With just eight teams left in the FIFA World Cup, the quarter-finals are upon us. Here are the latest power rankings for the biggest sporting event in the world.
1. Brazil (Round of 16: 3rd)
The pre-tournament favourites might have made a somewhat slow start to the World Cup, but they are well and truly hitting their stride now.
Despite the diving memes which have flooded social media after Neymar’s theatrics, they finished the group stage strongly and then blasted past Mexico in a 2-0 shutout during the round of 16.
Neymar and Roberto Firmino were the scorers, but their defence was great and with Philippe Coutinho also up front, the dangerous weapons they possess is evident for all to see.
The problem in their way is Belgium. The European side have occupied this spot since Matchday 2 and while they have been shafted here, they could well cause a huge upset to send the South American nation packing and open up the tournament as theirs to win. Brazil will need to be at their absolute best, which they still haven’t obtained throughout the tournament, but rest assured, they are tracking in the right direction.
2. England (Round of 16: 4th)
England are now favourites to advance to the World Cup final. If you had of said that before the tournament started, you would have been shot down with fire.
With Spain bombing out of the tournament, England won’t have to play any of the other ‘big’ nations until the final, leaving them in a spot where losing that game to Belgium has helped them enormously along their path to success.
Whether they will win the World Cup is anyone’s guess, but even needing penalties against Colombia, their rise by a couple of spots is more than justifiable.
3. Belgium (Round of 16: 1st)
The Red Devils finally lose their top spot heading into the quarter-finals, and it’s a double-edged sword to explain why this is the case.
Heading into the round of 16, they looked like the best team at the tournament, although it would have been interesting to see what may have transpired if a match with everything on the line played out between them and England.
It’s always going to be hard to get a read based on victories over Panama and Tunisia, as it is for England.
However, Belgium have dropped down the rankings by virtue of only just getting past Japan with a comeback victory, as well as their next opponent – Brazil.
It makes things incredibly difficult to keep them where they have been.
4. Croatia (Round of 16: 2nd)
The Croatians were one of the surprise packets during the group stages. They didn’t lose any of their matches, but then, were never put under a great deal of pressure by the teams they came up against.
Put them in a knockout game and the impact their midfield was having got diminished somewhat.
They managed to scrape through on penalties against Denmark, not able to get a goal during the extra time periods. Yet, they are able to keep their ranking so high given the weakness of the second half of the draw.
5. France (Round of 16: 5th)
France have been one of those teams who have become tough to predict throughout the World Cup. They never looked all that convincing during the group stage, despite having the most expensive squad of any of them. Scrapping through in all of their games against Australia, Denmark and Peru really wasn’t how they wanted to set the bar ahead of the knockout stages.
Their attack came to life in the round of 16 though, with Antoine Griezmann, Benjamin Pavard and Mbappe all involved in goals, while Paul Pogba has been dangerous at times during the tournament.
If that level of attack, which saw them run up four goals against Argentina continues, they will be hard to stop.
6. Uruguay (Round of 16: 8th)
Uruguay spent most of the group stage battling to get on the same page. Their star strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez didn’t seem to be on the same page as the rest of their team and it showed. Yet, they found a way to get it right for their third group match against Russia, which landed them in the tough side of the draw.
They came away with a strong win over Portugal in the first knockout match though, with Cavani the star up front as he scored both goals.
Whether they can keep that going against the pressing defence of the French is anyone’s guess.
Attack won’t be the only thing for Uruguay though. France scored four goals in their last game and the pressure on Diego Godin to play a captain’s knock at the back will be unreal.
7. Russia (Round of 16: 13th)
The Russians have shocked everyone by getting all the way to the quarter-finals of the tournament. They entered as the lowest ranked team, but, in a weak Group A, were able to build form and then use every bit of it against Spain.
Their victory over Spain came as a major surprise. They were never supposed to win that game, especially after going behind 1-0, but with a penalty followed by an hour of fantastic defence, they gave themselves a chance and didn’t disappoint under the pressure of a penalty shootout.
Russia do find themselves in the easy side of the draw, but taking on Croatia is going to be anything but easy. They will do very well to come out of this with a win and their World Cup dream still in tact.
8. Sweden (Round of 16: 15th)
Like Russia, the Swedes surprised many just to get out of the group stage. Unlike Russia, they were not in a group which could have been described as one of the easy ones. Instead, they held their own against Germany, South Korea and Mexico to top the group on goal difference and advance to the round of 16.
While their attack hasn’t been what they have become known for, their defence has held it’s end of the bargian, with a shock victory over Switzerland in the first knockout match.
Incredibly, they came through a play-off just to qualify for the World Cup, and are now staring down the barrel of a clash with England, which they will describe as winnable to move into the semi-finals.
Newly eliminated teams
Spain (Round of 16: 6th)
Switzerland (Round of 16: 7th)
Portugal (Round of 16: 9th)
Colombia (Round of 16: 10th)
Denmark (Round of 16: 11th)
Mexico (Round of 16: 12th)
Argentina (Round of 16: 14th)
Japan (Round of 16: 16th)