Into the knockout stages

Saturday 30th June
3pm France v Argentina
France topped their group with 7 points out of 9 without looking wholly convincing from a tactical perspective but still a much clearer passage to the knockout stages than Sampaoli’s Argentina who were indebted to a late Rojo goal against Nigeria to get the win that saw them finish in second place in their group
At the prices, France 7/5 the draw 11/5 and Argentina 13/5 you have to favour the consistency of France against a leaky Argentinian defence and with a midfield that rarely plays to Messi’s strengths.

7pm Uruguay v Portugal
Uruguay are yet to concede a goal in this tournament, with Godin proving an immovable force as he is for Atletico. With Suarez and Cavani both socring goals in what was probably the weakest of the groups Uruguay could well be a dark horse for this tournament.
For Portugal, as well as the brilliance of Ronaldo, William Carvalho in defensive midfield was an absolute behemoth in the group stages. If he keeps it up, Portugal will get past Uruguay but it won’t be easy against those athletic young Uruguay central midfielders
The market finds this an impossible one to call, its 2/1 each of three in the 1-2-X market. My preference would be a low scoring draw and extra time, so the draw at 2/1 it is

Sunday 1st July
3pm Spain v Russia
Spain topped Group B with only five points and conceded 5 goals in their three games. 8/11 about them winning here looks a short price against hosts who rested some of their first team in the Uruguay loss and have been extremely fit and hard working throughout, and of course are at home wherever they play
The 3/1 about the draw and therefore extra-time appeals here too

7pm Croatia v Denmark
Croatia were one of the most impressive teams in the group stages with three wins out of three and one of the best midfields in the competition.
Denmark appeared comfortable to qualify in second place from the France group if their style of play in the 0-0 draw that concluded the group is anything to go by. Eriksen and a solid defence apart, they might not trouble Croatia much who look a class above them
Croatia at 10/11 is the bet.

Sunday 2nd July
3pm Brazil v Mexico
Brazil won their group with seven points without getting out of second gear, prompted by Coutinho primarily with Neymar not the central protagonist. Mexico were in pole position to win their group and avoid Brazil but then capitulated 3-0 to Sweden in the last group game to scrape through solely because of Germany’s stunning Korea defeat. That result and performance was an odd one, as all momentum has been lost
Mexico can cause problems here on the counter attack but it would be a stretch to tip them up at 8-1. I think both teams to score at 10/11 is plausible though, I don’t see this being tight and cagey.

7pm Belgium v Japan
Belgium should be a warn order here having rested most of their first choice team in beating England 1-0 and up against a Japan side that lost to Poland in a game where they were trying to win.
Indeed Belgium are 4/9 the draw 4/1 and Japan 9/1. Belgium to win to nil at 5/6 appeals

Tuesday 3rd July
3pm Sweden v Switzerland
Sweden topped group F which is the big shock so far, with Germany exiting. A rather humdrum team, all defensive organisation and hard work, they belied that tag beating Mexico 3-0 and now go into the plum part of the draw and probably only marginal underdogs to a Switzerland team that finished group runners up to Brazil. Switzerland probably have a bit more flair than Sweden but this should be tight. Prices of Switzerland 17/10, Sweden 11/5 and the draw 2/1imply as much. The draw at 2/1 has to be a likely option here in what should be a low scoring match.

7pm Colombia v England
Colombia beat Senegal to top the group but it came at a cost with the injury to James Rodriguez their key playmaker. England rested 8 and didn’t look too interested in topping their group and getting in the tougher half.
This should be a tough game yet prices dramatically overstate England who should be favourites but England 6/5 (1/2 to qualify!) and Colombia 3/1+ means Colombia at that price or 6/4 to quaify have to be supported on value grounds alone.