World Cup Round of 16, matches 5 and 6

Julian Finney

The first day of the round of 16 featured CONMEBOL; yesterday, CONCACAF; and today, it's the turn of CAF--Africa have two teams in the knockout stages for the first time.

France v Nigeria, noon, ESPN, from Brasilia

Les Bleus survived a clattering from Honduras and destroyed Switzerland before making a bunch of changes and drawing with Ecuador, a result that sent the South American club home.  Karim Benzema has been in fine form, and Mathieu Valbuena has been particularly impressive.  Just as the Colombians have moved on from missing Falcao, so the French have moved on from Ribery.  Still, the feeling persists that the French haven't really faced tough opposition yet.

Not that Nigeria are necessarily going to fill that bill, either--they finished second in a weak group, a tepid 0-0 draw with Iran (surely the worst match of the first round) and progressed thanks to a 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina , with a perfectly good goal waved off for the European side.   The Super Eagles did look decent against Argentina, going down 3-2, and who couldn't laugh at keeper Vincent Eneyama telling the referees at halftime to quit giving Messi free kicks because "he's so good and I'm s**t".

Prediction:  I think Nigeria will hang around for a good while, but in the end, France 4-2 Nigeria

(as you can tell, I'm feeling goal-starved after yesterday)

Germany v Algeria, 4PM EDT, Porto Alegre

Much has been made of the group involving these two clubs at the 1982 World Cup, when Algeria defeated the then West Germany but failed to progress thanks to a prearranged result between the Germans and Austria in their final group match.  That's great stuff, but guys, it was 1982.

I've praised the Desert Foxes and made them a pick to get out of their group, which they duly did, but Germany had a pretty easy time getting out of a tough group, while Algeria had to work hard to get out of theirs after an opening loss to Belgium.  The international press seems more interested in knowing which Algerian players are observing Ramadan than anything else, which is sad.

Algeria will give a good account of themselves, I expect, but Germany probably have too much talent to drop out at this phase.  I'm going for a close match, though.

Prediction: Germany 2-1 Algeria

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