The World Cup is on the verge of moving into the last 16 phase, with the number of teams remaining in the competition to be cut in half.
The latest round of matches has seen Poland unceremoniously dumped out, Argentina come perilously close to joining them on the plane home, and Germany strike late against Sweden to rescue their tournament. Brazil, Spain and Portugal earned their first wins, while England and Belgium put their opponents to the sword to sail through to the knockout stages.
So, with every team having played two games at this point, who looks best placed to bring home that famous trophy?
1. Spain. A hard-fought win against a determined Iran side earned Spain their first victory of this World Cup. It wasn’t especially pretty but teams in the knockout stages won’t be as defensive as Iran were.
2. Croatia. Tore through Argentina once it became apparent to them that the South Americans weren’t up to much. A brilliantly technical midfield and a goalscoring striker in Mandzukic – this team could go very, very far.
3. Belgium. Tore through Tunisia with a display of individual brilliance from their forwards. They need to improve defensively, but the return of Vincent Kompany should provide that.
4. Brazil. Looked a bit off the pace against Costa Rica but got their win in the end. They could grow into this tournament but Tite must surely consider an alternative tactical approach.
5. England. Gareth Southgate’s tactics paid off as England swatted Panama aside with a vibrant and well-coached display. Will need to watch those lapses in concentration, however.
6. France. Better against Peru, but eased off once they had scored against Peru and better sides will exploit that. The 4-2-3-1 worked better (Matuidid on the wing aside) but there’s no guarantee that Deschamps will stick with that.
7. Mexico. A solid win over South Korea that solidified their place at the top of Group F and left them needing just a point to win the group.
8. Portugal. A narrow win against Morroco built on their draw against Spain, but one gets the sense that stronger teams might punish the defence in a way that the African side just couldn’t.
9. Germany. From the jaws of despair, salvation was snatched. Toni Kroos’ late winner against Sweden means that victory over South Korea will almost certainly send them through to the knockout stages.
10. Russia. Followed their crushing of Saudi Arabia with an even more impressive win over Egypt. They’ve started very brightly and the likes of Cheryshev and Golovin are lighting up the tournament.
11. Colombia. A much-improved performance against Poland (though having eleven on the pitch helped), Colombia looked far more like the threatening side that we know they can be. Absolutely took Poland apart with a ruthless attacking display.
12. Uruguay. Made harder work of Saudi Arabia than they should have, but they are safely through and if Suarez and Cavani can get firing, they will be a threat.
13. Switzerland. A late winner against Serbia has given them a great chance of progressing to the next round, and victory over Costa Rica will seal it.
14. Senegal. Twice took the lead against Japan, but twice lost it. A draw against Colombia would be enough to progress and one can expect Aliou Cisse to rever to conservative type to make that happen.
15. Japan. Their battling qualities were shown in the comeback against Colombia, and cemented in the comeback against Senegal. Japan aren’t through yet, but will fight tooth and nail against Poland to get there.
16. Nigeria. Looked a completely different side against Iceland than the one that so meekly fell to Croatia. Victory over Argentina will send them through (as will a draw, in all likelihood) and they will be well up for a crack at piling on the misery for Messi and co.
17. Denmark. Still look the most likely (but not yet certain) to join France in the last 16 but will need to up their game and be a bit less reliant on Christian Eriksen.
18. Serbia. Started well against Switzerland and were unlucky to end up on the losing side (and even more unlucky not to be awarded a penalty). Progression is still possible, but Brazil stand in their way.
19. Sweden. Were just seconds away from virtually securing their place in the knockout stages before Kroos’ late strike. As it is now, they need to defeat Mexico and hope for a favourable result elsewhere.
20. Iran. Defensively strong against Spain, but they’ll need to be much more attacking against Portugal and that could be their undoing.
21. Iceland. Started the brighter of the two sides against Nigeria, but failed to make their chances count and were duly punished. Can still make the knockout stages but will need to beat Croatia and hope for a favour from Argentina.
22. Australia. Have battled hard in both matches, and looked the better of the two at times against Denmark, but will need to start on the front foot and take the game to Peru to keep their last 16 hopes alive.
23. Argentina. An absolute mess against Croatia, but Iceland’s failure to defeat Nigeria means they still have a chance to get through. Can they rouse themselves to win a match at this point, however?
24. South Korea. They were 2-0 down to Mexico before they realised that their World Cup was slipping away. Despite losing their opening two matches, an unlikely win against Germany could still see them through.
25. Costa Rica. A much-improved performance against Brazil than that which they turned in against Serbia. However, their defence couldn’t hold out until full time and they now look set to leave without a point or a goal.
26. Peru. Lively, but that’s where Peru’s strength ended. They had a hatful of chances across two games to win both, and yet now sit bottom of their group without a point or a goal.
27. Morocco. Much, more was expected of Morocco at this tournament – and while they showed plenty of invention against Portugal, their lack of a natural finisher has cost them dearly.
28. Poland. Out with a whimper. With a number of technically gifted players and Robert Lewandowski up top, plenty was expected of Poland. Defeat to Senegal and a crushing by Colombia later, that was it from them.
29. Tunisia. Opened up against Belgium, and were destroyed as a result. Two consolation goals can’t mask how easily Roberto Martinez’s side tore through them.
30. Egypt. Fighting an uphill battle after their opening day defeat, Egypt’s reliance on a half-fit Salah cost them dearly as Russia tore through them in a second-half blitz.
31. Saudi Arabia. Slightly better against Uruguay than they were against Russia, but still never really looked threatening in their own right. They can, at least, possibly restore some pride against Egypt on Monday.
32. Panama. The spirit that saw them hold out against Belgium for so long was nowhere to be seen against England. A deserved 6-1 hammering on Sunday sends them out of the competition.
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