Brazil struggles to get the goals they need but advance to the final 16 behind Coutinho’s leadership. This is and should be Coutinho’s team as it is him pushing his nation into the next round. His wonderful goal in the first game and incredible assist in the last game are the moments that have helped Brazil get the goals and points needed. While Neymar is slowing his team down by playing 1 on 2 football, and flopping around like a fish after the slightest touch, it is Coutinho who is contributing to the scoreline. One might argue that the rest of the Brazilian team is able to find space they need due to the attention Neymar dictates as is the case with most superstars. I do not think this is one of those times where a superstar is helping rest of the team perform. I truly believe that Brazil would have been able to play much faster and be better going forward if Neymar is not on the field. The entire fluid motion of the team comes to a screeching halt most times when the ball comes to the left and Neymar slows the team down by facing up an opponent, sometimes two. Even if he drops the ball back to the supporting attack, it slows the team down and affects overall pace, giving the defense time to adjust and react. Neymar is explosive and can take advantage of space but in most games, it will not be available for him as defenses collapse on his side waiting for him the turn the ball over.
Switzerland was definitely a surprise as for me as I expected Costa Rica to perform a lot better than they did. Costa Rica played themselves out of the tournament by being too cautious and not taking chances on offense with their experienced players. This cost them in the Serbia game as well and when they had nothing to play for, they started attacking producing several chances. Switzerland took advantage of a good start against Brazil and got the scores they need to the second round even if it was not done in impressive fashion.
What is next for these two teams? Brazil faces Mexico who got exposed by a very physical Swedish team. Brazil does not have the big bodies Sweden was able to throw at Mexico but if they watch tape of that game, they will see numerous times when the Mexican defense looked lost, leaving Swedish players wide open with shots at goal. Furthermore, this game showed that once Mexico concedes a goal, their defensive intensity and concentration hits rock bottom which will be just what Brazil need especially with their players thriving on open space as opposed to crowded defenses. This will be Brazil’s coming out party when it comes to offense and might propel them to the cup with the confidence and rhythm they take from this game. My Prediction Brazil 4 Mexico 1
Switzerland gets a favorable draw avoiding any of the other favorites in the tournament. Sweden has played well this Cup and their last game showed what they are capable of going forward. I expect Switzerland to sit back on this one and let Sweden have possession. Will their counter attack force or set pieces be enough to get the goal they need? Sweden is the clear favorite to me based on the football they have shown so far in the World Cup. My prediction Sweden 2 Switzerland 0