"What is past is prologue"
Now it starts to get a little tasty... or we get to see a lot of 1-0 games and penalty shootouts. As good as the group stages have been (only 3 or 4 real stinkers of games out of 48) what will be remembered is what happens over the next 15 (not counting the 3rd place game...which remains the stupidest thing ever.) So on to the Sweet 16, as it were.
Germany vs. Sweden
I love the way Germany is playing right now, but Sweden is both more athletic and more composed than any team they've played thus far (understrength Ecuador was really a shadow of the team which played so stylishly in the first two games). However, without Ibrahimovic at full strength, I have a hard time seeing Sweden getting a whole lot of good chances. Ballack has yet to really impose himself on a game, and this seems like a good a place to start as any - the center of the Swedish midfield is probably their weakness. Potentially fascinating matchup on the Swedish right between Lahm and Ljunberg. Also, if the game remains close, Klinsman has the better attacking options to bring off the bench wit Neuville, and especially Odonkor seeming likely to terrify a tiring defense. In the end, just too much of Ze Germans: 2-0.
Argentina vs. Mexico
The Mexicans faded badly after their fine second half vs. Iran. Unable to score on Angola, they were played off the field by the Portuguese before the latter took their foot off the gas 30 minutes in. Meanwhile, after looking electric the first two rounds, the Argentinines were clearly in control vs. Holland without really extending themselves. It's possible that Mexico takes the lead on a counterattack early, but aside from that, I see them getting pounded, 3-1 Argentina.
England vs. Ecuador
Will the real England please stand up? And what does Ecuador really have? So much of this game depends on Erickson's boldness in his lineup choices - if he somehow finds the fortitude to move Beckham to Right Back (or perhaps even Left Out...) and starts Aaron Lennon, then we might yet see a convincing, high energy display. Of course, no way in hell SGE is so bold. 2-1 England on another Gerrard belter and a janky tap-in by Terry.
Portugal vs. Netherlands
With France-Spain, the most apetizing matchup of the round. In the end, I think that the Deco/Figo/Ronaldo trinity has too much for the ancient Cocu and other Dutchmen to really handle. Holland's best hope is that Robben goes absolutely out of his skin and wins the game on his own. Goodness knows he'll probably try and do just that. 2-1 Portugal.
Italy vs. Australia
The Aussies are streatwise enough to deal with the Italians. I'm not sure the Italians have enough fortitude to deal with the bustle of the Aussies, especially if Nesta can't play. Australia will almost certainly beat the piss out of Pirlo, Camorenese and anyone else in the Italian midfield not named Gattuso (who will get into a spat with Neil at least 4 times over the course of the game. Not that that's a bad thing, Gattuso has long been my favorite Italian - he seems to have absorbed a certain husky quality during his time playing for Rangers in Scotland.) 1-0 Oz.
Switzerland vs. Ukraine
zzzzzzzzzz. 0-0. Swiss go through on penalties.
Brazil vs. Ghana
Entertaining, but without Essien, ultimately one-sided. Will Parreira stick with a good thing and start Robinho for Adriano again? Ronaldinho is bound to take over a few games, and without much heft in the center of the field, he and Kaka could have too much space. 4-2 Brazil.
Spain vs. France
The chokers vs. the underachievers...France finally found some spark today. The question is, how do they incorporate Zidane without losing any of that zest. My guess is that they drop Trezeguet, when it probably should be Malouda (who did very little wrong today, must be said, but Ribery has recovered from a very disappointing opening game to play quite well.) As for Spain, can they restore the passion with which the played vs. Ukraine? Does Raul start or come off the bench? Who plays in midfield between Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Marcos Senna and Fabregas? Or does the occassion get the best of everyone involved? Sadly, I think the latter, 0-0 France through on penalties.
Now, tell me how I'm wrong!