World Cup Final Eight Power Rankings and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 6/30/2010
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The final eight has been set for the World Cup. Three-quarters of the field has gone home to pout and lick their wounds, while the remaining eight are harboring more or less realistic dreams of glory. Since we're down to the elite now (with a couple of notable exceptions) this is a good time assess the remaining teams and see how they stack up. Here's an updated power ranking for the final eight teams at the World Cup:
1. Brazil - I felt that the Brazilians were the best team in the tournament before it started, and everything I have seen since has only strengthened that. They have only played one very tough game - against Ivory Coast - and they couldn't have been more dominant. The draw against Portugal can totally be thrown out because it was meaningless and both teams knew it. Chile was an opponent that they should have crushed and they absolutely did. Brazil has ridiculous depth and talent, and they look like they can maximize the edge that that gives them. The path to the finals sets up very well for Brazil, and I expect them to follow that path.
2. Argentina - The Argentinians are one of just two teams that have won every game they have played. They've looked pretty dominant doing it as well. They have all sorts of talent, and they are definitely all playing on the same page right now. I still have concerns about the ability of the bizarre Diego Maradona to keep things together and coach this team well down the stretch, but he's certainly doing what he needs to now. Unlike Brazil, Argentina needs to win two very tough games before to get to the finals. So far, though, they look like they are up to it.
3. Spain - Spain was the pre-tournament favorites, and they are still a very popular choice, but they are making me uneasy. That opening loss to Switzerland showed that they are obviously prone to lapses in concentration, and that could be more and more costly as the tournament advances. Against Portugal in the Round of 16 they had countless opportunities to put the game out of hand, but they just couldn't convert and the game was much closer than it needed to be as a result. On paper they are good enough, but that's been the case in tournaments before this as well. Until they show they can turn potential into results I'm not sure I can believe in them.
4. Germany - Germany is a tough team for me to get my head around. In their opening game against Australia they looked as good as a team can look. But then they came out and lost to Serbia in their next game in a performance that was as flat and uncharacteristic that it was shocking. They did what they had to do against Ghana, and then destroyed England in a manner that was almost cruel. They are one of those teams that is really good unless they really aren't - the kind that makes my head hurt, in other words.
5. Netherlands - The Dutch probably deserve to be higher up this list - they have won every game they have played in this tournament and are riding a 22-game international winning streak. They are finally healthy after some early issues as well. They are primed to compete, and they know how to win games. There's just one problem, though, and it's a doozy - they are facing Brazil. That's not a good matchup for them, and it makes the task of going deep much tougher for them.
6. Uruguay - There is a whole lot to like about this team. Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez could play for, and star for, any team in this tournament. They are clearly the best team from beyond the elite upper tier in this tournament, and are probably under-appreciated. Their problem is a familiar one, though - they are lined up to face Brazil in the semifinals. They know from the qualification process how tough that is going to be, and in the qualifying they didn't give us much of a reason to believe that they can come out on top.
7. Ghana - I hope that people don't think that Ghana's win over the Americans was a fluke. They are a talented, impressive team that deserved to win. The only reason they are as low as they are in this ranking is that they just don't have the depth or talent to measure up with the teams ahead of them. One more win is possible. Two more would be a bit of a miracle - one that would finally have me believing in the African home continent advantage.
8. Paraguay - Paraguay gets credit for one thing - they were given an opportunity and they jumped on it. Italy faltered, so they stepped in an filled the gap by winning Group F. The problem, though, is that they just haven't looked very good. They tied Italy and New Zealand, and needed penalty kicks to get past Japan. They have looked reasonably solid against a flawed and uninspiring group of teams. They aren't facing flawed, uninspired teams anymore, though, so things could get ugly for them.
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