David Luiz's stunning free kick sends Brazil to the semi-finals

David Luiz’s stunning free kick sends Brazil to the semi-finals

1. Germany- I have been convinced from the start of the tournament that Germany were the most complete and all-around talented team in the tournament but were handed a difficult draw. The “group of death” did battle-test them and they were better prepared for a French team that did not have that same experience. What is even more amazing is that they beat France without losing any key players through injury or suspension. Mats Hummels returned from sickness to become the hero of the day and set up a dream match between the two most historically significant football powers in the world. One of them will go onto their record setting 8th World Cup Final, Germany look like the favorites to be that team. (Previous Rank: 5)

2. Argentina- Reliance on Lionel Messi? Not so much. Gonzalo Higuain did everything that was asked for him and helped lead Argentina past a tricky Belgium team. Whether or not Belgium were at their best doesn’t matter, Argentina finally looked like a team playing with confidence in defense. The truth is, they probably would have won the game even if they didn’t snag an early goal, they always looked more likely to score. Their biggest concern is the huge loss of Angel Di Maria. Messi has been great but he has played more of a setup role to Di Maria because he doesn’t have players creating enough for him. This makes things a lot more difficult, but they should be more confident. A 1990 rematch with Germany could well be in the stars. (Previous Rank: 6)

3. Brazil- I have never been a fan of manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, but he did come out with the right strategy for beating Colombia and he deserves some major credit for their victory. The plan to take out wonderkid James Rodriguez was just the start. The real masterstroke was shackling Juan Cuadrado and forcing Teo Gutierrez to carry much of the workload for Brazil. Had Brazil never earned a second goal then Colombia probably were never going to score. Of course the only reason they aren’t ranked #1 is their loss of Neymar to injury and suspension of Thiago Silva. Felipe Scolari’s biggest managerial test will be deciding whether Bernard or Willian is his man. Regardless of which player he chooses, Neymar’s loss is massive. (Previous Rank: 7)

4. Netherlands- The Dutch made life difficult for themselves by going all the way to penalties but it seems as though Louis van Gaal was the first manager that had a strategy for penalties from the start. People questioned the substitution of Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul but it paid off. Cillessen has looked shaky at times but it is almost as if Krul was brought to Brazil only specifically for this scenario. Having 5 tremendous penalty takers was also a bonus. Wesley Sneijder rattled the woodwork twice and could have ended this earlier. I would not call them huge underdogs against Argentina but they did not look like a team that can compete for the title. Then again, Arjen Robben is on a redemption tour. (Previous Rank: 2)

Eliminated in the Quarterfinals

5. Colombia- They almost did it, but it was only because of the errors of Brazil. A lot of people are crying foul over Juan Zuniga’s challenge on Neymar but the reality of the situation was that Brazil turned it into a physical affair. Rodriguez and Cuadrado were brutalized and effectively taken out of the game due to its physical nature. Neymar suffered the consequences as well, but Zuniga still has a bit of blame on his shoulders. Simply put, it will take a miracle for a player to overthrow Rodriguez as the best player of this tournament. The only trouble I have is with the poor Colombian tactics. Teo was ineffective and the worst player on the pitch by a mile. He had been for the entire tournament. They might look back at this tournament with a “what if” mindset but at least this is not the last time we’ll see Rodriguez at the World Cup. (Previous Rank: 1)

6. Costa Rica- It might have been their strategy to go into the game and hope for penalties. They were not as overmatched as many people expected but they also did not put up the same sort of fight that they had against Uruguay and Italy. You had a feeling that they were not prepared for a long run in the tournament but did well without Oscar Duarte. While it’s true that the penalties could have gone either way, they were a bit lucky to survive that long in the game. It’s a heroic showing from the small Latin American country and they were by far the biggest surprise of the tournament. Respect to them. (Previous Rank: 8)

7. France- I’d probably argue that they would be World Cup Finalists if they were on the other side of the draw but that is not the case. They are still the second most complete and talented group at this tournament but they had no solution for going down to Germany early. Mathieu Valbuena was a key man in this game but fell flat and turned in a subpar performance. Their strategy to win the offside game with the German backline was also another failure. I think the bottom line is, they were not built to play from a goal down. Had they somehow managed to snag an early goal then they could very well be at the top of the power rankings. They have a wonderful crop of players coming through though, they will be one to watch in Russia. (Previous Rank: 4)

8. Belgium- So I guess it turned out that they really weren’t playing their game but had kinda been scraping past weaker opposition. Argentina were going to win that game no matter what, Belgium had no real chance on the counter. Eden Hazard is not a “free-spirit,” he just never puts in the same effort for his country as he does for his club. If there is one player to blame for Belgium going down in flames, it is him. At the same time, Wilmots should have had a spine and sat Hazard down earlier in the tournament. They looked uninterested in this game. It does not matter how much talent or potential this group has, they need a motivator. They should have been in the final based off their ability but they never deserved it. (Previous Rank: 3)

Eliminated Before the Quarterfinals

9. Chile
10. Algeria
11. United States
12. Mexico
13. Switzerland
14. Nigeria
15. Uruguay
16. Greece
17. Italy
18. Ecuador
19. Ivory Coast
20. Portugal
21. Croatia
22. Ghana
23. Russia
24. Iran
25. Japan
26. South Korea
27. Australia
28. Bosnia and Herzegovina
29. England
30. Honduras
31. Cameroon
32. Spain

Keylor Navas earns player of the round honors with a terrific performance against the Netherlands

Keylor Navas earns player of the round honors with a terrific performance against the Netherlands

GK: Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)- For the second round in a row, the best player was a goalkeeper that did well to keep his team in a game longer than they deserved. 8 saves during the game before falling to Krul in penalties.

RB: Stefan de Vrij (Netherlands)- Technically played on the right side of a three man defense, de Vrij was phenomenal with 5 tackles, 5 interceptions, 13 clearances and 1 last man tackle.

CB: Mats Hummels (Germany)- Hummels earned the winning goal for Germany in the 12′ but also added 7 clearances and 3 blocks while completing 85% of his passes.

CB: Thiago Silva (Brazil)- A backpost tap-in gave Brazil an early lead that allowed them to dictate the way the game was played. Also won 5 aerial duels, had 14 clearances and 3 shots blocked.

LB: Benedikt Howedes (Germany)- Howedes was a defensive rock with a round leading 9 tackles. He also added 4 clearances and 2 interceptions.

Mid: Neymar (Brazil)- Neymar created 4 scoring chances while also assisting on the first Brazil goal. He also had 3 successful dribbles and won 4 fouls.

Mid: Fernandinho (Brazil)- The defensive midfielder helped dictate the midfield play with 5 tackles and 4 clearances. He also won 3 fouls and had 3 successful dribbles.

Mid: James Rodriguez (Colombia)- Rodriguez added his sixth goal in 5 games, this one from the spot. He also created 3 scoring chances, had 5 successful dribbles and won 6 fouls.

Mid: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)- Sneijder hit the woodwork twice and also created two scoring opportunities. Finished the round with the second most touches (108) and scored his penalty in the shootout

Fwd: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)- Robben created a match high 4 scoring opportunities while winning 8 fouls and completing 8 dribbles. He also slotted home a penalty int he shootout.

Fwd: Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina)- Higuain’s strike early in the game helped Argentina relax and control the tempo throughout. He also rattled the woodwork once and helped out defensively at times.

Kevin De Bruyne's magic lifts Belgium to #3

Kevin De Bruyne’s magic lifts Belgium to #3

1. Colombia- This should come as no surprise with Colombia continuing to dominate the competition and James Rodriguez continuing his run at being the Golden Boot winner and Player of the Tournament. People might point to Uruguay’s absence of Luis Suarez and they did admittedly look uninspired, but the result would have been on different if Suarez played. Next up is a Brazil team that escaped Chile by a few inches, Colombia have been the far superior team. As long as the team continue to play this way, they likely have a spot in the final with their name on it. (Previous Rank: 1)

2. Netherlands- So much has been said about the Arjen Robben penalty but that was not the reason Mexico lost. Miguel Herrera closed up shop far too early and Wesley Sneijder finally solved the Mexican defense with a laser beam. The Netherlands were unlucky not to be ahead during most of the game but probably would have won the game after leveling it with minutes to go. They jump up in the rankings because they will play a battered a bruised Costa Rica team. (Previous Rank: 4)

3. Belgium- A bitter clash with the United States could have been ended twice; first with all the shots Belgium had throughout the game, and second with Chris Wondolowski’s 93′ opportunity. Belgium were lucky to slip out of the game alive but not as lucky as several other teams that cut it even closer. A wonderful cameo from Romelu Lukaku and a special performance from Kevin De Bruyne just shows how Belgium have the capacity to win in many different ways. Argentina struggled more against Switzerland than Belgium did against the United States. It looks pretty even but Belgium should be a little fresher. (Previous Rank: 7)

4. France- The only other team that advanced by more than 1 goal (the other being Colombia). There were times where it seemed as though Nigeria were disinterested but France kept their focus and could have won by more. What is troubling is the last couple performances by Olivier Giroud. A few elbows could have seen him red carded in both of the last two matches and he was highly ineffective against Nigeria. In order to get Karim Benzema back to his sizzling form, Giroud might need to be dropped. They remain low because they play the most talented team in the draw next, Germany. (Previous Rank: 6)

5. Germany- Without the sweeping duties of Manuel Neuer, Germany might not be in the tournament. Mats Hummels absence was a problem because it showed Germany’s lack of pace in the back. Aside from Mathieu Valbuena, France don’t possess the same amount of pace that Algeria had unless Giroud is dropped for Antoine Griezmann. Germany should still be considered one of the favorites and I would expect them to beat France, but they have not been the most reliable team in the tournament. That might just mean that we might still see their best. (Previous Rank: 5)

6. Argentina- Once again, Lionel Messi came to save the day in the dying moments for Argentina. The question is how long Messi can keep bailing out a team that is not providing him with the support he needs to win. Angel Di Maria was great against Switzerland but there were points where the Swiss were the better side and could have grabbed a goal if they pushed harder. Argentina are a very vulnerable team and it might just be a matter of time before Messi has an off game. Either that or he is on his path to immortality like Maradona, but I wouldn’t count on it. (Previous Rank: 3)

7. Brazil- How they keep winning might be the biggest mystery of the entire tournament. Oscar looks to be tired and that is one of the worst things that could happen to a Brazil team that are heavily reliant on his contributions both offensively and defensively. Fred and Jo are the two worst strikers out of any of the teams remaining. Neymar continues carrying the load but he was shut out by a team that worked as hard as Chile. Their next match is against the best team in the tournament, they will need even more luck to weather this storm. (Previous Rank: 8)

8. Costa Rica- The tournament darlings are lucky to be alive after some heroics against the worst team remaining in the round of 16. Greece should not have given Costa Rica the type of challenge that they did but Costa Rica struggled ultimately needing penalties to escape. Their feisty attitude and fierce spirit are what have kept them alive but a lot of that was from Oscar Duarte who will be suspended for the next match. A sense of pride for them is being the last remaining CONCACAF team in the tournament. Regardless of what happens, they played the role of the underdogs well. (Previous Rank: 2)

Eliminated in the Round of 16

9. Chile- A lot of teams were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion but Chile’s loss was the one that should not have happened. Mauricio Pinilla’s strike in extra time spared Brazil of crashing out in the tournament. The penalty shootout was just as heartbreaking as the woodwork proved to be unkind to Chile once again. Alexis Sanchez lived up to the hype for Chile and was their best player throughout the entire tournament. (Previous Rank: 12)

10. Algeria- For a team that should have had no chance against Germany, they proved to be a major thorn in the side of the favorites. Their explosive pace and determined attitude saw them go toe to toe with the best players the world has to offer. Toni Kroos and Bastian Schwinsteiger never looked comfortable and Neuer’s heroics were the only thing standing in Algeria’s way during the first half. Admirable tournament but curious tactics to leave Yacine Brahimi on the bench for much of the game. (Previous Rank: 16)

11. United States- Only the second perfect performance of the entire tournament from a single player and it was Tim Howard. Just because a performance is perfect doesn’t mean that the team advances. Howard did all he could but it showed that Belgium are tougher than people thought. Julian Green’s goal was huge and DeAndre Yedlin’s performance was inspiring. Ultimately the United States fell because they did not have the energy to battle a fresh Lukaku and their team was not built to counter Belgium. (Previous Rank: 10)

12 Mexico- Complain all you want Herrera, the loss was entirely your fault. The way Herrera devised his game plan after a brilliant Giovani dos Santos goal was borderline embarrassing. The game had been mostly even but he handed the game to the Netherlands and hoped that they could counter in the same manner they did against Croatia with Javier Hernandez up top. Not sure why dos Santos was taken out so quickly or why he stopped attacking so early but those are the reasons Mexico lost the game. (Previous Rank: 9)

13. Switzerland- I’m much more inclined to give them a higher ranking but they came in with a game plan that included almost no attack. Argentina has made everyone else look good and Switzerland were no different. A mistimed tackle by Fabian Schar on Messi proved to be the tiny crack Argentina needed to break down the defense. Argentina’s defense is a major weak point but there were no order to attack it. Even though they looked better at times, the game never seemed within reach after Josip Drmic’s missed opportunity. (Previous Rank:11)

14. Nigeria- Admirable performance by the Nigerians but they looked uninterested at times. Vincent Enyeama had been the best goalkeeper in the tournament going into the match against France but his mistake that gifted Paul Pogba France’s first goal proved to be costly. Kenneth Omeruo ended up being the best player for Nigeria throughout the tournament and looked solid against France. Aside from some stellar defense, they did not offer a lot going forward. (Previous Rank: 15)

15. Uruguay- All hope seemed lost with the loss of Suarez but it was almost as if they did not even bother to play as a sign of protest. Put that together with a stunning goal from Rodriguez and Uruguay were never going to recover. Their final game was their worst showing and it proved just how valuable Suarez was to that team. Diego Forlan’s  World Cup career is probably over but it was a brilliant one at that. It is unfortunate he did not go out on a batter note. (Previous Rank: 14)

16. Greece- They were one goal away from the quarterfinals so why are they ranked so low? Well, they did not take their opportunities with 10 men. Greece should have been thrilled with their draw and their opponent and taken advantage of it, but the Greeks continued playing a mediocre brand of football even with some significant advantages. The fact that Costa Rica managed just one shot on goal and it turned out to be their only goal is a little disappointing. (Previous Rank: 13)

Eliminated Before the Knockout Round

17. Italy
18. Ecuador
19. Ivory Coast
20. Portugal
21. Croatia
22. Ghana
23. Russia
24. Iran
25. Japan
26. South Korea
27. Australia
28. Bosnia and Herzegovina
29. England
30. Honduras
31. Cameroon
32. Spain

Tim Howard's record breaking performance earned him the best player award in the round of 16

Tim Howard’s record breaking performance earned him the best player award in the round of 16

Best XI

GK: Tim Howard (United States)- It seemed impossible to top Alex Dominguez’s performance last week but Tim Howard did it in a losing effort to Belgium. Howard’s 16 saves is the new record for most saves by a goalkeeper in a World Cup game.

RB: Dani Alves (Brazil)- After being voted as a flop in the group stages, Alves came up with a brilliant performance against Chile that included 4 tackles, 4 interception, 5 clearances and one scoring opportunity created.

CB: Sokratis (Greece)- Sokratis’ late goal gave Greece the opportunity to advance before losing in penalties. He also won 8 aerial duels, had 8 clearances, 3 tackles and completed 9/10 long balls.

CB: Essaid Belkalem (Algeria)- The Algerian center back kept his team in the game with two off the line clearances. Also blocked 5 shots, had 8 clearances, 4 interceptions and 2 tackles.

LB: Jan Vertonghen (Belgium)- Vertonghen had a game high 98 touches which included 5 won aerial duels, 2 created scoring chances, 2 shots on target, 14 clearances, 2 shots blocked, 3 tackles and 3 interceptions. All around performance.

Mid: Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)- KDB was the second best player this round with his goal and assist that helped lead Belgium past Tim Howard and the United States. He created a game high 10 scoring opportunities and also added 6 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Mid: Lionel Messi (Argentina)- Messi contributed the game winning assist after dribbling past a defender for the 7th time in the game. He also created 8 chances and had 6 tackles

Mid: Angel Di Maria (Argentina)- Di Maria’s 125 touches was the most of any player this round. He also scored the game winning goal and created 3 scoring chances while adding 9 successful dribbles.

Mid: Geoff Cameron (United States)- The American midfielder converted from centerback had a game high 113 chances. He had 4 dribbles on offense and 5 tackles, 4 shots blocked and 8 clearances on defense.

Fwd: Alexis Sanchez (Chile)- In Chile’s losing performance, Sanchez was the most potent player on the pitch with the tying goal and 2 chances created. He also had 6 successful dribbles and won 7 fouls.

Fwd: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)- Despite penalty controversy, Robben was the best player on the pitch in the Netherlands/Mexico game. He completed 100% of his 26 passes which included 4 scoring chances created. He also had 7 successful dribbles and won 5 fouls.

James Rodriguez leading Colombia to the #1 spot

James Rodriguez leading Colombia to the #1 spot

1. Colombia- Biggest complaint about Colombia the entire tournament was their striker situation which is no longer an issue after Jackson Martinez bullied the Japanese defense. The top part of the knockout stage is a mini-Copa America with 4/5 remaining South American teams all in the same semifinal section. The way James Rodriguez is playing, Colombia look like the best team to survive that semi. The suspension of Luis Suarez was also a major boost for Colombia. Best team of the tournament so far. (Previous Rank: 2)

2. Costa Rica- They just seem to keep moving up the rankings after every game. A 0-0 draw with England was good enough for a team that still is not given the respect they deserve. Their defense has been lead by Giancarlo Gonzalez and has only conceded one goal in a group with an intense amount of firepower. They also have Greece as their upcoming knockout stage opponent, arguably the weakest team left in the tournament. Expect Costa Rica’s dream run to continue a little longer at the very least. (Previous Rank: 3)

3. Argentina- Speaking of teams with easy draws, Argentina might be in the semis before they fact an opponent with the ability to challenge them. Aside from the brilliance of Lionel Messi, Argentina have looked very vulnerable and their backline is a major concern to their title ambitions. They are not ranked at #3 because they are a solid contender, they are ranked this high because the will likely be up against Switzerland and Belgium in the next two rounds. With respect to both teams, they are not the same level as some of the other teams still remaining. (Previous Rank: 7)

4. Netherlands- Another team with a tricky but decent path is the Netherlands. Their performance against Chile showed that they can compete with a quality South American team and dominate. Memphis Depay is turning out to be an unexpected boost of offense off the bench and adding to an already loaded attack. Mexico is a very tricky team and Costa Rica are no pushovers either. What looks like a solid draw on paper might turn out to be a battle of survival. They will still like their chances better than against Brazil. (Previous Rank: 4)

5. Germany- Okay, well, they finished top of the “group of death” with relatively few troubles. Mats Hummels already had his one bad game and Thomas Mueller is firing, all should be well, right? Not really. Algeria are not the best team remaining but it is after Algeria where Germany’s life becomes miserable. France are not kidding around and then they will face a South American team in the semis if they make it that far. They are probably the best team in the tournament but the they will not have an easy path to the final. (Previous Rank: 6)

6. France- Not that the tie with Ecuador hurts their credibility, it is more a concern that they are probably not the same team as Germany but could wind up facing them in the quarterfinals. Alexander Dominguez saved the game for Ecuador but Karim Benzema was not the same player that had been competing for player of the tournament. France should not even start looking ahead to Germany because Nigeria has proven to be a tough opponent. A run to the finals does not seem as certain as it once did. (Previous Rank: 1)

7. Belgium- Quietly going about their business without a lot of discussion from observers. They seem to be doing everything right. They finished on top of their group, rested their starters and won every game without conceding a single goal from open play. A draw against USA is probably a dream for Belgium because of the talent Germany possesses, the Ronaldo threat from Portugal and the trickiness of Ghana. If Belgium get past the United States then they will have the toughest test in route to the finals in Argentina. Do not overlook them yet. (Previous Rank: 8)

8. Brazil- It was about time that we saw the Brazil everyone expected to dominate the tournament. There were probably a few worried faces when Cameroon tied the game but Neymar performed admirably with the entire country’s expectations on his shoulders. Chile are a fine team that will be looking to bounce back after their loss to the Netherlands. Brazil should feel confident because they do have a better balanced team and the better form going into this game. If they play Colombia then they should start getting worried. (Previous Rank: 9)

9. Mexico- Maybe the fire between Mexico and Croatia was enough to finally get the players to start performing like they are capable of. Despite the three goals, no player is consistently providing offense for Mexico. Hector Herrera was the best creator, but the solution might be to play two strikers together. The best play from Mexico came with Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez on the pitch together. The Netherlands were one of the better teams in the group stage and they will need Rafa Marquez to continue being a defensive rock if they hope to survive. (Previous Rank: 11)

10. United States- They beat the odds and survived a group that was specifically designed to destroy them. More credit should be given to Klinsmann for the way he put this team together. The United States did not have the same overall talent as any of the other three teams in the group but he made them look better than Portugal and got the win over Ghana. Now for Belgium. This is actually not a bad opponent for the US but they should remain underdogs. Should they pull it off, Argentina is right around the corner. (Previous Rank: 10)

11. Switzerland- Advanced as expected after their win over Ecuador on matchday 1. While there were a few bumps on the road, Switzerland seem to be the team that will always show up against inferior competition. Very workmanlike win over Honduras but they now face an undefeated Argentina team with Messi running rampant. The good news for Switzerland is that Xherdan Shaqiri looks to have shaken off the rust from an inconsistent club season and might provide Switzerland with the spark they need to challenge Argentina. (Previous Rank: 19)

12. Chile- The loss to the Netherlands could turn out to be what ends Chile’s World Cup run after such an eye-catching show early on. Arturo Vidal is definitely one of the best midfielders in the group at club level but was benched in their loss against the Netherlands. Eduardo Vargas is showing inconsistency again and this Chile team seems to be fading again. It has never been clear why the team as a whole has started tournaments really recently, but faded as the tournament progressed. A win over Brazil seems like a stretch. (Previous Rank: 5)

13. Greece- How Greece continue to over-perform is one of football’s greatest mysteries. This is not a very good team, there are at least 5 or 6 teams that should be here in their place but that won’t matter to them. The Ivory Coast’s continued underachieving and mistakes are what has this team playing in the knockout stages. If you go to the start of the tournament and tell them they would advance to play Costa Rica then they would have taken that in a heartbeat. They could not have asked for any more. (Previous Rank: 24)

14. Uruguay- Rather than talk about Suarez, it makes more sense to talk about how incredible Diego Godin is. His big game ability has been second to none this year and he did it once again. Uruguay probably do not deserve to be here but they are. Losing their best attacking threat is like a toothless Suarez….okay, maybe it is impossible not to talk about him. If they look anything like the team that showed up against Costa Rica then they will be destroyed by Colombia. In all reality, this should be the end of the road for them. (Previous Rank: 15)

15. Nigeria- Like Argentina, they benefited from a pretty poor group and some referee luck. Like Greece and Uruguay, they are here now and anything can happen. If anything, their performance against Argentina was encouraging but that has been said after every game against Argentina. Argentina just happen to make every team look better than they are. Even if they somehow manage to escape France then they would have Germany around the corner. A nice group turned into a nightmare draw. (Previous Rank: 13)

16. Algeria- They are in and they play Germany, any questions? All credit to Algeria, group H turned out to be the worst group by a huge margin and, rather than stoop to the quality of the group, they took advantage. It was not overly complicated either, they beat the weakest team, tied with the middle team and battled the top team until the end. Yacine Brahimi is a quality player and deserve praise for his role in helping Algeria advance. They have nothing to lose now. (Previous Rank: 17)

Eliminated on Matchday 3

17. Italy- All they needed was a draw but they could not get it. It is tough to cry foul on the Italian red card because the referees have been calling studs-up challenges evenly throughout the tournament. Ecuador and Belgium both suffered the same fate. People forget that the Godin goal came right after the Suarez incident meaning that things might have been different if both teams were playing with 10 men. Tough tough break for Italy. Thank you Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon for all the memories. (Previous Rank: 14)

18. Ecuador- They needed a few miracles to advance but the second Antonio Valencia saw red, there was no chance. The frustrating thing about Ecuador was their lack of interest in the game at times. Jefferson Montero was criticized a lot for his selfish attitude but the team as a whole rarely looked like they wanted to win. They played France really well for a team with 10 men and even could have stolen the points. More focus and this team could well be playing Argentina in Sao Paulo. (Previous Rank: 20)

19. Ivory Coast- Beyond heartbreaking scenes as the Ivory Coast’s last second penalty gifted their knockout spot to Greece. They performed as needed against Japan, fought hard against Colombia but could not hold on against Greece. Didier Drogba was past it and was never going to be a capable contributor to this team at this stage. The biggest disappointment should come from Yaya Toure, a player that is beyond phenomenal, but did not show up to the tournament. (Previous Rank: 16)

20. Portugal- The only team to finish level on points with the second place team and not advance. Portugal’s chances of advancing were really slim and needed a lot of help from Germany to even have a shot. Cristiano Ronaldo finally got his goal to end Ghana’s tournament and it is a decent end to a pretty poor tournament from Portugal. The future of this team is an interesting discussion with Ronaldo being 33 for the next World Cup. (Previous Rank: 25)

21. Croatia- What happened? The argument that Croatia was the best team in the group is a worthwhile argument but they got caught up in their feud with Mexico to focus on the game. Not only that but they were legitimately outplayed by Mexico. There might have been too much inexperience from the team as a whole because their entire tournament suffered from misfortune and poor mistakes. With Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the team, the midfield should have performed better. (Previous Rank: 12)

22. Ghana- One goal away from advancing only to be beaten by Ronaldo. Ghana faced an uphill battle after the loss to the United States but almost pulled off a miracle. They are such an amazing team with so much talent and potential that continues faltering every year. They may have finished last in the “group of death” but they are better than most of the teams in the tournament. (Previous Rank: 18)

23. Russia- It is impossible to figure out what goes on in Fabio Capello’s mind but it felt as though this entire tournament was just preparation for their hosting duties in 2018. Throughout the entire group stage, Russia never looked like they cared at all. They were handed a key to the group stage but never looked like they cared enough to just take their chance. Russia have to be one of the most disappointing teams of the entire tournament. They do have quite the abundance of talent too. (Previous Rank: 21)

24. Iran- Were Iran the victims of a vengeful Bosnia team? Bosnia finally decided to show up and that involved ending the hopes of an Iran team that looked pretty decent at points of the tournament. Credit to Mehrdad Pooladi for being Iran’s best player in the tournament and a rare bright spot in group F. (Previous Rank: 22)

25. Japan- As expected they were beaten by Colombia but never looked like they really had a chance either. Not a single goal was scored by any of the Japanese strikers throughout the group stage. It was not because of a lack of opportunities but the strikers not taking their chances like they should have. Japan were another disappointing team in this tournament. (Previous Rank 23)

26. South Korea- If failing to win a game was not bad enough, losing to a 10 man Belgium with mostly backups was the cherry on top. They did nothing worthy of finishing this high, they just happened to be in a group that was so bad that they survived until the last day. Not just the worst team in the worst group, probably the worst team of the tournament. Maybe it is a little harsh, but their only point was handed to them by a goalkeeping error.

Eliminated Matchday 2

27. Australia
28. Bosnia and Herzegovina
29. England
30. Honduras
31. Cameroon
32. Spain

Best XI

Silencing his early critics, Xherdan Shaqiri was the best player of matchday 3

Silencing his early critics, Xherdan Shaqiri was the best player of matchday 3

GK: Alexander Dominguez (Ecuador)- With all due respect to Ochoa and Bravo, this was the best performance of the tournament. Dominguez was bombarded with shots but remained confident and saved Ecuador a point that did not matter in the end.

RB: Bacary Sagna (France)- Filled up the stats sheet with 2 chances created, 4 aerial duels won, 5 clearances, 4 tackles and 3 interceptions.

CB: Rafael Marquez (Mexico)- A goal and an assist that helped lead Mexico to a huge victory over Croatia. He also added 5 clearances and had 6 successful long balls.

CB: Diego Godin (Uruguay)- The game winning goal that sealed Uruguay’s spot in the knockout stage saved their tournament. Won 5 aerial duels, 10 clearances and 3 interceptions.

LB: Jordi Alba (Spain)- For a heavily criticized player, Alba finally showed what he is capable of with a dazzling performance. 108 touches to go with 6 interceptions, 5 tackles and 5 clearances.

Mid: Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)- The best player of matchday 3, Shaqiri put in a performance that helped Switzerland advance. A hat-trick and 4 chances created on 62 touches. Highly efficient performance.

Mid: Lionel Messi (Argentina)- Messi’s fine form continued with a brace, 3 chances created and 3 successful dribbled on 44 touches.

Mid: James Rodriguez (Colombia)- A brilliant second half performance saw James end the game with 2 assists and a goal while creating 4 chances. All in 45 minutes on 41 touches.

Mid: Neymar (Brazil)- Neymar scored a brace for Brazil to help guarantee a spot in the knockout stage. Also was perfect on through balls and long balls.

Fwd: Georgios Samarus (Greece)- A last second penalty and an assist, both of which needed to help Greece eliminate the Ivory Coast. Also created 3 chances, won 8 aerial duels and won 5 fouls.

Fwd: Josip Drmic (Switzerland)- Contributed 2 assists and created 4 scoring opportunities. Drmic also had 2 successful dribbles and won 2 fouls.

Colombia dancing their way to the #2 spot

Colombia dancing their way to the #2 spot

1. France- The 5-2 scoreline does not even reflect the amount of dominance France had in the game. Switzerland were lucky to keep it close with as Diego Benaglio kept the game close. Karim Benzema and now Olivier Giroud are both firing making France the most dangerous and scary team in the tournament. (Previous Rank: 3)

2. Colombia- Scary moments at the end for the Colombians but they were spectacular until the end of the game. James Rodriguez has been every bit as good as advertised and even scored a header from a corner despite his size. They are also quickly becoming fan favorites with their eccentric celebrations. (Previous Rank: 4)

3. Costa Rica- Who would have known that the performance against Uruguay was not a fluke and Costa Rica are a very legitimate team. In what was considered to be a tough group, Costa Rica flew passed the competition and was the first to qualify. Giancarlo Gonzalez was a defensive rock. (Previous Rank :5)

4. Netherlands- An unconvincing performance sees last week’s top team slip a few spots but also raises questions. There were moments in which Australia controlled the game and look like the better team. Memphis Depay came on to save the day but they are not quite the same team that dismantled Spain. (Previous Rank: 1)

5. Chile- The destruction of Spain was complete by a Chilean team that have been performing even though superstar Arturo Vidal has been average. The Spain game felt one sided at points and they were never able to put up a solid battle against the superior Chile team. Definitely a team to watch-out for. (Previous Rank: 11)

6. Germany- Anyone that figured Ghana would be a cakewalk for any team were dead wrong. Ghana is arguably the best team in Africa and made the German’s lives miserable at times. Mats Hummels usually has one bad game per tournament and this seemed like it was it. They remain favorites to escape the group of death. (Previous Rank: 2)

7. Argentina- Iran came to play and exposed a number of weaknesses in this Argentina team. Amazingly, they were willing to defend Lionel Messi individually and gave him space at times. Of course giving Messi any space will come back to bite you and his wonderstrike put Argentina through. (Previous Rank: 7)

8. Belgium- Another unconvincing performance at times but they have been a mirror image of Argentina but have beat better teams. Eden Hazard has twice come to the rescue to save Belgium in the dying minutes by setting up two important goals giving Belgium passage to the knockout stage. Regardless of where they finish, they will have a tough opponent. (Previous Rank: 8)

9. Brazil- Mentioned last time that Oscar’s performances would determine the success of Brazil and Oscar was not great against Mexico. Of course Brazil should have come away with all three points but Guillermo Ochoa robbed them. There’s an outside chance they might not qualify but should beat Cameroon. (Previous Rank: 9)

10. United States- Mathematically speaking, the United States are in a pretty good position. Logically speaking, getting a single point from Germany will be tough. Snagging that one point will prove that the United States deserve to be with powerhouses Germany and Ghana, but they could also scrape by through various scenarios. (Previous Rank: 10)

11. Mexico- Mexico are now in a favorable position to earn a spot in the knockout round. The problem is that they are struggling offensively and cannot find the back of the net. One goal by Oribe Peralta and more struggles from Javier Hernandez means Mexico need to find a source of offense. Marco Fabian looked like a spark during his cameo. (Previous Rank: 12)

12. Croatia- It looks as though Croatia might actually be the best team in the group. Their performance against Cameroon was more dominant than Mexico’s and Mario Mandzukic has started off with some fire. They are in a poorer position than Mexico otherwise they would be ranked ahead, they need a win. (Previous Rank: 20)

13. Nigeria- Ranked last during matchday 1, they seem to be beneficiaries of a good schedule. By no means did they deserve to beat Bosnia with a few wrong calls leading to the result, but they are now in shape to qualify with just a tie against an Argentina team that already qualified. Emmanuel Emenike’s performance was superb. (Previous Rank: 32)

14. Italy- Costa Rica have been the story of the tournament at the cost of Italy, a team that probably felt they were through with their victory over England. It was not a minor setback, Costa Rica were the better team and Italy were a bit lucky to maintain the goal difference over Uruguay. Just need a point now. (Previous Rank: 6)

15. Uruguay- Turns out Luis Suarez can make the difference and ended England’s chances with a clinical performance. His partnership with Edinson Cavani was solid and could be dangerous for any team if they advance. Things get difficult with their final match against Italy and Uruguay needing a win. (Previous Rank: 27)

16. Ivory Coast- The prediction that Didier Drogba is done turned out to be true. His introduction had no positive influence on the game. Gervinho’s magic is what drew the Ivory Coast close but fell just short against Colombia. On the positive side, a draw gets them through to the next round. (Previous Rank: 14)

17. Algeria- A lot of people called out Belgium for under-performing against Algeria but it turns out they are pretty good. Their destruction of South Korea was just what they needed to give themselves a shot at advancing. A draw puts them through to the next round and it looks very manageable against Russia. (Previous Rank: 25)

18. Ghana- The reluctance to rank them higher comes from the difficult position the loss to the United States put them in. A win over Portugal would not guarantee them a spot in the next round so their destiny is out of their hands. Kudos to them on their performance against Germany, they were great. (Previous Rank: 21)

19. Switzerland- They absolutely deserved their loss to France but that does not mean they are a bad team. They showed they still had some fight left in them even after going down early. Ranked above Ecuador because their last game is against already eliminated Honduras team while Ecuador have to play France. (Previous Rank: 13)

20. Ecuador- Despite a win over Honduras, Ecuador are not in the ideal position. The only way they can guarantee their passage is by beating the most in-form team of the tournament. They did not look great against Honduras either and could have easily ended with a tie. They do benefit from France already qualifying. (Previous Rank: 18)

21. Russia- Losing to Belgium hurt a lot more after Algeria went on to win their game. Russia need a win over a pretty decent Algeria team to advance but the question of why Fabio Capello keeps leaving Alan Dzagoev on the bench is puzzling. They have been offensively inept with only 1 goal so far. ((Previous Rank: 22)

22. Iran- What seemed like a long shot at the start of the tournament is now a possibility for Iran. Bosnia have been unlucky so it is a tough match for Iran, but they proved that they can compete with a tournament favorite and were really unlucky to leave with nothing. They will need help to advance. (Previous Rank: 31)

23. Japan- Another team that failed to grab their chance by drawing with Greece. They remain long shots to advance with a tough game against Colombian coming up. They needed more from star midfielder Shinji Kagawa but they will need a miracle and help to qualify for the next round. (Previous Rank: 19)

24. Greece- They are in the same position as Japan but with a slightly easier team but more difficult situation. The Ivory Coast need a point to guarantee their place in the next round and will fight their hardest for that. In addition, Greece need to really beat down the Ivory Coast to even have a shot of advancing. (Previous Rank: 26)

25. Portugal- Their best chance to get points out of the group of death was probably against the United States and they were outplayed. Salvaging a point in extra time technically kept them alive but they need a huge victory over a Ghana team that also need a win. Cristiano Ronaldo has still not scored a goal this tournament either. (Previous Rank: 28)

26. South Korea- Just like Portugal they are grasping for straws and the first one they need is a win against 1st place Belgium. Even if they manage to secure a huge victory, either Algeria or Russia could qualify with a win. They are the weakest team with a chance to qualify but Algeria proved to be the superior team. (Previous Rank: 23)

Eliminated

27. Australia- They battled like heroes in a group where they were the biggest outcasts. They were given no shot to advance through the group but they played with grit and determination with the results just failing to go in their favor. Admirable performance by these guys, a victory over Spain would mean a lot to them. (Previous Rank: 29)

28. Bosnia and Herzegovina- Hard-done by some poor officiating, Bosnia were just unlucky and that cost them. Realistically they could have finished anywhere in their group but they did not take their chances when they needed. They probably should have made it through. (Previous Rank: 15)

29. England- Let the brutal English media blame game come into play. The fact is, England did not have the quality to compete with Italy or Uruguay. Steven Gerrard’s mistake was the result of misfortune but, regardless of the result, England were not going very far anyway. They need to start fresh now. (Previous Rank: 16)

30. Honduras- Probably considered one of the weakest teams, they could have been in a good position going into the final. Ecuador was vulnerable and they just failed to qualify. While they had some good players, they just lacked the overall quality needed to compete in this tournament. (Previous Rank: 30)

31. Cameroon- Surely they are not this bad? Something happened between the first and second games as Captain Samuel Eto’o watch his team get eliminated from the bench. They should have been better able to compete, but they were probably done when they failed to get a result against Mexico. (Previous Rank: 24)

32. Spain- Vicente del Bosque relied too much on an old guard that was not reliable. Iker Casillas having two nightmare games in a row summed up Spain’s tournament. They can look to the future because they have an abundance of brilliant stars coming through the ranks. They just need to let go of the one phenomenal old guard. (Previous Rank: 17)

Best XI

Karim Benzema takes top honors as the best player in matchday 2

Karim Benzema takes top honors as the best player on matchday 2

GK: Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)- Not statistically the best goalkeeper but his contribution lead to endless memes about his incredible game. Might have single-handedly helped Mexico advance.

RB: Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)- For the second time, Aurier was the best right back in the tournament. Not as offensively efficient, Aurier still added 3 tackles, 3 clearances and 2 interceptions.

CB: Rafik Halliche (Algeria)- Scored a goal while providing 11 clearances, 2 tackles and 2 interceptions. All around wonderful performance

CB: Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica)- Player of the game in the Costa Rica/Italy game, 5 aerial dules won, 5 tackles, 4 interceptions and 6 clearances.

LB: Junior Diaz (Costa Rica)- Assisted Ruiz in the game winning goal while adding 4 tackles and 4 clearances defensively.

Mid: Blaise Matuidi (France)- 1 goal and 2 chances created, he also added 4 successful dribbles offensively and 4 interceptions, 2 tackles and 2 clearances defensively

Mid: Lionel Messi (Argentina)- Messi scored the game winner in the dying minutes but also created 3 chances, had a 93% pass completion rate and 7 successful dribbles

Mid: Son Heung-Min (South Korea)- 1 goal and 1 chances created but also added a tournament high 9 successful dribbles.

Mid: Peter Odemwingie (Nigeria)- Scored the game winning goal and had a 92% pass completion rate. He also added a team high 5 tackles

Fwd: Karim Benzema (France)- One missed penalty but was an unstoppable machine otherwise. 1 goal, 2 assists, 6 chances created, 96% pass completion rate all on just 40 touches. Best player of matchday 2 without question.

Fwd: Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)- A brace to put the game away for Croatia but also won a game high 5 aerial duels and created 2 chances.

*These rankings include all of the games played through 6/17 except the 0-0 Brazil vs Mexico draw.

Van Persie's diving header in the Netherlands 5-1 victory over Spain

Van Persie’s diving header in the Netherlands 5-1 victory over Spain

1. Netherlands- What is scary about the Netherlands is that Spain never deserved their penalty. It seemed that Arjen Robben was out for revenge after failing to convert a huge opportunity last time around against Spain. Their dismantling of Spain proves they are better than they were given credit for.

2. Germany- The “Group of Death” threatened to take out the tournament favorites if they struggled against Portugal but they proved why they are one tough out. Even with Pepe’s mistake, Germany were the much better team. Many of their best players are missing but the squad is so deep that they haven’t missed a beat.

3. France- The most important thing for France was to settle their nerves against a tricky Honduras side. Karim Benzema looked unstoppable which is great news going forward given that their primary concern was how well their striker would play. The game against Switzerland will prove if they are legitimate contenders.

4. Colombia- The most impressive of all the South American teams, Colombia laid the hurt on a surprisingly decent Greece team. Their striker situation does not look promising but the rest of the squad looks up for the challenge. James Rodriguez lived up to the hype and is a player to look out for.

5. Costa Rica- By no means are Costa Rica the 5th best team but they have the entire world buzzing after their beat-down of Uruguay. Joel Campbell was a dangerous player throughout the game and will be a handful for defenses. Their match with Italy will determine if they are as good as their last performance suggests.

6. Italy- Rodgson actually set up his team to neutralize Andrea Pirlo but it was completely ineffective. Time and space on the ball allowed him to pick apart the England defense. Italy looked more like the team that finished runners-up at Euro 2012 than the team that struggled at the World Cup in 2010.

7. Argentina- Bosnia had Argentina sweating by the end of the game but there was never any question that Argentina would make it out of the group. Seeing how poorly Iran and Nigeria played should give them hope that they will go into the knockout stages in form and well rested. Not the performance many expected but good enough.

8. Belgium- There was a lot of concern among Belgium fans as their team struggled for the first 70 minutes of the game before Marouane Fellaini saved the day. While some see Belgium’s performance as troubling, the positive sign is that they escaped a scrappy battle and found some momentum going into the next game.

9. Brazil- A completely unconvincing performance that had neutrals crying foul. Not only was Fred awarded the worst penalty call of matchday 1, Brazil’s goals were soft and came from poor goalkeeping. Oscar was magic and put the game away after some solid goalkeeping from Julio Cesar.

10. United States- Not to downplay the significance of the result but the United States are simply in the position they needed to be. John Anthony Brooks is not a great defender and put in a once in a lifetime performance and full credit to him. The United States did not look strong against Ghana for most of the game, they need more help.

11. Chile- The 3-1 win looks convincing on paper but the performance left people with more questions than answers. A fast start saw Chile dominate an inferior Australia, but the Socceroos never gave up and could have tied the game in the dying moments. They need more from Arturo Vidal if they look to make a run.

12. Mexico- Their 1-0 win over Cameroon is exactly what they needed if they hope to advance out of a tricky group. Cameroon looked really poor throughout the game and Mexico failed to capitalize. Missed chances and a badly out-of-form Javier Hernandez show that Mexico remain a vulnerable team.

13. Switzerland- For most of the game Switzerland offered no attack and Ecuador were content to sit back and watch them struggle. A heroic performance from Ricardo Rodriguez gave the Swiss three points that could have easily gone to Ecuador. Switzerland are a good team but lack some offensive firepower.

14. Ivory Coast- The Ivory Coast’s performance did not inspire a lot of confidence in people. Japan are a pretty decent team but the Ivory Coast has superior talent that did not show up for the game. Didier Drogba’s presence helped change the game but it does not appear that he can contribute much by himself.

15. Bosnia and Herzegovina- Argentina are a pick by many to win the tournament and Bosnia put up a great fight. There should be a lot of optimism given that Iran and Nigeria drew and both looked poor doing so. As long as Bosnia take care of business then they will be tough out in the knockout rounds.

16. England- It’s not all doom and gloom for the Three Lions, they fought hard but fell due to poor management skills. Watching Pirlo tear apart a Germany team two years ago should make him a priority. On the positive side, Daniel Sturridge looks like he can play as well for country as he has for club.

17. Spain- People forget that Spain lost their first game in 2010 and then solidified their team on their incredible run to the title. Iker Casillas’ nightmare won’t happen again. The positive side is that Chile did not look dominant and a victory over them will put Spain back in contention for a spot in the knockout round.

18. Ecuador- These guys are a lot better than people give them credit for. Switzerland may have an inflated ranking but they are still a solid team and Ecuador could have just as easily won that game. Unfortunately they will need a result against France now if they expect to make it out of the group.

19. Japan- Another victim of comeback heroics that put them at poor odds of advancing out of the group stage. A result against Colombia is not likely and Greece are not as bad as the scoreline demonstrates. Japan did play well though, it just seems that it won’t matter in the end.

20. Croatia- Everyone expected to lose against Brazil but Croatia did not deserve to lose that game. A draw would have been a fair result but some feel that Croatia were hard-done by the referee. It will be tough to bounce back from the loss but Croatia could very well be the best team in the group.

21. Ghana- Like Croatia, Ghana were probably the better team and did not deserve to lose the game. Unfortunately for them, it looks like it is all over. They still have to play Germany and Portugal and it looks like an impossible task since they will need results from both games. Another example of underachieving.

22. Russia- Pick any of the three winless teams in Group H and any of them could be headed out of the group. Russia were not great and were in major trouble after Igor Akinfeev’s howler. It might come down to who can get the best result against Belgium but the biggest priority will be getting a win against Algeria.

23. South Kora- No different from Russia except for the fact that they were gifted a goal. Algeria does not look like the pushovers that people expected and that could spell trouble for either Russia or South Korea if they can’t get the job done. Less than inspiring performance but a draw is not a bad result.

24. Cameroon- Cameroon looked bad against Mexico and offered nothing offensively. The loss means they need results against Croatia and Brazil, both of which look far superior. It’s tough seeing them win in the game against Bosnia but they do still maintain a slight outside chance of playing spoiler to either Brazil or Croatia.

25. Algeria- They gave Belgium a tougher game than expected but ultimately cracked under the pressure. They did look better than Russia or South Korea which means they might not be completely out of their depth. One win and a draw does not look like such a daunting task.

26. Greece- Greece are not actually in bad shape. A 3-0 loss did not reflect how Greece actually played but it still puts them in a difficult position. Japan and the Ivory Coast will not be easy to get points from but they are not impossible either. There were enough flashes of skill to remain optimistic.

27. Uruguay- This is the first team that is probably toast. Uruguay are a good team, much better than the one that didn’t show up against Costa Rica. Luis Suarez was gone and Edinson Cavani could have put the game away sooner. It is just tough to expect them to get all 6 points from Italy and England.

28. Portugal- Portugal probably weren’t going to win against Germany but the complete failure is what might kill them. Pepe and Fabio Coentrao are out while the United States and Ghana both proved to be strong competition. They just looked so bad that it’s hard to see them rebounding and advancing.

29. Australia- Another team that played above expectations but have no hope after the loss. Their next two games are against the two finalists from 2010, one that desperately needs three points and the other in sizzling form. Admirable effort but a seemingly lost cause.

30. Honduras- The 3-0 loss just proved the superior might of France but they were not awful. Maybe they can take inspiration from the rest of the CONCACAF and upset Switzerland and Ecuador. Expect them to be more likely to play the spoiler role than compete for a knockout spot.

31. Iran- One of the two worst teams on the first matchday, a painful affair to watch. They are ranked ahead of Nigeria because they looked like they wanted it a little more. It’s tough to count out a team that drew in their first game but Argentina and Bosnia are both much better teams.

32. Nigeria- Huge disappointment. Nigeria are a solid African team but it looked like they just didn’t care. They had just as good of a chance as Bosnia to make it out of the group but that looks over now. Iran probably could have won that game in the closing moments and Nigeria should feel lucky that they even have one point.

Best XI

Oscar was the best player on matchday 1

Oscar was the best player on matchday 1

GK: Tim Howard (USA)- Confident in goal and made enough saves to earn the United States an important three points. Nothing he could do about the Ayew goal but a solid performance overall.

RB: Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast)- Assisted on both goals and filled up the stats sheet on defense (6 interceptions, 3 tackles and 3 clearances). Not much more he could have done.

CB: Mats Hummels (Germany)- An absolute monster in the air and put the game away against Portugal. 5 aerial duels won and a rock in the center of defense.

CB: Oscar Duarte (Costa Rica)- Duart’s goal won the game for Costa Rica but his defense was just as important. 6 interceptions, 4 clearances and 2 tackles.

RB: Ricardo Rodriguez (Switzerland)- He also assisted on both goals while contributing 5 tackles and a 90% pass completion rate.

Mid: Oscar (Brazil)- The best performance out of any player on matchday 1. Set up one goal and put the game away with his third, also added an incredible 6 tackles and 4 dribbles.

Mid: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)- A near perfect performance from the Dutch midfielder as he scored 2 goals, created 2 chances and added 4 dribbles.

Mid: James Rodriguez (Colombia)- An offensive maestro with 6 shots, 3 dribbles, 4 earned fouls and a goal.

Mid: Daley Blind (Netherlands)- Assisted on 2 of 5 Netherlands goals but set up 4 chances and completed 88% of his passes.

Fwd: Alexis Sanchez (Chile)- 6 dribbles and 6 fouls won for the Chilean while contributing to both goals with one scored and another assisted.

Fwd: Thomas Mueller (Germany)- A hat-trick for the German on four shots. Also created 2 scoring opportunities.

Cristian Tello Herrera (Estimated Cost: N/A, Market Value: ~£8m) 22 years old: Right-footed Winger

Will Tello be a hit away from Barcelona?

Will Tello be a hit away from Barcelona?

Strengths: Tello’s best strength is his ability to dribble past defenders. In the Champions League he had the 4th most successful dribbles on Barcelona at 1.5 per game. He is well known for his speed down the flanks and his ability to put crosses into the box. Due to a lack of playing time in 2013/14, Tello saw the amount of successful crosses greatly reduced. During previous seasons he also was well known for his passing ability and ability to hold on to the ball. Tello also has the ability to be a clinical finisher with an above average shooting ability.

Weaknesses: Tello does not contribute a lot defensively and is not a very good defender in general. There are questions as to whether he has already peaked with his game time and contributions decreasing over the last season. There are also question as to whether he is the beneficiary of the attacking talent around him since he struggled in the u21 Euro tournament without the same type of support. His decision making is often questioned by his teammates as he is known to often be selfish and error prone with the ball at his feet. He also struggles with his time and averaged nearly double the amount of offside calls as the next closest player.

Need to Knows:

  • Tello has earned 1 cap for Spain in a 2013 friendly against Ecuador but also has 2 caps for Catalonia
  • Tello originally signed for Barcelona at age 10 but was released when his contract expired in 2008. He resigned for them at the age of 18.
  • All but 2 of Tello’s La Liga appearances came as a sub this season. The most  starts he has had was in the 2012/13 season (12)
  • Recently Tello got into an argument with then Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino about being used as a time wasting sub. He then went on to express his frustration with his lack of playing time
  • Tello started in the 2013 U21 Euro Championship Final but failed to score in any of his appearances
  • As part of the contract Tello signed in August has attached to it a 35m release clause

Overall Grade: N/A. Once considered to be a highly promising youngster, Tello’s development has hit a wall that has seen Barcelona willing to part with their youngster. The arrival of Neymar, coupled with some injuries, greatly reduced Tello’s chances of cracking the first team with consistency. Tello has been a long-term target of Liverpool and Arsenal with both teams enticed by his attacking ability. Porto and Real Sociedad have recently expressed interest in the Barcelona player as well. Tello comes off as a medium risk, low reward sort of player. Even at his brightest it is hard to tell just how good he was at Barcelona. Barcelona are looking for around £12m for a player that might not be better than he is now. His poor decision making and struggles out of position mean that it is unlikely any team will see a return on this player at that price.

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.