Breaking down each Round of 16 match-up

6 Comments

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

source:

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.

MLS Week 8: Litmus tests across the board

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Week 8 in MLS action could teach fans a lot about clubs with plenty to prove.

With questions still abound regarding teams like NYCFC, New England, Seattle, Portland, and New York Red Bulls, all those teams have a chance to make statements regarding their potential strength this season.

[ MORE: Week 8 MLS Power Rankings ]

In addition, struggling teams such as Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Montreal all have opportunities for much-needed points against arguably weaker opposition.

Let’s take a look at the weekend slate chronologically:

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo
7:30 p.m. ET Friday

Toronto got a pair from Giovinco last time out, and sitting near the bottom of the crowded East mid-tier, they need points fast to avoid finding themselves in a hole behind the top of the table. There’s goals in this one, with Houston defensively challenged and Cubo Torres on fire to start the year.

Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
3:00 p.m. ET Saturday

An all-Canadian clash actually serves as a vitally important match for both clubs. With each side near the bottom of their conference standings, they both need a result badly to jump-start the campaign. A draw does nobody any good here moving forward.

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
4:00 p.m. ET Saturday

The Lions are one of 2017’s surprises, and Cyle Larin is on an absolute tear. Unfortunately, so far, anyone who shuts down Larin shuts down Orlando City. That said, good luck to Colorado shutting down an early MLS Golden Boot challenger.

Cyle Larin has 6 goals in 6 games this season (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images).

NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

New York has seen bumps on the early-season road, but overall remains a strong Supporter’s Shield contender. They face a big test against another strong Eastern Conference side, and a win here would make it three straight, all over good competition. Chicago is reeling after its defeat to Toronto, out-shot 9-1, but has another chance to pick up a road win before heading back home.

Columbus Crew vs. NYCFC
7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Columbus has been poor on the road, but they return home to Mapfre Stadium to take on a strong NYCFC side. This game could potentially teach us a lot about whoever comes out on top, as both look to build separation from the rest of the pack in the East. Both have lost two of three, but both still appear strong up front, and three points in this game could prove to be a marquee win to point to later in the season.

Minnesota United vs. San Jose Earthquakes
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Minnesota United, owners of one of the worst starts to the season, has shown signs of life. Can they keep it going against another team struggling for points?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers
8:00 p.m. ET Saturday

This is a marquee matchup, and with FC Dallas unbeaten so far, represents a huge test but also a huge opportunity for Portland to announce itself as a true top contender in the West. They’re top of the table, but have played at least one more game than most teams just below them. Can the Timbers find a way through the strong Dallas D?

Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake
8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

A big rivalry game with big table implications, Sporting KC has the unfortunate luck of catching RSL after hiring Mike Petke and not before. This should be a fun one.

Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution
10:00 p.m. ET Saturday

We still don’t know exactly what New England is. For every step forward they’ve taken one back, and for every setback they’ve had they’ve found a way through. This is a fantastic test. There are plenty of excuses for a potential loss with the team going cross-country to face one of the league’s best attacks, but a result could be a true statement.

LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union
10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

With Philadelphia struggling and now traveling a long way, this should be a chance for the Galaxy to turn things around. Should be.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
3:00 p.m. ET Sunday

Atlanta is back home for the first time in over a month. They have slipped a bit since the torrid start, but still appear a dangerous club. D.C. will have its work cut out.

Asian FIFA executive pleads guilty to bribery charges

Getty Images
1 Comment

A guilty plea was entered early Friday by senior Asian Federation (AFC) official Richard Lai to bribery charges, leading FIFA to suspend the 55-year-old indefinitely.

Lai has served as the head of the Guam FA since 2001, and is a member of the FIFA audit and compliance committee. He was also formerly a member of the AFC executive committee, and currently sits on the AFC marketing committee. Lai is a United States citizen.

The guilty plea confirms more than $1 million in bribes accepted by Lai, including those from Kuwaiti officials looking to increase their influence over FIFA voters in the confederation. Two unnamed AFC executives, including one Kuwaiti, were also named as co-conspirators.

“One of the functions the defendant Richard Lai performed for Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 in exchange for the funds they sent him was to advise them on who was supporting which candidates in AFC and FIFA matters, including elections, and who Co-Conspirator #2 and Co-Conspirator #3 should recruit to support their chosen candidates,” a Department of Justice document published on Friday said.

That wording seems to indirectly implicate Qatari executive Mohamed bin Hammam, who was banned for life by FIFA in 2011 for bribery.

“I would like to thank the American authorities for their continued efforts to stamp out corruption from football,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement following the plea. “I am happy to confirm once again, that FIFA will provide whatever assistance is needed by the U.S. and any other authorities around the world.”

Lai has also been provisionally suspended by the AFC.

Argentina closes in on Sampaoli, according to FA boss

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Argentinian FA is hoping to convince Jorge Sampaoli to abandon Sevilla and take the opening in his home nation.

President Claudio Tapia confirmed that Sampaoli is their top target, calling the 57-year-old their “chosen one” in an interview with ESPN.

“We have chosen a coach that has a contract,” Tapia told ESPN. “We want to be respectful and wait because he has a release clause which is once the tournament ends. We will communicate it to the club and we will sit down and negotiate his departure and release clause. We want things to go well in the final games he has left.”

Argentina dismissed coach Edgardo Bauza after the country fell to fifth in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification following defeats to Paraguay, Brazil, and Chile over the past six months.

Sampaoli is under contract with Sevilla until the summer of 2018, but has a $1.6 million release clause, to which Tapia was referring. Sevilla sits in fourth position in the La Liga table, level on points with Atletico Madrid but behind significantly on goal differential. The club finishes its league season on May 21st against Osasuna, and Argentina’s next game is a friendly on June 9th at home against Brazil. The next World Cup qualifier is in August against Uruguay.

Samapoli has been with Sevilla since since last summer in his first European club job, but the Argentinian has ample experience to take over for his home country. He managed Chile for four years, winning the 2015 Copa America in Chile. He resigned in early 2016 due to a contract dispute, paying a heavy price to do so as he gave up bonuses to wriggle free of his contract.

Argentina’s desire to secure Sampaoli as coach is nothing new, as the man himself confirmed an offer for the job a week ago, but said he would not consider it until the end of the season. It appears now that a deal is likely, and he will have a very short turnaround to get his first look at the team against a fierce continental rival.