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Chile will fancy their chances

Friday, 27 June 2014 - 6:10am IST | Agency: DNA

After a group stage that produced plenty of goals and drama, Saturday marks the beginning of the knockout stage of the World Cup. There will be an unmistakable South American flavour to the Round of 16.

Hosts Brazil play Chile in the first Latin American double-header in Belo Horizonte. Questions were asked of Luiz Felipe Scolari's men after their first two group matches where their performances had left a fair bit to be desired. They did finish with a 4-1 win over Cameroon, and even though Scolari seemed fairly upbeat after the win, there remain chinks in Brazil's armour, especially in defence. In fact, Scolari himself acknowledged that given a choice, he would have preferred to avoid the Chileans.

I can understand where that's coming from. Chile, under Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, have shown what a tactically well-drilled side they are. They could not have given a more emphatic demonstration of their capabilities than in their convincing 2-0 win over world champions Spain. And despite losing the battle for top spot in their group to The Netherlands, Chile will justifiably fancy their chances of springing another huge shock.

Brazilian fans are understandably counting on the brilliance of striker Neymar to take them far. And the young man hasn't disappointed. He's hit the back of the net four times to emerge as joint top-scorer in the tournament. But, much like Mexico, the Chilean defence, too, won't be giving him much room.

We had expected the South American teams to leave their mark in Brazil, and it's proven to be the case as Uruguay and Colombia square off in the evening kick-off at the Maracana. You cannot overlook the contrasting styles in which both teams secured their knockout qualification. Colombia, coached by former Argentina boss Jose Pekerman, turned on the style in the group stage by winning all three matches and scoring as many as nine goals. The Uruguayans, on the other hand, were 10 minutes away from elimination in their final match against Italy till captain Diego Godin struck a vital header to put them through in a controversial and ill-tempered affair.

Uruguay will not enjoy the services of star striker Luis Suarez, who has been handed out a nine-match ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. It's not the first time Suarez has been involved in such an incident and he only has himself to blame.

This will be a tie between a Colombia side looking to attack against a Uruguay team who will be content to sit deep and hit their opponents on the break. And seeing as they've coped really well without the injured Radamel Falcao, I'm expecting the march of the Colombians to continue.


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