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World Cup: Round 2 Power Rankings

The Copa really heated up with the second round of group play this week. There are some pretty exciting story lines (success of the Americas) and some pretty pathetic ones as well (ahem, France). Probably the most disappointing trend is how poorly the African nations are performing. Not only does it look like this will be the first knockout stage without a host country, it is very possible this will be the first knockout stage with out a country from the host continent. I’ll break it all down group by group – but first here are my updated power rankings. Two teams have been eliminated (Cameroon and North Korea), so the list is down to 30. The numbers after the team are their rank in my last go around.

1. Argentina (3)
2. Brazil (4)
3. Netherlands (2)
4. Spain (8)
5. Germany (1)
6. Portugal (17)
7. Uruguay (14)
8. USA (12)
9. Chile (11)
10. Paraguay (9)
11. Serbia (20)
12. Italy (6)
13. England (5)
14. Switzerland (15)
15. Japan (13)
16. Ghana (7)
17. Mexico (21)
18. South Korea (10)
19. Denmark (23)
20. Slovenia (22)
21. New Zealand (26)
22. Ivory Coast (18)
23. South Africa (19)
24. Greece (31)
25. Australia (30)
26. Algeria (32)
27. France (16)
28. Slovakia (24)
29. Honduras (29)
30. Nigeria (28)

Group A – Everyone was saying that France had scored an easy draw when they found themselves in South Africa’s group. Well, they have managed to blow it. Weak leadership has found les Bleus in complete meltdown mode scoring zero goals in the first two matches and earning themselves a #27 ranking. Although they aren’t completely out of it, they need a win with a blow out margin, which just doesn’t seem possible from this squad. While it is just as much of a long shot, South Africa still has a chance to go through. If they manage to defeat France and can pull a combined goal differential of 5 (goals they score minus goals France score plus the goal differential of whoever wins the other game), they will be through. It is a long shot, but I am pulling for them. What seems far more likely is that Uruguay and Mexico will go through with a draw or with one team winning by a close margin. I’m picking Uruguay who made short work of the South African team that Mexico struggled against.

Group B – As evidenced by my ranking, this group is all about Argentina. The big fear coming in was Maradona – but things seem to be going superbly between the players and him and his tactics have been sound. They should defeat Greece easily and advance through on 9 points. Just think, Messi hasn’t even started to score yet. I’m giving the second place nod to South Korea who didn’t look completely awful against Argentina. I don’t see them beating Uruguay in the Round of 16, but they can surely handle Nigeria who just needs to go home.

Group CUSA! USA! If you had given me this scenario at the beginning of the Cup, I would have taken it in a second. Yeah I know we should be on 4 pts but I’ll take controlling our own destiny (forgive) against Algeria any day. We just need to win – and we can win – and we will win. The craziest part of this group is the England story. Who would have thought they would find themselves on 2 pts with a measly 1 goal scored? I am predicting a draw against Slovenia, which would see England exit. If that happens – or even in the more likely event England beats Slovenia – and we beat Algeria, the USA would advance as winner of our group. The irony is that we still might have to play Germany if they come in second in Group D. Don’t count out Slovenia, though. They advance with a win or a draw – and if they draw and we draw, then so do we!

Group D – There is no doubt that Germany was the big scary team after round 1, but Serbia (with the help of an over zealous referee) made das Hermans look not so tough. Still, all the Germans have to do to advance as group winners is beat Ghana and hope Serbia doesn’t make up a 3 pt goal dif. Seems quite likely. Ghana might be the highest ranked African squad, but I’m afraid that just isn’t going to be enough to beat the Germans. That means Ghana needs to pray to the Soccer Gods that Australia holds Serbia to a draw (or defeat). It is possible but not likely. I see Serbia advancing in 2nd and the Socceroos heading home.

Group EThe Dutch have not been the most convincing team on the pitch, but they have gotten it done and are the first team to clinch a berth in the Round of 16. Sorry Cameroon. Eto’o got his goal but no one else showed up. We’ll see if they have a little African pride on show in their final game. The big game of the group is Japan vs. Denmark in a battle for 2nd (or a possible but very unlikely 1st). Denmark has the momentum but Japan advances on the draw with a point better goal dif – which they might need as these two squads could be pretty evenly matched.

Group F – No South American team has lost a game in this Southern Hemisphere Copa and Paraguay is another team playing very well. With their final game against New Zealand, they look very likely to take their group. The Kiwis played valiantly against Italy (and Slovakia), but the fun stops here for the rugby nation. While Italy has looked far from superior as cup holders, they are certain to get their shit together to beat the very disappointing Slovakia and advance from the group as runners-up – setting them up for an exciting showdown with The Netherlands.

Group G – Not quite the “group of death” many had hoped for, the group has at least provided some very entertaining matches. North Korea played 135 minutes of very admirable football, but it all came crashing down in the second half against Portugal. I can’t wait to see the news reports that the feed cut out in the middle of the match back in Pyongyang and the newspapers the next day reported a win. It would take a complete miracle for Ivory Coast to make up the 9 pt goal differential with Portugal, so it is pretty much curtains for them as well. What a shame. That leaves a huge final match between Brazil and Portugal. They aren’t just playing for pride either as the loser (or Portugal in the event of a draw) will likely face Spain in the Round of 16. Who knows, maybe Portugal will come out with the guns still blazing. Regardless, this should be a great match.

Group H – The final group presents the most interesting scenarios. Chile holds the pole position and is the only team to “control their own destiny” – but they have to play Spain. Where it gets confusing is if Spain beats Chile and Switzerland beats Honduras. That puts all three teams on 6 points and it comes down to the margins of victory for Switzerland and Spain. Suddenly Chile’s position doesn’t look so good if they lose and either of those margins is more than a point. In one scenario it would even come down to a coin toss! If Spain does lose or draw, then they are likely out – which would be an even bigger shocker than England or France. Honduras needs to win by a big margin and hope Spain do as well if they have a shot to advance. I see Switzerland beating Honduras – but who knows by how much. This group will come down to the wire.

Posted by enderzero at 4:50pm on Jun. 21, 2010  

1 comment

  1. Murray says:

    Still floating in the clouds after the mammoth victory – 3 minutes from going home, 2 terrible referee decisions disallowing goals, attempt after attempt thwarted by goalposts and hurried shots…to still come back and pull it out, what can you say? Lots of teams have more talent, but none have more grit than our national team. This team probably won’t win the cup, but to make it this far and have a realistic chance to win a couple more, we all have to be super proud. On the winning goal, one has to point out the great outlet pass from Tim Howard that launched the attack. And then the sure as nails finish from Mr. US Soccer, Landon Donovan. Just a sublime moment in sports, any sport.

    Jun. 23, 2010 at 5:23pm