rd minute to seal the victory, at which point Neymar was hit by a bottle thrown onto the field by someone in the stands. In the end, Barca are back on top, until Real Madrid are allowed to have their say on Sunday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 3-3 Eibar
Real Sociedad 3-0 Alaves
Granada 0-0 Sporting Gijon

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Celta Vigo vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid — 10:15 a.m. ET
Malaga vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Villarreal vs. Las Palmas — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

AC Milan 1-0 Juventus

The kids are (a whole lot more than) alright at AC Milan. 18-year-old midfielder Manuel Locatelli unleashed a stunning strike in the 65th minute, as Milan shocked the world by upsetting the five-time (and six-time, presumably) defending champions, Juventus, at the San Siro. Then it was 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s turn to play his part, in the form of a stunning save to deny Sami Khedira an equalizer with the last kick of the game.

Juve remain top of the Serie A table, but it’s Milan who now sit second, just two points behind them.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sampdoria 2-1 Genoa

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Udinese vs. Pescara — 6:30 a.m. ET
Torino vs. Lazio — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari vs. Fiorentina — 9 a.m. ET
Crotone vs. Napoli — 9 a.m. ET
Empoli vs. Chievo — 9 a.m. ET
Bologna vs. Sassuoo — 12 p.m. ET
Roma vs. Palermo — 2:45 p.m. ET