#20 Turkey vs. #13 Gambia
In this match-up, we have a battle between two teams with a 2-2 record. Gambia was able to win their group after upsetting Colombia, while Turkey edged out Guatemala on the last weekend to sneak in. Both teams have quality wins on their schedules, which leaves us to believe this game will be highly competitive. Look for Gambia to come out on top, but Turkey has been able to play up to their competitors.
#21 Palestine vs. #12 Iran
Palestine shone in the group stage, with their only loss coming at the hands of Ivory Coast. Meanwhile, Iran was able to post a 2-0-1 record— their draw coming against fellow knock-out round competitor El Salvador. We believe Iran’s quickness and ability to defend should get them into the round of 16, but don’t sleep on the Palestinians. They have shocked the tournament to this point, so why not continue?
#25 Peru vs. #8 Ukraine
We aren’t calling this a David vs. Goliath scenario, but it is pretty close. Ukraine advanced unscathed from the group stage round, while Peru faltered a bit. If not for Peru’s win against Myanmar in the final weekend, Ukraine could be looking at a different opponent. Though Peru did show some promise as the group stage moved on, they are going up against a tall task in Ukraine, a perennial contender for the cup. Look for Ukraine to move on.
#24 Venezuela vs. #9 Ireland
Venezuela was able to sneak into the knock-out round this year after barely missing out last year. It appears their dream of advancing even further will be cut short again due to the unfortunate draw of Ireland in the first round. The Irish have shown they can score goals at will, scoring 26 goals in the group stage. But they have also shown weaknesses on the defensive end. If Venezuela wishes to advance, they will have to capitalize on any mistakes Ireland makes on the back line.
#23 Poland vs. #10 USA
Poland enters this match-up as heavy underdogs, but they have the talent to take down USA. One of their strengths is their defense, which will have to contain USA’s leading goal scorers, Kevin Curran and Glenn Leitch, as much as they can. This dual-headed monster has combined for 13 goals in USA’s three games. If Poland wants to keep their dreams of winning this tournament alive, they will have to keep these two off the scoreboard.
#17 Jamaica vs. #16 Colombia
This has potential to be the game of the tournament to date. Both Jamaica and Colombia have been in the tournament for a number of years, and they know what is at stake. Both teams have the skills to make a run at the coveted Unity Cup, but only one will prevail. Don’t be surprised if this goes into extra time, and maybe even penalty kicks before we declare a winner!
#22 Haiti vs. #11 Nigeria
Nigeria is fresh off a 14-goal performance against Ethiopia, while Haiti is coming off a defeat to Sierra Leone. With these two teams heading into this match-up from very different paths, this game could get ugly if Haiti doesn’t come out with a spark lit under them. Their defense will have to limit the number of Nigerian attacks, and must put pressure on their goalie immediately. If this does not happen, Nigeria could be cruising into the Round of 16.
#19 England vs. #14 El Salvador
In this match-up, we have the runner-up in the “Group of Death” looking for an upset win against El Salvador. England was unable to win the group in their Friday night game against Guinea. England seemed unable to keep up with the young speed of Guinea. The same could hold true this weekend. El Salvador is loaded with youth and speed, which could put an end to England’s run.
#18 Panama vs. #15 Mexico
Mexico is back where they were aiming to be— in the knock-out round with the ability to advance to the round of 16. They came back this year with an improved roster— one they are hoping can stop the scoring of Panama. Panama was able to find the back of the net 15 times in the group stage, which led them to victory twice. If they are going to want to knock off Mexico, they are going to have to not only score, but defend as well.
#26 Senegal vs. #7 Guinea
We have a very competitive match-up in Senegal vs. Guinea. This game would seem to be a blow-out by anyone who does not follow the Unity Cup, but we are expecting the exact opposite. Guinea has a core of young talented players, while Senegal has been built around their defense. Senegal showed their grit early in the group stage by taking Liberia into the 85th minute with a scoreless tie, only to lose on a penalty kick. They will need that type of effort to pull the largest seeded upset of the knock-in round.