Brazil v Chile Preview: The Real World Cup Starts Now
Us football fans are always hungry for more, and the impending one-day break on Friday after the climax of the last round of group games will not be particularly welcome.
The 2014 World Cup has wowed us at every turn, with the last two weeks perfectly satisfying our collective appetite for the beautiful game in Brazil, and if we can get over Friday's barren hurdle, we've a veritable smorgasbord of tantalising Last 16 ties for our second course!
Brazil will kick us off once more, looking to quell the whirlwind Chileans in Belo Horizonte on Saturday, with sparks expected to fly in the Estádio Mineirão as the South American pair clash for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.
While the Selecao have long been considered one of the favourites for the competition, due to their host status and their evident strength in almost every area of the pitch, Brazil's recent results have been a little bland, with a notable lack of thrust up top, and an apparent inability to obliterate opponents in a manner we have become accustomed to seeing from them over the not-so-distant past.
Brazilian golden boy Neymar is the obvious exception. So far the top scorer in the tournament, the 22-year-old is looking every bit the superstar in his home country. It is his support cast that is under scrutiny, with the likes of Hulk, Paulinho and Fred all coming in for criticism during the group stage.
Fred in particular has seen his stock continue to drop this month, with his presence up top for Luiz Felipe Scolari's side questioned at almost every turn. However, his goal in the last match against Cameroon is food for thought, with the 30-year-old also intrinsic to the fourth goal scored by Fernandinho. The only alternative by way of a target man is former Manchester City bean sprout Jo, with the Selecao relying on just the one type of ingredient up top.
Chile, on the other hand, are a wonderfully balanced medley of spice and determination, with their 2-0 ousting of deposed world champions a real eye-opener. Jorge Sampaoli's side are brutal when not in possession, hassling and harrying opponents into making errors, and breaking with devastating potency.
They came unstuck against the Dutch in the final Group B fixture, however, with Louis van Gaal getting his tactics spot on against the South Americans, as Bayern Munich rocket Arjen Robben tore at the slightly weak Chilean back-line with as much fervor as a stray jalapeno in a bowel of custard.
It will be a hotly-contested contest on Saturday, but history is on the side of the Selecao, having knocked Chile out of three previous World Cups, in the 1962 semi-finals when Chile hosted the tournament, and again in the last 16 at France 1998 and South Africa 2010.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Chile - A repeat of the scoreline between the two sides when they last met in 2013 in Canada, but a very close-fought battle, perhaps with a late goal securing a quarter-final berth for Scolari's men.
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