Making the last 16 for the third time in their history, Japan may find themselves a little fortunate to
be here. The first ever instance of a team qualifying via fair play, if it wasn’t for a brain fart from
Sanchez in their opening match against Colombia it could have been so very different.
The best shirt of the tournament counted for very little in the end. A moment of Messi magic kept
them from continuing in the tournament but put in a very respectable showing of themselves.
Musa looked like a real weapon against Iceland. A young squad and should be better for this
Very unlucky to be knocked out via fair play. A very balanced, organised side who dismantled
many of the cliches of African sides. Could have been a real danger in the knockout rounds as a
threat to anyone. Hopefully they can build on this experience like Nigeria and put in a stronger
showing for the African nations.
Robbed by Germany in the last minute and abused by their coaches. Karma is a bitch. Wouldn’t
have expected to top the group with such functional football. A kind draw gives them a shot at the
quarter finals but it seems unlikely the will trouble from then on.
May very well embarrass me for having them so low on this list after putting 4 past Argentina to
make the quarterfinals. However they stunk up the group stages despite topping the group with 7
points. Maybe they will be better suited to playing on the break in the knockout stages. Let’s see if
Deschamps can get the right 11 on the pitch.
A possible enigma. The lowest ranked team going into the tournament blew the group stages
wide open with 8 goals in two games. Running high on the emotion of being the host nation they
seemed to be proving a lot of people wrong. Then the got a hiding from Uruguay. Are they
regressing to the mean?
Looked very good in the first half of their opening game against Japan despite being down to 10
men but still lost the game. Maybe they have to prove that their is some substance behind flair.
Snuck past Senegal in the final game to top the group, could go off like a firework in the knockout
stages, could fizzle out.
Part of one of the great World Cup games against Spain, Portugal are a team only as good as
their best player. But what a player! Looked jittery at the back throughout the group stages and
could be seen as lucky to have snuck past a desperate Iran team. How far can Ronald take the
A typical Swiss outfit. Very organised and disciplined with a match winner in Xherdan Shaqiri.
Proved this with an early draw against tournament favourites Brazil. Squeezed past Serbia in
another game of the tournament contender. A draw with Costa Rica was enough in the end to put
them through in to the supposed easier side of the draw.
Probably unfair to say the shocked the world in their opening victory against Germany. Their
counter attacking style tore Germany apart time and time again. More clinical finishing could have
had them win by 5. Two great performances were almost overshadowed by losing 3-0 to Sweden
when they still weren’t guaranteed qualification. Their counter attacking side could really suit the
knockout stages as Mexico go in search of “Game 5”.
The pre tournament favourites have really flattered to deceive for me so far. For all the talk of how
Tite has organised this team they still look disjointed to me. Neymar is playing as an individual
and was worryingly brought to tears after achieving victory over Costa Rica. Brazil alway have a
risk of emotion getting the better of them and here it may have imprisoned their best player.
I know right, England. Our England. The same England. Fifth on this list. A group of young,
likeable players have stolen the nations hearts and installed hope in the form of Gareth
Southgate’s 3-5-2 system. For once England seem to be playing as a team, to a system, and all
know their roles instead of the best 11 individuals on the pitch. Repeat after me, ‘No more years
of hurt, no more need for dreaming’.
Nine points from nine may well have been what was expected from the group. Able to dismantle
Panama and Tunisia easily with displays full of goals and attacking football. Then came one of the
stranger World Cup games. In a match full of changes and lacking intensity Belgium B snuck past
England B to win the group and maybe make the over route to glory that bit harder.
Of course we would expect these teams to be achieving maximum group stage points and again
for Uruguay this may well have been expected. However they did it without conceding a single
goal and grew with each game. Their final feast being met with a 3-0 victory in the caldron that is
a host nation game.
2. Spain Sacking your manger 36 hours before the tournament is an unorthodox approach and it will still
need to play out how it affects their tournament. Spain are ranked 2 despite only narrowly beating
an albeit very defensive Iran 1-0 and drawing 2-2 with Morocco. And while they only drew 3-3
against Portugal in one of the all time great World Cup games it was easily one of the best
displays we have seen from a team against high quality opponents.
The most consistently good teams of the tournament so far with perhaps the best midfield on
offer. Strolled through the group stages the way Lula Modric strolls around the pitch, as if they
were wearing top hat and tails. Achieved maximum points despite making wholesale changes in
their final game. Can the go further than 1998?
The man behind the award winning podcast, trying to expand the empire one podcast at a time