Monday, 30 June 2014

Pain Is Brown, Hate Is White, Love Is Black, Stab The Night

2 more last-16 games for me to preview (totally not rushing here. Honest)

Argentina v Switzerland
I'll get the headline out of the way first: Switzerland are going to win. Now, to explain: Argentina as a TEAM have simply not been all that impressive so far- far too reliant on Messi in attack, uncertain defensively and far too cautious in midfield- witness coach Alejandro Sabella's insistence on retaining 2 defensive midfielders (Mascherano and Gago) when striving to break down a resilient Iran defence. With Sergio Aguero set to miss this game, Sabella will be forced to look to his bench where, quite frankly, he does not have the same quality of replacements. Ezequiel Lavezzi is Aguero's most likely replacement and while he does offer considerable pace, his finishing lets him down far too often. Sabella's other options include the workmanlike but limited Rodrigo Palacio, or a return to the 5-3-2 shape with which they looked distinctly unimpressive in their opening game v Bosnia. Switzerland, meanwhile, have flown under the radar somewhat in Brazil. As expected, they qualified in 2nd place from their group, edging past Ecuador, being picked off ruthlessly by France, before making light work of Honduras. Ottmar Hitzfeld has a very neat, tidy, well-balanced side with plenty of youthful endeavour and, in Xherdan Shaqiri, a genuine world-class attacker. Lionel Messi isn't the only top-quality diminutive left-footed playmaking genius on display here. There's another big shock coming in this tournament
The verdict: Switzerland will eventually beat Argentina- or Argentina will beat themselves (their World Cup knockout stages record is awful)
The bet: Switzerland to qualify at best odds of 7/2 general

Belgium v USA
Much-hyped (over-hyped in this writer's humble opinion) before the tournament, Belgium cruised through their group as expected, although it took some considerable time, and a switching to plan B, to do so in each game- 4 goals from 3 games is also less than the return than many were expecting from such a talented attack. The USA lack the individual quality of Belgium (and indeed arguably any side still in the competition bar Costa Rica). However, there's an outstanding team spirit in their side fostered by J├╝rgen Klinsmann (one can easily picture him being quite the motivational speaker), plus some players of genuine potential- tireless right-back Fabian Johnson has been a real find, while Clint Dempsey has excelled all across the front line. This could be a slow-burner.
The verdict: For various reasons, it'll take more than 90 minutes to separate these two
The bet: The draw is available at 5/2 general. You'll get 11/10 with Youwin on a draw at half-time too


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