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World Cup 2018 Power Rankings [The Last 8]

It’s World Cup time again and it’s pretty hard not to be excited as all get out (no matter how hard the USMNT tried to sabotage that excitement). As I have in tournaments past, I’ll be tossing my ideas up here about what teams are looking good via my Power Rankings. Round by round, this post will be updated with my latest rankings and some thoughts.

Update 4 – 7/3/2018

What a wonderful World Cup this has been! It’s going to be fun to pick a best match when this is all done, but the best of the Round of 16 was likely Belgium vs Japan. Sadly, the tourney had to come to an end for the Japanese. And sadly, the end of the tournament is in sight as well. With only 8 teams left, this will likely be the last power rankings update. I’ll be back when it’s all said and done with some final thoughts and perhaps a Best XI. Enjoy the final rounds!

Power Rankings: Quarter Finals

1. Brazil – – | Form: DWWW – Click, Click, Click. This team is looking good and if they’d just put in Bobby Firmino from the whistle, they might be unstoppable.

2. France 2 | Form: WWDW – MMMMmmmmbappe. It’s a bit of a shame that the France v. Brazil matchup is a likely Semifinal and not final as these two are clearly the top 2 as we hit the Quarters.

3. England 2 | Form: WWLD* – If England looks as good as they did in the first 80 minutes against Colombia, then they should walk to the final on this easy right side of the bracket.

4. Belgium 1 | Form: WWWW – It was a hell of a match against Japan, but some questions need to be asked why they couldn’t get that offense working earlier in the game. Still with two clutch subs, Martinez is earning his pay. Chadli suddenly looking a hot commodity in the EPL with West Brom gone down.

5. Uruguay 4 | Form: WWWW – Another decisive victory for Uruguay over a very good Portugal has setup another ridiculously tough match against France. Oh and they’ll have to likely beat Brazil to get to the final too. If Cavani is fit, it’s not impossible. But yikes.

6. Croatia 1 | Form: WWWD* – The penalties victory over Denmark was anything but convincing. Still Croatia is surely the favorite over Russia.

7. Sweden 5 | Form: WLWW – Sweden got their goal and dispatched Switzerland but just barely. I don’t see them beating England.

8. Russia 8 | Form: WWDD* – If the fairy tale doesn’t end here, some serious questions will need be asked. I’m looking at you, FIFA.

Update 3 – 6/28/2018

It’s knockout stage time and the biggest story of the past round of games is the knockout of cup holders Germany. Or is it the inclusion of the previously flailing Argentina? Perhaps it’s the first ever use of the FIFA Fair Play tie-breaker to see Japan in the knockouts and Senegal out. And don’t forget the sad fact that means there are no African teams in the knockouts. Strap on your dual watches and get ready for some bird flipping. Here are my power rankings as the tourney really gets into high gear.

Power Rankings: Round of 16

1. Brazil – – | Form: DWW – Coutinho has been the player of the tournament. Their match up versus Mexico will be a barn burner. I don’t know if they’ve been the best team so far, but I’ve still got these boys as the fave.

2. Spain 1 | Form: DWD – A win and two draws to top their group doesn’t make for the most impressive group stage, but I’m moving Spain up to 2nd because their potential path to the final looks (at its worst) like Russia > Croatia > England. They’ve got to like those chances.

3. Belgium 1 | Form: WWW – Not that the game with England is much to go off of, but a win is a win and it still wouldn’t surprise anyone if Belgium pulls this off.

4. France 2 | Form: WWD – France is clearly pretty hot or cold and in a tourney that sees the faves starting to look pretty hot, it’s hard to tell if France is trending in the right direction.

5. England – – | Form: WWL – I like this England team and their path to the finals is certainly easier than if they had won or drawn with Belgium.

6. Portugal – – | Form: DWD – I’m not too sure how much this last match changed anything so probably best to leave Portugal right where they were.

7. Croatia – – | Form: WWW – Croatia finds themselves on the kinder side of the table. They seem pretty likely to beat Denmark.

8. Argentina 6 | Form: DLW – The big success story of the 3rd matches, if they can pull off a win against France, expect them to rocket up.

9. Uruguay 2 | Form: WWW – Three wins out of three and an on target Suarez? Uruguay will quite possibly give Portugal a run for their money.

10. Colombia 2 | Form: LWW – Considering James will be a doubt against the pacey England, Colombia’s stock is a little down.

11. Switzerland 2 | Form: DWD – After that performance against Costa Rica, it’s hard to be too excited about the Swiss. But the upcoming game against Sweden means they could still make some magic.

12. Sweden 7 | Form: WLW – I’m guessing very few people had Sweden winning their group in their prediction tables. It’s hard to see enough talent to do much damage, though.

13. Mexico 4 | Form: WWL – Mexico got trounced by Sweden and now have to play Brazil? OUCH.

14. Denmark 6 | Form: WDD – If Denmark can frustrate Croatia the way they frustrated France, then maybe they have a chance… but not much of one.

15. Japan – – | Form: WDL – It’s a big win for Japan to make the knockouts (at the expense of a very talented Senegal), but the loss to eliminated Poland shows they aren’t exactly a force to be reckoned with.

16. Russia 4 | Form: WWD – The loss to Uruguay shows everyone exactly why Russia had so many detractors going in. With Spain up next, the fact they made the knockouts will have to be consolation enough.

Update 2 – 6/24/2018

Round two was pretty great. 8 teams are out and 8 teams all have a decent chance of making it deep. It’s rather difficult to separate the top few squads so we’ll see what happens as we start to get to the big matches coming up soon.

Before we get to the Power rankings, here are the scenarios at play for the final matches in each group.

Group A – It’s pretty simple here. The top two squads Russia and Uruguay will play for first place. A draw will see Russia take top spot.

Group B – Portugal and Spain are perfectly knotted. Whoever beats their opponent by more will take 1st. Iran can manage to go through if they get a result against Portugal and Spain loses to eliminated Morocco.

Group C – France is through and takes 1st with a win or a draw against Denmark. Denmark will go through in 1st if they beat France and 2nd if they draw. They’ll still go through in 2nd with a loss to France if eliminated Peru beats or draws Australia who needs to win and see France beat Denmark if they are to advance.

Group D – Croatia is through and will take 1st with any result against Iceland. Argentina needs to beat Nigeria and hope for a Croatia win or draw. Iceland goes through if they beat Croatia and overcomes goal difference to a winning Argentina or a drawing Nigeria. Nigeria just needs to beat Argentina or draw and see Croatia win or draw.

Group E – A win or draw with Serbia is enough for Brazil to go through though taking first will depend on goal difference if Switzerland beats eliminated Costa Rica. Serbia will steal that spot if they beat Brazil or draw and Costa Rica beats Switzerland bad. The Swiss just need to draw and they are through and they can even lose if Brazil beats Serbia.

Group F – Mexico is through in 1st with any result against Sweden. They will still advance if they lose and Germany fails to win. Sweden needs to beat Mexico and they are through. Germany goes through with a win or a draw if Mexico beats Sweden. S. Korea is done-zo.

Group G – Super simple here as well. Belgium versus England are both through. They’re playing for top spot.

Group H – Japan and Senegal are still on top with 4 points each but Colombia will go through if they win or draw versus Senegal. If Senegal wins then Japan is through regardless of what happens. If Senegal doesn’t get 3 points, Japan need to draw or win. Senegal just needs to win or draw. Poland is eliminated.

Power Rankings: Group Stage – Final Game

1. Brazil – – | Form: DW – Costa Rica put up a pretty good fight and showed it is possible to frustrate the Brazil offense. But Navas was peppered with shots and it was only a matter of time (91 minutes) until the dam burst. The game against Serbia will tell a lot.

2. France 3 | Form: WW – Now this was the France I’d been hoping to see. It’s like they suddenly figured out what Pogba was supposed to do. They’ve still got a ways to go to hit their potential but they’re heating up.

3. Spain 1 | Form: DW – Spain might not have looked as impressive in their 1-0 win against Iran but they got the 3 points and are still in the driver’s seat to top the group because of their easier 3rd round match against an already eliminated Morocco.

4. Belgium – – | Form: WW – Five big goals for Belgium. It’s really hard to separate these squads at the top of the rankings. It will be awesome when they start facing each other, beginning with a big match against England who they’ll likely be favored against.

5. England 1 | Form: WW – Hard not to be excited about how good this England squad is looking. Lots of goals, lots of confidence… let’s see if it continues.

6. Portugal 3 | Form: DW – Portugal looked pretty tired against Morocco. But there’s no question this team knows how to make the most of a superstar and CR7 certainly seems up for the pressure.

7. Croatia 4 | Form: WW – Croatia might have the best midfield in the Cup. It’s unclear if that will be enough to go far, but it was more than enough to make short work of Argentina and almost assuredly top their group.

8. Colombia 1 | Form: LW – Now we see the Colombia we all hoped to see. It’s not a lock but you gotta like their chances.

9. Mexico 3 | Form: WW – I mean, Mexico always does pretty well in the group stage…

10. Germany 2 | Form: LW – It would have been difficult to look less impressive in a win than Germany looked versus Sweden. They are going to need some major adjustments if this is going to be anything other than a disaster.

11. Uruguay 1 | Form: WW – I’m still not completely convinced by this Uruguay team that has just squeaked out 1-0 wins over both teams that Russia pretty easily handled. Should make for an interesting battle for 1st.

12. Russia 7 | Form: WW – I gotta hand it to this Russian team. They’ve looked down right dangerous in a World Cup where a lot of faves have been pretty pedestrian. Bring on the knockouts.

13. Switzerland 3 | Form: DW – Not that anyone is excited about seeing Shaqiri’s slick pale torso again, but he is starting to play very well and if Xhaka can rip a few more shots like his goal against Serbia, this team could be a problem.

14. Argentina 7 | Form: DL – Messi is starting to look more like the goat than the g.o.a.t. It’s a tough path to the knockouts, but they absolutely need to beat Nigeria, even if just to save some face.

15. Japan 3 | Form: WD – Don’t sleep on this Japan team. Two surprising results sees them with a good chance to go through against an eliminated Poland.

16. Nigeria 14 | Form: LW – Talk about a rebound. After plummeting down the table, a result against Argentina (which doesn’t seem all that crazy) and they’ll be through.

17. Serbia 4 | Form: WL – Serbia was quickly becoming my dark horse but that late loss to the Swiss means they will very likely be the most talented squad eliminated in the group stage.

18. Senegal 3 | Form: WD – Senegal had a great chance to beat Japan but the draw means they’re now up against it with a resurgent Colombia in their last match.

19. Sweden 2 | Form: WL – It was a valiant effort against Germany but it was really more about Germany’s deficiencies than Sweden’s strengths.

20. Denmark 6 | Form: WD – A draw with Australia was not the end of the world for this pretty talented Denmark team, but considering their last match is against France and Australia is playing eliminated Peru, it wasn’t what they wanted.

21. Iceland 1 | Form: DL – A bit of the shine from the Argentina draw wore off in their pretty negative loss to a resurgent Nigeria.

22. Australia 7 | Form: LD – I don’t know if a team has ever gotten out of the group stage completely from penalties. Perhaps Australia can make that happen.

23. Iran 2 | Form: WL – Iran was never going to beat Spain even though they were able to stand toe to toe. Seems unlikely the results will be any different against Portugal.

24. South Korea 7 | Form: LL – They’re technically still alive, but S. Korea looks to be the easiest opponent yet for the flailing Germany.


25. Costa Rica 1 | Form: LL – It was a tough group for Costa Rica. Keylor Navas worked hard to keep it from being a beat down against Brazil.

26. Peru 3 | Form: LL – Looking like a goose egg and handshakes for this hopeful squad who are now officially out.

27. Poland 10 | Form: LL – Wow. I guess that FIFA ranking manipulation didn’t work out. I probably shouldn’t have put Lewandowski in my collage.

28. Morocco – – | Form: LL – B’bye.

29. Egypt 9 | Form: LL – Good night sweet Mo. It was over before it ever really started.

30. Tunisia 4 | Form: LL – Just not good enough.

31. Panama 4 | Form: LL – Two unimpressive performances

32. Saudi Arabia – – | Form: LL – Perhaps not the worst team in the world, but they were the worst team in World Cup.

Update 1 – 6/19/2018

It has been a far crazier first round of the group stage than I think anyone expected. We’ve already had the match of the tourney (Spain vs. Portugal) and more free kick goals (4) than we had in the whole of 2014 (3). VAR has performed quite well and many of the referees have not. Best of all, many groups are w i d e o p e n. Here are my power rankings going into the second round of matches. (Note: These rankings were made before second round match Russia vs. Egypt).

Power Rankings: Group Stage – Round 2

1. Brazil – – | Form: D – Perhaps a controversial pick here considering the draw with Switzerland but the Swiss looked great and Brazil now knows what they need to do. It was a travesty how little protection the ref afforded Neymar. But this team just has so much talent and as they sharpen, they continue to be my faves for the Cup.

2. Spain 4 | Form: D – While 3 points were in reach for Spain, they looked great against a very tough Portugal. Diego Costa seems to fit in with the team in a way few expected. Even fewer expected the weak point to be in goal. It will be fascinating to see if “World’s Best Goalkeeper” David De Gea can shake off his major error and bring this team deep in the tourney.

3. Portugal 2 | Form: D – No one can question if Ronaldo is in form now with that incredible hat trick. Even better, the European Champs are playing well together. After that first match, would any neutrals be disappointed with a Portugal-Spain rematch in the final?

4. Belgium 5 | Form: W – The first half of Belgium’s match with Panama had me thinking they were another favorite who were going to underperform. They completely lacked sharpness. In the second half, they got sharp. And their 3-0 win came without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne really hitting second gear. If they continue to improve, it’s hard to see who will stop them.

5. France 2 | Form: W – How do you win your match and still drop 2 spots? France just looked confused in their win over a very weak Australia. They have some big problems to figure out if they’re going to go far in the tourney (namely, how do you make the most of Pogba). I think they can figure these things out, but they clearly haven’t yet.

6. England 2 | Form: W – It somehow feels like England is always threatening to slip on a banana peel. Banana peel avoided. They looked good, and in particular, they looked fast.

7. Argentina 3 | Form: D – Iceland is good, but Argentina should have won that match. They clearly have not overcome the same issues that plagued them in qualifying. Namely, they just don’t play that well together as a team. No matter how much talent they have, if they can’t figure that out, they aren’t winning the World Cup.

8. Germany 6 | Form: L – The big losers of the top 10, Germany did not look good against Mexico. I don’t doubt they’ll still escape their group, but they suddenly look much less likely to repeat without the midfield stoutness of years past.

9. Colombia 2 | Form: L – It can’t go a lot worse for a team than to give up a 3rd minute PK goal and go a man down. Still, Colombia looked in control for the rest of the first half and fully deserved their 10-man equalizer. But then they got tired or confused and the 2nd half subs seemed to hurt more than help and the loss was justified. They may be down, but they are far from out.

10. Uruguay 2 | Form: W – Like many of the top teams, Uruguay lacked sharpness in their opener. But the talent is undeniable and they seem a lock to get out of their group after the late theft of 3 points from Egypt.

11. Croatia – – | Form: W – Croatia was the only team in Group D to get all 3 points. Next up they get to play potential spoiler (or potential punching bag) to Argentina.

12. Mexico 4 | Form: W – Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mexico looked really good. Look I moved them up. #Sponsor

13. Serbia 10 | Form: W – Big mover Serbia! They looked on point in their 1-0 win over an admittedly underperforming Costa Rica. They played as a team in a way many squads didn’t.

14. Denmark – – | Form: W – Denmark didn’t look like world beaters in their 1-0 defeat of Peru, but they are certainly favorites to get out of the group. Don’t expect them to do much damage on the other side, even if “Yurary” Poulsen is a true talent.

15. Senegal 5 | Form: W – Wow, the only African nation to take any points in the first round, Senegal has to still play a tough Japan and tougher Colombia, but a Cinderella story could be in the making.

16. Switzerland 3 | Form: D – Considering how good Serbia looked, it’s hard to get too excited about Switzerland in the long run. But they did draw with Brazil so you gotta give them some credit.

17. Poland 7 | Form: L – Poland had opportunities versus Senegal. They are going to have a big task to turn it around with Colombia next. But this team is pretty talented so don’t count them out.

18. Japan 8 | Form: W – Maybe the biggest surprise of the round after Mexico-Germany, Japan looked great versus Colombia. Granted they had an extra man for 87 minutes.

19. Russia 3 | Form: W – An impressive win, no doubt, but let’s not get too excited about Saudi Arabia. The real test will come versus Mo Salah’s Egypt.

20. Egypt 7 | Form: L – The hill is straight up for Egypt after the loss to Uruguay, but that isn’t really a surprise. If Mo is fit, they should be able to deal with Russia and get back on track.

21. Sweden 1 | Form: W – Sweden’s 1-0 win over South Korea might be the match I remember least from the first round. Sweden won 1-0.

22. Iceland 2 | Form: D – How can you not root for Iceland? They had a great game against an Argentina that had a poor one. I am afraid it’s still pretty unlikely they advance.

23. Peru 5 | Form: L – The hipsters’ dark horse is looking a little less hip after the loss to Denmark. But it ain’t over. Just beat France.

24. Costa Rica 7 | Form: L – Not a particularly inspired performance from the CONCACAF stalwart.

25. Iran 6 | Form: W – This is one of those examples where a team gets a win and comes out looking better, but still pretty much has zero chance to advance. Golf clap, Iran.

26. Tunisia 1 | Form: L – There’s talent here for sure, but it’s not going to be enough to get them out of a stacked group G.

27. Panama 3 | Form: L – There’s talent here for sure, but it’s not going to be enough to get them out of a stacked group G.

28. Morocco 3 | Form: L – The last second loss to Iran pretty much wipes out the already very low chances for hipster pick Morocco. Not a good week after also losing their bid for the 2026 World Cup.

29. Australia – – | Form: L – Australia could have been worse in their France loss. They could have certainly been better, too.

30. Nigeria 9 | Form: L – The biggest drop on the board, Nigeria looked completely impotent in their 0-2 loss to Croatia. This team has talent but they are far from coalescing around it.

31. South Korea 3 | Form: L – This is not a golden generation.

32. Saudi Arabia – – | Form: L – Not good, Saudi Arabia. Not good.

Original Post – 6/13/2018

Just to get things started, I’m presenting my baseline rankings. I’m not going too far out on too many limbs from what most media are saying going in — though there are a few dice rolls. Expect these to change quite a bit as we progress round by round (let’s hope). I’ll be back after the first round of the Group Stage completes on Tuesday with more analysis.

Power Rankings: Baseline

1. Brazil – 538 Rank: 1 | ESPN Rank: 1 | Ringer Rank: 1
2. Germany – 538 Rank: 3 | ESPN Rank: 2 | Ringer Rank: 2
3. France – 538 Rank: 5 | ESPN Rank: 4 | Ringer Rank: 3
4. Argentina – 538 Rank: 4 | ESPN Rank: 5 | Ringer Rank: 5
5. Portugal – 538 Rank: 8 | ESPN Rank: 8 | Ringer Rank: 8
6. Spain – 538 Rank: 2 | ESPN Rank: 3 | Ringer Rank: 4
7. Colombia – 538 Rank: 9 | ESPN Rank: 10 | Ringer Rank: 6
8. England – 538 Rank: 7 | ESPN Rank: 7 | Ringer Rank: 7
9. Belgium – 538 Rank: 6 | ESPN Rank: 6 | Ringer Rank: 9
10. Poland – 538 Rank: 17
11. Croatia – 538 Rank: 10
12. Uruguay – 538 Rank: 11 | ESPN Rank: 9 | Ringer Rank: 10
13. Egypt – 538 Rank: 27
14. Denmark – 538 Rank: 14
15. Mexico – 538 Rank: 13
16. Russia – 538 Rank: 21
17. Costa Rica – 538 Rank: 26
18. Peru – 538 Rank: 19
19. Switzerland – 538 Rank: 12
20. Senegal – 538 Rank: 24
21. Nigeria – 538 Rank: 22
22. Sweden – 538 Rank: 15
23. Serbia – 538 Rank: 16
24. Iceland – 538 Rank: 23
25. Morocco – 538 Rank: 18
26. Japan – 538 Rank: 20
27. Tunisia – 538 Rank: 30
28. South Korea – 538 Rank: 29
29. Australia – 538 Rank: 28
30. Panama – 538 Rank: 31
31. Iran – 538 Rank: 25
32. Saudi Arabia – 538 Rank: 32

Posted by enderzero at 6:40pm on Jun. 13, 2018