The Round of 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off Saturday with two all-South American matches featuring Brazil versus Chile and Colombia against Uruguay.
Here are four keys for Day 16.
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Chile’s attack vs. Brazil’s defence
Brazil has actually played Chile twice in this stage before. The Brazilians have won both meetings, the first coming in 1998 in a 4-1 victory. The second match was in South Africa in 2010 when the Seleção shut out La Roja 3-0.
However, Chilean football has come a long way. Former manager Marcelo Bielsa’s system is now emulated at every level of the national team and it’s paying dividends now. Chile’s counter-attack is arguably the most dangerous and can tear apart the disappointing Brazilian defence.
Through three games, Brazil has conceded just twice, but that’s misleading. Brazil has allowed just over 12 shots per game via Whoscored.com. That’s higher than the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Uruguay, Germany, and Argentina.
Against a Chilean side that has several fast, technical players, the hosts will have their hands full on Saturday.
Brazil must control midfield
The midfield battle has been crucial at this World Cup. If a team has a balanced midfield with a playmaker, a box-to-box player, and a defensive anchor, they’ll most likely win the game.
When Fernandinho was substituted for Paulinho against Cameroon, the Brazilian midfield was noticeably more balanced. Manager Luis Felipe Scolari likes to play his favourites, but he might have a dilemma on his hands.
A midfield containing Fernandinho would help lighten the load of Oscar and allow him to create chances in the final third. Because Fernandinho man can go box-to-box, he can also contribute defensively beside Luiz Gustavo.
Paulinho has underachieved for the last few months, and if that continues, Scolari might be in trouble, as Chile will certainly pose more of a threat than Cameroon.
Colombia must utilize their attackers
James Rodriguez has been one of the players of the tournament thus far. He’s been involved in five of Colombia’s nine goals. The other ones have been created or scored by Juan Cuadrado and Teofilo Gutierrez.
This is what is scary about Los Cafeteros–they have talent on the flanks and through the middle. Every player is fast, technical, and has terrific vision. Uruguay has been playing with a deeper backline without Diego Lugano, so if that continues, it’s important that Colombia uses speed to open it up.
Italy failed to do this in their match against La Celeste; they had the ability to use quick passing and runs from their forwards, but didn’t deliver. Colombia can and should use that strategy, especially when Uruguay’s midfield is nowhere near the quality of their opponents.
Who replaces Luis Suarez?
Assuming Uruguay doesn’t boycott the match, their biggest question entering the match is who will replace the suspended Luis Suarez.
Diego Forlan is the favourite, and he’d partner Edinson Cavani up front. Manager Oscar Tabarez has other options in Cristian Stuani and Abel Hernandez. However, it appears as if Tabarez will select Forlan.
If that’s the case, Cavani becomes the key man up front. Forlan can play in behind his teammate and feed him the ball. The PSG forward is an aerial threat, a playmaker, and a hard worker.
Cavani will be able to contribute in all aspects, but it’ll be his goals that will ultimately count. If he can’t score, then Uruguay will have problems in attack.