The big guns enter the knock-out stage of the World Cup on Sunday. Germany and England write a new chapter in their seemingly endless rivalry in the early game, while the late game sees Argentina and Mexico meet in a repeat of their last-16 match at the 2006 World Cup.
GERMANY vs. ENGLAND
3.00pm –Free state Stadium, Bloemfontein
Possibly the most intense rivalry in international football is set to reconvene again during the last 16, with a young Germany side taking on England, a team yet to hit top form during the World Cup. Both teams won their final match of the group stage to set up this titanic clash, and memories of previous encounters are still fresh in the memory of both sets of supporters, even if the groups of players have little recollection of the games.
The Germans may already have the upper hand coming into the encounter, as many of their first eleven helped beat England’s under 21’s at last years European Championships, and the role of Mesut Ozil, who scored the second goal in that match, will be crucial again. For Fabio Capello’s side, Wayne Rooney’s ability to find the net will be pivotal to their chances, as they aim to reach the quarter-final stage for the third time in succession at the World Cup.
ARGENTINA vs. MEXICO
7.30pm –Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg
In the knockout phase you expect the matches to be pressure filled, but after the group stage performances of Argentina and Mexico, you can anticipate nothing more than open, expansive football in the pressure cooker of the World Cup, between these two.
Argentina won their three group matches with the sort of panache that didn’t accompany their qualifying campaign. More of the same, even with their dodgy back four should be too much for Mexico. The inclusion of Jonas Guiterrez at full-back, albeit it in a winning team, has raised plenty of eyebrows, and another start for the Newcastle United player will encourage the Mexicans and particular Giovani Dos Santos, whose looked the part in the Mexico attack, to have a go at a exposed Argentine back line.
It’s in the final third where Diego Maradona’s men have excelled in the group stage, and despite having not found the net yet, Lionel Messi’s form has been becoming of his world player of the year status. Goal scoring hasn’t been a problem for the South American’s as yet, with Gonzalo Higuain closing in the golden boot award, after his hat trick against South Korea.