So the last of the group games has just finished, and there is a much needed day off tomorrow before we get to the business end of the World Cup, starting with Netherlands v Mexico on Saturday afternoon.
I won’t pretend that I’ve seen every kick, but of the 48 group games I’ve managed to see 28 live, another 11 in full recorded, listened to 3 others on the radio and seen highlights of the other 6. So, after the first round of matches, here is my ranking of every team. Obviously the best team might not win and the top 16 won’t be those who went through. This isn’t based on anything beyond the three group games that each team has played in the 2014 World Cup.
The first 16 are below, I’ll post the top 16 tomorrow, along with a prediction of how the knock-out phase will work out.
When they played the pre-tournament friendly against England everyone thought they were a dirty side, but it turns out they really were going soft on us. Offered nothing in their three games, except cynical fouling and
Played arguably the dullest game of the tournament against Nigeria, unlucky not to get something from Argentina but missed a couple of clear cut chances. Other than that happy to sit back, defend and offer very little going forward. They did manage to provide the Iranian President with a nice photo op though.
Had an unlucky draw, but an even worse defence. Conceded 8 goals but should have been into double figures apart from poor decisions. Alex Song summed things up with the most stupid sending off in World Cup history against Croatia.
29. South Korea
Played out two fairly dull draws and got taken apart by Algeria in the space of 15 minutes. Have fallen a long way since 2002, no real strength in any position. Lack of physical presence in the final third of the pitch.
Really struggled to hit their stride, losing against Ivory Coast after taking the lead and being unable to break down an organised Greek team before being ripped apart by Columbia. Lacked an ability to control the ball and make the final cutting pass.
No quality but plenty of fight and guts in a group that virtually every team would have struggled against. Ran Chile and Netherlands close before folding against Spain, but did score the goal of the tournament through Tim Cahill.
Low expectations which were far from reached. Sloppy defending in the first two games and a blunt attack apart from two counters which produced the goals. So-called star players came up woefully short and tactically inept decisions from the manager.
Worst ever defending Champions at a World Cup, never recovered from the demolition Netherlands inflicted on them. The two centre backs looked like they had walked into the ground off the street and the attack gave little to lift the spirits.
Typical Fabio Capello team, well organised but lacking inspiration and at times pretty tough to watch. Only goal of the tournament came from some very poor Algerian defending , and spent most of their first two games happy to see time out in midfield, even when losing to Belgium.
23. Ivory Coast
Looked unsettled by the Drogba problem, even when beating Japan in the opening game. Ran Columbia close and unlucky to go out after a last minute Greece penalty. Needed a couple of the Premier League stars to step up and make a contribution.
Didn’t help themselves by getting torn apart by Germany and having Pepe sent off for a head-butt. Lucky to get a point against the USA before beating a demoralised Ghana team. Always likely to be a one-man team but even Ronaldo couldn’t help them, and his tantrums told the story.
Played exactly how many thought they would, well organised at the back apart from the mauling by Columbia and offering very little going forward. Very fortunate to go through but cool head from Samaras to score the last minute penalty.
Nearly caught Switzerland cold in the first game, but lack of ambition against France illustrated by a reluctance to bring a striker off the bench even when needing a win. Struggled without their home altitude to protect them, only just got past a very poor Honduras team.
Clinical finishing to capitalise on two mistakes against England but offered little in the other two games, causing Costa Rica and Uruguay few problems. Pirlo didn’t look as good as we had hoped, and the forward line never really came to the party.
Unlucky not to have taken more from their first two games. Not especially tight at the back but always looked strong going froward. Unfortunate that the curse of the World Cup team split hit them this year, and couldn’t pull off the miracle they needed against Portugal.
Looked well organised and some promising players in midfield. A little blunt going forward but did come alive through Musa against Argentina in the last game. Well organised at the back in front of a solid keepr, only breached by Messi, which is nothing to cry about.
The next batch will be up tomorrow….