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.