Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup 2010: Round of 16 Previews- June 29

Paraguay vs. Japan
The most unlikely of the eight round of 16 match-ups takes place Tuesday in Pretoria as Group F winners Paraguay face Group E runners-up Japan. For the winner, it will be their first trip to the quarterfinals. Paraguay got a boost from a 1-1 draw with Italy in their first match. A win over Slovakia and a draw with New Zealand left them atop the group. Japan split its first two matches, defeating Cameroon and falling to Holland. A 3-1 win over Denmark sealed their second trip to the knockout stages in three tournaments.

Japan's prowess on set pieces was impressive against Denmark and they'll need those types of strikes from Keisuke Honda to secure victory. While he has yet to score in the tournament, Roque Santa Cruz is looking healthier and will be the focal point of Paraguay's offense.

So far the Round of 16 has been played at a high level. We might be due for a clunker, and this has the look of one.

Prediction: Paraguay 0, Japan 0 (Paraguay wins on PKs)

Spain vs. Portugal
The battle of Iberia is on as reigning European champions Spain, winners of Group H, face Group G's second-place team, Portugal. After a stunning 1-0 loss to Switzerland in their opener, Spain defeated Honduras and Chile to earn six points. Portugal played a pair of 0-0 draws against Ivory Coast and Brazil, but they had no trouble finding the net in a 7-0 thrashing of North Korea.

Fernando Torres is still battling injuries, but David Villa's play has more than compensated for Spain. His opening brace against Chile was one of the tournament's top strikes. Portugal, however, are still waiting for their top star to bring his A game. Cristiano Ronaldo has been curiously quiet so far, and Portugal will need his best effort to pull off the mild upset.

Sometimes an early scare helps galvanize a squad, and that appears to be happening with Spain. Look for them to keep the momentum going against Portugal.

Prediction: Spain 2, Portugal 1

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