Brazil wary of Chile threat (TSN 1050, TSN 690, TSN 1200, TEAM 1410)
South American rivals Brazil and Chile open up the second round of the World Cup at the Estadio Mineirao on Saturday in an intriguing contest.
It is also a matchup that Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari believes will be a serious test for his side.
"If I could choose another opponent, I would," Scolari said a few days ago when asked about playing Chile. "I think they're the trickiest side we could have been drawn against. They have everything."
Chile advanced to the knockout round from a difficult Group B that included the Netherlands, Spain and Australia.
La Roja started its tournament with wins over Australia and Spain to book a place in the next round before sitting a few key players in the group finale against the Netherlands, which topped Chile, 2-0, to win the group.
One of the players that Chile head coach Jorge Sampaoli decided to rest against the Dutch was midfielder Arturo Vidal, who underwent knee surgery prior to the start of the tournament and who is expected to come straight back into the lineup against the hosts on Saturday.
Vidal, along with Alexis Sanchez and Charles Aranguiz, will provide the biggest offensive threats for Chile, which will hope to exploit a Brazil back line that tends to get forward a lot and could be susceptible to counter attacks.
As expected, Brazil finished atop Group A after wins over Croatia and Cameroon and a 0-0 draw with Mexico.
The Selecao netted seven goals in three group-stage matches, including four from star forward Neymar, despite not appearing to hit top gear.
Now, Scolari knows his team must take its play to the next level to get past a tough Chile side.
"I hope that Chile don't qualify for the last 16," the coach said back in December after the draw for the World Cup. "I would prefer to face any other side. They are intelligent and their style of play doesn't suit us. It would be better to play against a European team."
Scolari didn't get his wish, but his team may be able to exploit a height advantage against Chile to get to the quarterfinals.
Against Australia in the group stage, Chile's shorter defenders struggled to cope with the aerial threat of Tim Cahill, while the Dutch scored on a header from Leroy Fer in the second half of the group finale to take the lead.
Brazil should be a real threat from any set-piece opportunity in the attacking third with players like Fred, David Luiz and Thiago Silva able to get on the other end of crosses.
Neymar has been as good as advertised so far, while Brazil's threat in the air will also pose a stiff challenge for the Chileans.
A win for Chile would give the club its first berth in the quarterfinals at a World Cup since 1962, and Sanchez is confident that his side will make history.
"We have respect for them [Brazil] but I think we are going to beat them," he said.
"We came to this World Cup to make history. We beat the world champions and, although we had a slip-up against Holland, we are going out to try and win the Cup."
Colombia squares off with Suarez-less Uruguay (TSN 1050, TSN 1200, TEAM 1410)
Uruguay has attracted plenty of attention at the 2014 World Cup, and not always for the right reasons, but the team will attempt to put its distractions aside against an impressive Colombia outfit at the Maracana on Saturday in the round of 16.
Uruguay forward Luis Suarez has been a lightning rod for attention in Brazil, first sitting out his team's 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica after knee surgery, and then making a triumphant return against England that saw him score twice in a 2-1 Uruguay win.
But the Liverpool striker stunned the soccer world by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the second half of Uruguay's 1-0 win in the group-stage finale to book a place in the second round.
Suarez was not punished on the field, but FIFA's Disciplinary Committee came down hard on him after reviewing the incident, banning Suarez for nine international matches and from all football-related activity for four months.
The loss of Suarez will put added pressure on forward Edinson Cavani, whose only goal so far in the tournament was a penalty kick in the opening match.
Veteran Diego Forlan is expected to come in for Suarez, but this team has so far looked like a much different side with Suarez in the lineup than without him.
Uruguay needed a win over Italy in its final Group D match to advance, and it wasn't Suarez who provided the difference, rather it was defender Diego Godin.
The Atletico Madrid man scored the goal that clinched La Liga for his side in the final game of the season in May, while he also put Atletico ahead with a goal in the Champions League final.
And he popped up once again to head home the winning goal against Italy in the final 10 minutes.
"We didn't make it easy for ourselves, starting the way we did, and it was a miracle that we pulled it off in the end," Godin said of his team finally securing a place in the knockout round. "Now we can start thinking about the last 16, but no further. We respect everyone but fear no one."
Godin will need to be on top of his game defensively if Uruguay is to reach the quarterfinals because his team is coming up against a Colombia side that has been one of the most impressive at the tournament so far.
The Colombians won all three of their group-stage matches by a combined score of 9-2, with midfielder James Rodriguez turning in an especially impressive performance.
The 22-year-old Monaco man has netted three goals with three assists so far, and along with Juan Cuadrado, Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez, Godin and Uruguay will have their hands full.
Colombia has also enjoyed some incredibly vocal support from its fans, making its three group matches feel like home games according to 21-year-old midfielder Juan Quintero.
"It's like we're playing in Barranquilla," Quintero said of the support Colombia has received. "The fans are 100 percent behind us and that makes us feel great. We're playing for our people and we want to make them as happy as we can."
A win over Uruguay on Saturday would no doubt please Colombian supporters, especially since it would mark the first time that Colombia has ever advanced to the quarterfinals at a World Cup.