The Round of 16, also known as the pre-quarterfinal stage, will feature some of world’s most exciting talents, be it Argentinean maestro Lionel Messi, Dutch ace Robin Van Persie, Brazilian high flier Neymar or German star Thomas Mueller, all of these would be raring to take their nations on the cusp of World Cup glory.

Since all the games in the World Cup last 16 stage are a ‘do or die’ affair, the team that clicks at the right moment usually earns the right to proceed to the next stage.

With stakes really high, fans can expect nothing less than 90 minutes – even possibly more – of nonstop and breathtaking action.

We take a sneak peek into all the eight pre-quarterfinals game.

Brazil Vs Chile

Brazil was one of the favourites heading into the World Cup and being the host nation strengthened their chances of winning their sixth world title.

Facing a high-flying Chile in the round of 16 in Belo Horizonte on Saturday, in an all South American contest, it could prove to be a daunting prospect for the Selecao as the La Roja qualified for the knockout stages on the back of some impressive performances, with their highpoint being a 2-0 win over ousted champions Spain.

Although, Brazil holds a very strong track record against Chile in their recent matches, the Thiago Silva-led team knows they cannot take their round of 16 opponents lightly.

Chile have not reached the quarter-finals since they hosted the tournament in 1962, when they were eventually eliminated in the last four by Brazil.

While Brazil would be pinning their hopes on star striker Neymar, who is red hot form firing four goals in the group stages, the Chileans would be banking on their top two players – Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez and Juventus’ Arturo Vidal.

Colombia Vs Uruguay

In the second all South American contest in the pre-quarterfinal stage of the World Cup, Uruguay would face Colombia on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.

Still trying to recuperate from the loss of their star striker Luis Suarez due to FIFA sanctions for biting Italian defender Giorgio Cheillini, Uruguay can expect a very tough match against Colombia, which have impressed everyone with their attacking display of football.

With the Suarez scandal hogging majority of limelight before the match, the Uruguay team would need to chalk out special strategies to stop Colombia’s amazing attacking trio of James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez and Juan Cuadrado.

Both Uruguay and Colombia, which are without their star striker Radamel Falcao in the World Cup, would be aware of their quarterfinal opponent before the kick-off in Rio.

The match between Uruguay is expected to be another pulsating contest with the match certain to go down to the wire.

Netherlands Vs Mexico

Riding high on their perfect record in the group stages, Netherlands will take on Mexico on Sunday in Fortaleza.

Led by Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie, the Netherlands team is brimming with confidence after winning all three games in their group stage – a 5-1 win over dethroned world champions Spain being the highlight.

Van Persie missed Netherlands’ last game against Chile – a 2-0 win – but would be back for Sunday’s pre-quarterfinal clash.

On the other hand, Mexico would be also banking on their defence, especially their goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who has been one of the stars of the tournament after conceding just one goal in three games so far.

It is safe to say that this game would be between Netherlands’ attack, which has fired in ten goals and 33 shots on target in three games in the World Cup so far, and the Mexican defence.

Netherlands’ attacking prowess makes them a favourite for this game in the minds of the neutrals but Mexico’s staunch defensive performances so far suggests that the game would be an open affair with any of the two teams able to win it and cement their position in the quarterfinals.

Costa Rica Vs Greece

It would not be wrong to brand the pre-quarterfinal game between Costa Rica and Greece in Recife on Monday as the ‘clash of the underdogs’ with both the teams not being fancied for a spot in the knockout stages before the World Cup even started. But here they are and quite deservedly too.

Costa Rica have been the surprise package of the World Cup so far as they have not only managed to stay alive in the much-hyped ‘Group of Death’ but also topped it, beating big guns like Uruguay and Italy in their march towards the Round of 16.

On the other hand, Greece have endured a topsy-turvy campaign so far in the World Cup and some even consider their entry in the knockout stages as ‘miraculous’.

After losing 3-0 in their first game against Colombia and then just managing a goalless draw against Japan, nobody was ready to bet on the Greece team to progress through.

However, a dramatic 2-1 win over Ivory Coast in their last game, which was decided in the extra minutes of the game due to a controversial penalty, sent them through to the Round of 16.

This game is also expected to be an open match with both sides having fair chances to clinch it.

France Vs Nigeria

Played in the capital city of Brasilia, the pre-quarterfinal game between France and Nigeria on Monday is expected to be another crackerjack of a game.

On papers and considering the performances in the group stages, France would be the obvious favourites for the game but under-estimating the African champions would not be a judicious move.

France displayed an attacking game during the first two games, slamming eight goals with Karim Benzema scoring three, but drew blank in their final group stage game as coach Didier Deschamps made several changes.

Nigeria on the other hand comes on the back of mixed performances as it won one game, drew another and lost one during the group stages.

Its best performance came in a losing cause as a Lionel Messi-led Argentina beat them 3-2. However, they had kept two clean sheets before this game against Bosnia and Iran.

While striker Benzema and midfielder Paul Pogba would be key players for France, the Nigerians would be banking on goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and forward Ahmed Musa.

Germany Vs Algeria

At the first view, this Round of 16 clash between world number 2 Germany and world number 22 Algeria in Porto Alegre on coming Tuesday may seem like an uneven contest, but considering their previous performances in the World Cup group stages, it definitely promises to be another thrilling game.

Starting the World Cup in the best possible manner by thrashing world number 4 Portugal, Germany have since then looked in ominous form. It ended the group stages with seven points as it won two games and drew one against Ghana.

Unsurprisingly, Thomas Mueller with four goals, including a hat trick against Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal, has been the star of the tournament for the Germans so far in the World Cup as he was also in the previous edition in South Africa 2010.

Although, Algeria was not expected to make it to the knockout stages of the World Cup, the gritty Arab nation created history by entering into the Round of 16 for the first time ever.

Under the bright guidance of coach Vahid Halilhodžić, the physically-strong Algeria would be hoping to give tough competition to the European giant Germany.

However, the Germans would be clear favourites to win this fixture and cement a place in the quarterfinals.  

Argentina Vs Switzerland

The Round of 16 clash between Argentina and Switzerland in Sao Paula on Tuesday will feature two of World Cup’s most impressive stars so far – Lionel Messi and Xherdan Shaqiri – and this match is expected to be evenly-balanced too.

Tipped as one of the hot favourites to clinch the World Cup even before it started, Argentina on the back of impressive performances of its superstar Messi stormed into the knockout stages, winning all three games in the group stages.

The La Albiceleste would be once again banking on the surfeit of attacking talent in its arsenal with the trio of Messi, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero expected to weave their magic.

On the other hand, it has not been a smooth sailing for the Swiss team as it was hammered 5-2 by France in their second game of the group stages.

However, a swashbuckling Shaqiri hat trick ensured a 3-0 win over Honduras for the Swiss team to seal their progression in the knockout stages.

Argentina might be the favourites for the game but we can expect a tough resistance from the Swiss team and an intense game of football.

Belgium Vs USA

Played in Salvador, the final Round of 16 clash will be between US and Belgium on Wednesday.

US stunned many by making through to the knock stage at the expense of world number 4 Portugal and from a group that also had Germany (topped the group) and African powerhouse Ghana.

Impressing everyone with its hardworking displays, US would be hoping to cause another setback by beating the dark horse of the World Cup – Belgium – to seal their presence in the quarterfinals.

However, in Belgium, the Yankees would face a highly-talented team that boast of some of world’s most talented young players in midfielder Eden Hazard, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgium won all three group games by a margin of one goal and despite not playing best to their potential, as per many football pundits, the Vincent Kompany-led team would be the clear favorites for the game.

The match would be expected to be intensely fought with very few margins of errors.

(Harshdeep Singh/JPN)