Over the last 3 days 6 teams have claimed spots in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, Uruguay, Ghana, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and the Netherlands, who will join them will be decided on Tuesday as 4 teams battle for their right to get one win closer to the World Cup.
Paraguay vs. Japan - 8:00am MT - ESPN
It will be the Blue Samurai looking to overcome their lowly FIFA Rank #45 but they are facing a team not ranked much higher as #31 is the slot held by Paraguay. Whoever advances they will be the underdog that will face the winner of the days second match between Spain and Portugal. Neither team has dominated, but Japan at least won two of their group stage matches beating Denmark and Cameroon. Paraguay got to the round of 16 by getting a single win over Slovakia and a pair of draws with New Zealand and Italy.
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"With their pace and agility, Japan are a team hard to play against. They have players who can change the direction of a game so we have to come out very focused and keep running throughout the game," Roque Santa Cruz, Paraguay forward.
'Paraguay's defence is compactly organised. They have physical strength but are also good on the ball. I think they will be difficult opponents," Yuki Abe, Japan midfielder.
Both Paraguay and Japan made surprising surges through group play to advance ahead of higher-ranked rivals, but only one of them will achieve its first quarterfinal appearance at the World Cup.
The two hopeful nations engage in perhaps the most unlikely round of 16 matchup Tuesday in Pretoria, and each may feel it has a golden opportunity to advance.
Paraguay will have to be extra wary of giving away free kicks against Japan in their World Cup round of 16 match on Tuesday, because the Asian team boasts no fewer than three clinical set-piece specialists.
Teams from South America have been impressive and they currently hold 3 of the 6 spots claimed in the quarterfinals, but Japan has been on a mission and one of the big surprises of this World Cup, Paraguay looked good in their draw with Italy, but I just have a feeling that Japan will be moving on in what I believe will be a match featuring a lot of counter attacks 3-1.
more after the jump:
Spain vs. Portugal - 12:30pm MT - ESPN
Spain had a mis-step in their opening match against the Swiss but after that they posted two wins to win their group, Portugal made it to the round of 16 off a huge win over North Korea 7-0, and a couple scoreless draws with the Ivory Coast and Brazil. It was the goal differential that made the difference between moving on and going home for Portugal.
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"Portugal are a great team and they're about more than just Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes it's true that Cristiano is one of their best players, but we mustn't forget that the Portuguese are the only team that still haven't conceded a goal at this World Cup. That proves that they're a solid unit and not just a collection of individuals. Their game is based around defensive solidity, pace and counter-attacking, as well as having very skilful players. I foresee a very difficult game, like they all will be for the rest of the competition. Only the best teams are left in it now," Vicente del Bosque, Spain coach.
"We're ready to take on anybody. We've already played in critical games during qualifying and now we have another all-or-nothing match at a World Cup. That's why we're ready to give everything we've got on the pitch with only one aim in mind: staying in the World Cup. Portugal's best is still to come," Carlos Queiroz, Portugal coach.
"Everybody is talking about Spain all the time," Portuguese wing Simao said. "Sure, we have a lot of respect for them as well and they are the European champions. But that does not rule out what we've done over the last couple of years.
The match promises to be a tense battle among players who know each other well. Seven of the Portuguese play in Spain's La Liga, including captain Ronaldo. And there are 14 holdovers from both squads that met six years ago in their last major encounter - a 1-0 win for Portugal that knocked Spain out of the 2004 European championship.
This match should be something you see in the finals of a major tournament as the #2 FIFA ranked team Spain will face off against #3 Portugal, instead only one can move on and it is simple for me, it will be Spain. I like what Portugal did against Brazil, but a 0-0 draw won't get you a win, and Spain aren't North Korea. Neither side has lived up to their pre World Cup hype, but I think Spain will show their true colors in a 2-1 win.
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