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.