Tuesday July 1st, 2014

Lionel Messi was sensational for Argentina in the group stage and all eyes will be on him to continue that brilliance in the knockout round.

The United States will play its much anticipated game against Belgium as well on Tuesday after escaping the "group of death" to get to this point.

Argentina vs. Switzerland

Argentina is a -220 favorite to beat Switzerland without extra time. Switzerland is going off at +600 to win the game and +350 to force it into extra time. To advance, Argentina is a -500 favorite over Switzerland at +325. The total is set at 2.5 goals.

Argentina boasts excellent depth on offense with scorers like Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but mustered only five goals as a team in the group stage, four of which were scored by Messi.

Messi helped Argentina avoid a disastrous draw against Iran with a brilliant goal in stoppage time, illustrating how the superstar needs but a single moment of brilliance to influence a match.

Switzerland was one of the most up-and-down teams of the group stage this year. In its first game against Ecuador, the Swiss erased a 1-0 deficit and scored in stoppage time to take a crucial three points.

Switzerland followed that up with an awful performance in a 5-2 loss to France, but then clinched a knockout-round spot with a sound 3-0 win over Honduras.

Messi gives Argentina an edge in every game he plays, but for the team to make a deep run, it will likely need better contributions from its supporting cast.

Prediction: 2-1 Argentina

Belgium vs. USA

Belgium is going off at +105 to beat the United States in 90 minutes plus added time. The U.S. is going off at +250 both to win the game and force extra time.

The United States is a slight underdog to advance into the quarterfinals at +165 over Belgium at -185. The total is set at 2.5 goals, with the Under favored at -165 over the Over at +135.

 

Belgium overcame a 1-0 deficit against Algeria to win 2-1 and followed that up with a pair of 1-0 victories over South Korea and Russia. However, it's hard to judge Belgium based on its group play.

The team looked far from dominant in a fairly weak Group H, but it is hard to find too much fault in a squad that picked up wins in all three games.

The United States defied the oddsmakers and played its way out of Group G. The U.S. was on the right side of some late-game heroics in a 2-1 win against Ghana and then on the wrong side of them in a 2-2 draw against Portugal.

But in both instances the United States put itself in a position to win, and was even still within striking distance in a 1-0 loss to Germany.

The U.S. showed its resiliency to emerge from the "group of death," but it will face its toughest challenge yet trying to make it into the quarterfinals.

Prediction: 1-0 USA

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