Brazil, Germany, France and Spain are the main favorites. Will any of them win the 2018 World Cup?
If you want to find out how I came up with the 16 teams in the first knockout round, read my 2018 World Cup group previews:
ROUND OF 16
Uruguay – Spain
If you asked me yesterday, I probably would’ve picked Spain. However, considering the circumstances involving their coach, I’m leaning towards Uruguay now. Let me just say that what happened with Julen Lopetegui is embarrassing for everyone involved. Spain seemed to have finally found a coach who suits the players and the style they want to play and he betrayed them right before the event they’ve been waiting for four years. The Spanish Federation could’ve elected to be lenient, but you can’t blame them for doing what they did. Lopetegui’s move was irresponsible and he deserved to be punished. If they didn’t fire him, they would’ve set a bad precedent for the rest of the footballing world. As for the match, Luis Suarez and his friends win a tight one 2-1.
France – Croatia
Croatia has been itching to get revenge on France for the painful 1998 World Cup semi-final loss. It didn’t happen in the 2004 European Championship (2-2) and it won’t happen now. Modric, Rakitic and their teammates will definitely make this a game. Kylian Mbappe’s injury also frightens me, but if anyone has a good backup, it’s France (Ousmane Dembele). I expect extra time or perhaps even penalties, but Les Bleus do go through to the next round.
Brazil – Mexico
Brazil wasn’t able to penetrate Mexico in their group meeting in the 2014 World Cup (0-0). That’s because the Mexicans can be real pests when they want to be, and I mean that in the most positive way. They don’t let their opponent off the hook and are one of the few teams who will not be intimidated by this extraordinary Brazilian team. But,,,, I still give the advantage to The Canaries.
England – Colombia
England gets unlucky. The Three Lions finished first and their reward is one of the readiest World Cup squads – Colombia. It’s definitely not the matchup Gareth Southgate or the England fans desired. It might even go to extra time, but I think the South Americans come out on top.
Portugal – Russia
If Salah is healthy, this is going to be a matchup between Portugal and Egypt, thus a rematch between Ronaldo and Salah. If not, then Russia is here. If that’s the case, then this is a no-brainer. The host’s defense is way too leaky to be able to contain the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Argentina – Denmark
I don’t like this matchup for Argentina. Denmark’s players are very skilled and will be capable of matching La Albiceleste step by step. The possibility of Messi rising to the occasion with a couple of moments of inspiration always exists, but this Danish team fits the profile of a spoiler. I don’t know, it’s a tough call. I’ll go with Argentina on penalty kicks, just because I believe in Messi’s virtuosity.
Germany – Serbia
These two have met once in a World Cup and Serbia actually won (1-0 back in 2010). It was the Serbians’ only World Cup win that year. They are a dangerous team, but Germany is not the matchup they want at this stage. The Germans rarely fail to reach the semi-finals, let alone the quarter-finals, so I doubt Krstajic’s young squad is ready for that type of a challenge. Die Mannschaft moves on.
Poland – Belgium
This is probably the most difficult Round of 16 game to predict. Both teams have their own strengths and weaknesses, yet I think Belgium is the more complete one, thus Poland is eliminated.
Uruguay – France
This is where it starts getting tough. Games are tenuous, nervous, anxious and rarely goal fests. France has never beaten Uruguay in their three prior World Cup meetings. The time has come. Antoine Griezmann gets the better of Luis Suarez, as the French scrape through again on pure individual quality.
Brazil – Colombia
Brazil is the team that eliminated Colombia in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup and Brazil is the team that knocks out Colombia again this time around. Tite’s men are just too gifted. Their opponent does a good job at reducing the damage, but it’s done anyway.
Portugal – Argentina
Oh my! This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Messi and Ronaldo measure their strengths at the world’s biggest stage. I don’t think there’s a single football fan in the world that doesn’t want to see this matchup come to life. This is 100% not going to be a game of many goals. More likely, one moment of confusion, one mistake decides the outcome. Either that, or penalties. Forgive me Messi, but it’s not your time yet. Ronny comes out on top.
Germany – Belgium
I’ll be quick here. I don’t believe Germany will be repeat and I love Kevin de Bruyne. He reminds the Germans of the player that used to dazzle every week at Wolfsburg and helps The Red Devils eliminate the defending World Champions.
France – Brazil
This is the end of the line for France. After escaping with narrow victories in the previous two rounds, karma catches up with Deschamps’ boys. Brazil does to France what France did to them back in the final of 1998. 3-0 and La Seleccao is in the final.
Portugal – Belgium
This is not Euro 2016 and Portugal will not get away with its sneaky style of play again. Whether it happens in regular time or extra time, I don’t know, but Belgium wins. By a tiny margin, but it wins.
Brazil – Belgium
Surprised? I’m not. I love the players Roberto Martinez has in his squad. I believe everything clicks for Belgium’s golden generation and they reach the final. Brazil, though, is a different type of beast. Their flamboyancy and offensive superiority will be tough for the Belgians, even if Vincent Kompany is in the team. Eden Hazard and his teammates keep it interesting, but Brazil gets its redemption. The cloud hanging over them after the 2014 World Cup is lifted. Players are on their knees, tears of joy are flowing and the World Cup trophy rises in the Moscow sky in the hands of the new, 6-time World Champions.