World Cup Power Rankings – Last Eight Edition

World Cup Power Rankings – Last Eight Edition

And then there were eight. After sixteen days straight of football, here we are on the cusp of the quarterfinals. There are four fascinating games coming up, and every team will believe they have a chance of reaching the last four. Ultimately not every team is equal though, and while nothing is decided on paper (especially in this World Cup), here is a look at how each of the eight remaining teams looks ahead of the quarters.

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8 – Croatia

It’s been far from pretty at times, but Croatia is once again quietly going about its business as one of the most consistent tournament teams in recent memory. The fast-paced and direct Japanese was always going to be a big threat against this highly experienced Croatian side, and it looked as if the game was going to get away from them when they were 1-0 down at half time.

Croatia’s players celebrate their win after penalty shoot-outs against Japan. (Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP)

Ivan Perišić got Croatia back on level terms, and their keeper Dominik Livaković was the hero in the shootout with three saves out of four. Croatia is one of four unbeaten teams left in the competition, and although they’ve been guilty of riding their luck (especially against Belgium), you can’t ignore that record going into the last eight. With Luka Modrić running their midfield, they’ll count them in with a chance against Brazil.

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7 – The Netherlands

It’s not exactly been inspiring so far for Louis Van Gaals and me, they aren’t considered anyone’s favorites, but they have made it to the last eight barely scathed.

The Dutch team celebrate Daley Blind’s goal. (Matthew Childs/Reuters)

Their last sixteen tie against the US had the potential for a shock, but the Dutch showed their class on the day with goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind, and Denzel Dumfries enough to give them a 3-1 win. It will be tough against Argentina, but Van Gaal is getting functional performances out of his team and with Virgil Van Dijk and Nathan Aké at the back, they’ll be as equipped as any team to slow down the Argentine attack.

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6 – Morocco

Morocco is the last non-European/South American country left in the tournament but make no mistake, they belong here. This is an incredibly well-organized team that has conceded a tournament-best just one goal in four games, and even in the penalty shootout against Spain, the Spanish couldn’t convert any of their kicks.

The Moroccan players celebrate after beating Spain 3-0 on penalties. (Tom Jenkins/The Guardian)

A feature of their games has been a passionate Moroccan crowd that has followed the teams. Morocco is the only Arab/Muslim country left in the tournament, giving them a cultural tie to the hosts that no other country has, and may help them harness a home advantage feeling even more. The crowd played their part in helping the team hold Spain to a 0-0 draw for 120 minutes, I wouldn’t bet against getting another famous result against an Iberian foe in the next round.

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5 – Portugal

What a difference dropping an unemployed, past his prime thirty-seven-year-old makes! Portugal manager Fernando Santos dropped Cristiano Ronaldo for Gonçalo Ramos and to say it was the right call is an understatement. Ramos repaid his manager’s faith by scoring a hattrick in a 6-1 win, and Portugal looked a lot more threatening and much more fluid going forward as the Swiss just couldn’t live with them.

Goncalo Ramos had a dream of an evening as he scored the first hat-trick of the 2022 World Cup (Getty Images)

This is a team that when they won the Euros in 2016 played well when their talisman was out of the lineup. No one is suggesting that Ronaldo has historically held his country back, but this is a team that has shown they can function without him, and in 2022 – thrive without him. Portugal’s core of Bruno Fernandez, João Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, João Félix, William Carvalho, and Diogo Dalot have shown that they are a very talented group that can excel in this team, and they’ll for sure fancy their chances against Morocco to reach their first Semi-Final since 2006.

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4 – England

Despite not winning anything yet, England has shown to arguably be Europe’s most consistent tournament team of the past half-decade. They have won six knockout games since 2018, equalling the number of knockout games they won from the years 1968-2018. Gareth Southgate’s side has been very adaptable to their situation, and so far in this World Cup they’ve been favorites in all their games, and as such have played like it. The Three Lions have scored twelve goals in four games so far, conceding just twice and at their best, have looked unstoppable.

Jude Bellingham set Jordan Henderson for the opener against Senegal (Stefan Matzke/Corbis via Getty Images)

Harry Kane is the big name in the squad, but it’s been the young talent that’s been making the headlines. Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka – both aged twenty-one or under have both been utterly outstanding for England, and are both genuinely talented enough to give England a chance against anyone. It’ll be tough against France, but the Southgate reign has been building to this, the chance to take get a massive statement win in a tournament, Germany in 2021 was great..but France in 2022? That would be a whole other level and for sure England’s greatest World Cup win in fifty-six years.

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3 – Argentina

It feels like forever ago that this team lost to Saudi Arabia and was in genuine danger of crashing out of the World Cup after two games. Now? They’ve won three in a row, scoring five and conceding just once, a big part of that has been down to their thirty-five-year-old superstar – Lionel Messi. Messi has been playing great for Argentina, whether it’s been through linking up the attacks with his passing vision, dragging defenders out of position with his runs, or finding the back of the net as he did against Mexico and Australia.

Lionel Messi opens the scoring against Australia. (Molly Darlington/Reuters)

The best thing for Messi is that he doesn’t have to do it all by himself; Enzo Fernández, Julián Álvarez, Alexis Mac Allister, Lisandro Martínez, Cristian Romero, Nahuel Molina, and co have given Messi arguably his best ever supporting cast for La Albiceleste. Without looking too far ahead, Argentina can potentially play their eternal rivals Brazil in the semi-final, should they get past a tough Dutch team – it’ll promise to be one of theee must-watch games of the twenty-first century!

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2 – Brazil

Well, that was easy! Brazil not only defeated South Korea 4-1, but they did it with style! Complete with samba flair and dance moves that only a British-based pundit would hate. Vinicius Júnior, Neymar, and Richarlsion – three of Brazil’s front four scored and they’ve all looked very dangerous throughout the tournament leading the line for A Seleção.

Brazil’s Richarlison scores the third goal to complete a fine team move. (Tom Jenkins/The Guardian)

There isn’t any real weakness in this team. You can argue that the fullbacks aren’t on par with Brazilian legends of the past, but Danilo and Éder Militão play for Juventus and Real Madrid respectively, and are both highly talented at what they do. In midfield they have Lucas Paquetá and Casemiro, Casemiro is regarded as the best defensive midfielder in the world today, allowing Brazil to unleash their attacking players to devastating effect. Should it become necessary, Brazil also has the advantage of having Alisson Becker between the sticks, who to many is the best goalkeeper left in the tournament. This team has been heavily favored for a while now, and it’s easy to see why.

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1 – France

Remember the World Cup winners’ curse? Seems a long way now with just how ruthless France has been at their best in this tournament, and it all starts with a front four that’s been firing on all cylinders. It’s funny to say as he is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, but the tournament-ending injury to Karin Benzema has been the best thing to happen to the side, having Oliver Giroud upfront like in 2018 has allowed Ousmane Dembélé, Antoine Griezmann, and Kylian Mbappé to thrive in a way that they weren’t able to at Euro 2020.

Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring the third goal for France during a World Cup round-of-16 match against Poland in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.(Luca Bruno / Associated Press)

Kylian Mbappé in particular has arguably made the tournament his own so far. His five goals and two assists so far tell the story of a superstar who is ready to take the title from Messi and Ronaldo as football’s biggest global superstar! Should he win a second world cup at the age of just twenty-three, there can be legitimate arguments made that he is on a path towards greatness that dare I say it…Pele also took when he was Mbappés age. Winning a second World Cup in a row hasn’t been done since 1962. But at their best, this current France team is a very scary team and has a great chance to match that record.


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