World Cup predictions: Paul Merson and Charlie Nicholas predict the last-16 ties
Last Updated: 02/07/18 8:12am
It's time for winner-takes-all football in Russia as the remaining teams get ready for the knockout stages of the World Cup - and Paul Merson goes up against Charlie Nicholas with his last-16 predictions.
The Soccer Saturday duo offer up their thoughts ahead of the knockout action, including Brazil v Mexico and Belgium v Japan.
England will battle it out for a place in the last eight with Colombia on Tuesday evening, so who are Merse and Charlie tipping to come out on top?
Brazil v Mexico (Monday, 3pm)
Merse: I think Brazil are still in second gear. When the confidence is up they've shown glimpses of playing the Samba way but at other times they've been average. Against Mexico, I think they need to get in front. Brazil will play in a similar style to Germany but let's look at where Germany are now, they are at home. Mexico beat a very poor Germany side before being ripped to pieces by Sweden.
We know what the pattern of this game will be. Mexico will look to have some success on the counter-attack but Brazil have much more quality than Germany did. I don't see anything but a Brazil win.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0 (11/2 with Sky Bet)
Charlie: This tie is a very good looking game. With Brazil there are little spells of flamboyancy but there are spells where you can really get at them defensively. People say you need physicality to beat Brazil but this side is pretty good at dealing with that.
What you can do is get at them on the counter-attack and this is what Mexico are good at. I see this being another absorbing game and I do see Brazil wrapping this up fairly comfortably. I'm backing Gabriel Jesus to stand up and deliver for Brazil.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-1 (12/1 with Sky Bet)
Sweden v Switzerland (Monday, 7pm)
Merse: Switzerland have got a couple of big names in Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar missing through suspension. Looking at all the other ties, I can predict a result quite comfortably but this game I just don't know. I think this one can go all the way to penalties. It's going to be goalless with Switzerland edging through on penalties.
Charlie: These two sides are very evenly matched. If you were going to push me I'd say Switzerland have the edge in attack. They are slightly more creative in the way they play the game whereas Sweden are very strong at the back. They are a very good unit.
This is a very tough game to call. I can easily see this one going all the way to extra-time and even penalties. I can't separate them in normal time so I'm going for 1-1 but I'm backing the Swiss to come through this one, possibly in extra-time.
Belgium v Japan (Tuesday, 3pm)
Merse: Belgium have gone into the so-called harder side of the draw but in my opinion, if one team is going to beat Brazil it's Belgium. They have an arrogance about them and they will take the game to Brazil. First though, they've got to beat Japan and I'll think they'll do it comfortably. Fair play to Japan though because qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup is no mean feat. When you look at the teams that have gone home you realise it's a massive achievement. This is where it ends, though, as Belgium will be far too strong.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0 (8/1 with Sky Bet)
Charlie: I'm not convinced there are too many easy games in a World Cup. Japan are going to make things difficult for Belgium. Coming into this game on the back of a defeat to Poland, they are going to sit in and try and hit Belgium on the counter-attack. However, Belgium have the quality to eventually break Japan down. I'd imagine Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku actually quite enjoy these situations. For that reason, I'm backing those two to help Belgium wrap up a 3-0 victory.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-0 (8/1 with Sky Bet)
Colombia v England (Tuesday, 7pm)
Merse: I watched Colombia the other day and there's nothing to be scared of there for England. They are dangerous at set plays but we are as good as anybody at set plays. In truth, they've been poor and they also had James Rodriguez limp out of the Senegal game which is a concern for them.
I was sat there watching the Belgium game and hoping England didn't score. If we don't get to the last four I'd be shocked. At the start of the tournament we were saying that if we'd get past the quarter-finals it'd be great but if we don't get to a semi-final now it won't have been a very good tournament.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-2 (18/1 with Sky Bet)
Charlie: So England have dropped into the half of the draw which has an easier route to the final. Well, there is no easy route to the final because there are tough teams waiting at every turn. You ask the Germans now whether they'd like to be in the hard side of the draw and they'd all be nodding their heads.
England will have a very difficult game against Colombia in my opinion. The only thing that gives England a very slight edge is the injury scare to James Rodriguez. If he's out it's a massive blow for Colombia, however, don't be fooled into thinking the South Americans are not a threat. They are a very dangerous side and a very physical one at that.
It's a very tight game to call. I'm going for 1-1 in 90 minutes but England will benefit from resting a few last Thursday and I think the tide will turn in their favour in extra-time. I see one of England's substitutes coming on and making all the difference in the extra 30 minutes.