The round of sixteen of the World Cup could not start with more exciting matches, nor with a better showing of how much talent South America truly holds when it comes to competitive soccer.
Two of the eight matches in the next round will showcase a full serving of South American squads, while Argentina will battle Switzerland for a spot in the quarter finals, as five of the six qualified teams from the CONMEBOL region have made it to the knockout stage –all except Ecuador.
Brazil wont have an easy time against Chile. The men led by Sampaoli have already showed what they are worth, making it out of a group were many didnt give them a single chance. Their victory against Spain, after a shaky start against Australia, was an impressive display of teamwork, testosterone and willingness to win.
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Now they will face Brazil, the host nation, who has not had the expected performance so far, but that has made it out of a complicated group without a scratch, aside from the 0-0 that Mexico held them to.
With Neymar playing at the top of his game, Brazil can dream of World Cup glory, yet they will need to make sure that they can compete defensively in order to not suffer as much as they have in the group. Croatia and Mexico found ways to the Brazilian box playing quickly in the middle and running balls to the defenses back, as Thiago Silva and David Luiz have shown to be lacking a bit in the speed department.
Chile, on the other hand, are very clear on what the keys to the game will be for them to keep their chances of victory: insufferable pressure upfront, overcrowding the middle, and making sure their defense keeps a good hold on Neymar and Oscar, the two most prolific players in the Canarinhas attack.
Uruguay – Colombia
Meanwhile, the Uruguay-Colombia matchup will have two of the most exciting teams in the tournament so far face off in a no-holds-barred contest.
It will be interesting to see how Uruguay recovers from the tremendous blow that was Luis Suarezs FIFA ban. After having been found guilty of biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez will be unable to play for nine games with Uruguay, and will not be admitted at any FIFA sanctioned venue for four games (effectively, not being able to play or even watch a professional game at any level until late October).
Uruguay lost the only game they played without Suarez in the tournament, when the surprising Costa Rica beat them 3-1 in Fortaleza.
With the Liverpool attacker back in action, the team beat England (with two fabulous strikes from the now banned Suarez) and Italy, but now without their main star things will get tougher for the Charruas.
Diego Forlán, as it happened against Costa Rica, will most likely take his spot in the attack, and he may hold the key of qualification against the Cafeteros. The rest of the team will be the same that beat Italy, and their course of action will also be similar: not concede a single chance on the back, and try to take advantage of Colombias defense playing very high up field.
Pekermans men have a plan that will not change against Uruguay or any other team. The Argentine has revived Colombias love for attacking soccer, and hes built a squad that can face any other in the world with their head held high. Teo Gutierrez, James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado have made the Tricolors fans forget about Falcaos absence in Brazil, and although their group was hardly the toughest one in the tournament, the teams performance has really exceeded everyones expectations.
Colombia will go back to their standard lineup against Uruguay, even after Jackson Martinez impressed against Japan with two goals, while James Rodriguez will have most of the responsibility in terms winning the match. The 22-year-old has been impressive in the first days of the tournament and –if they werent before– most big clubs in Europe will now be knocking on Monacos door this summer trying to sign him.
All in all, the first day of the round of sixteen will not only be worthy of a heart attack, it will also have tremendous Latino flavor, something that has been quite common since day one of the World Cup.