THIS IS THE second installment of World Cup power rankings. Read the first here.
8. Uruguay (up one place)
One of three teams in the competition to have retained a 100% record (Belgium and Croatia are the others), albeit having emerged from one of the easiest groups, Uruguay have some world-class stars including Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani. Yes, they are dark horses, but we’ve already seen some strange things happen in this competition.
7. England (unchanged)
Not too much can be read into the game with Belgium tonight, given how both sides rested several of their top players. The Three Lions impressively dispatched Panama, while they looked good in spells against Tunisia. In Harry Kane, they have a striker up there with the best in the world, while the team has looked more unified compared with less successful previous tournaments.
6. Portugal (unchanged)
The World Cup has surely yet to see the best of Portugal. Ronaldo’s brilliance was the main factor for them taking four points from the opening two games, while they stumbled over the line amid a 1-1 draw with Iran. Nevertheless, they were relatively unimpressive in the group stages at Euro 2016, and we all know what happened thereafter.
5. Croatia (up five places)
Croatia weren’t listed among the favourites ahead of the World Cup, but they have been one of the most impressive sides in the competition so far, winning all three of their group games. Their 3-0 victory over a hapless Argentina was particularly good and suggested they will be a force to be reckoned with in the weeks to come.
4. Belgium (up one place)
Roberto Martinez’s men haven’t really been seriously tested yet, with Panama and Tunisia two of the weakest sides in the competition, while they effectively fielded a reserve team against England. Stiffer challenges await, but they have done more or less all they can at this stage, while few other squads in Russia contain as many talented individuals, such as Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
3. France (unchanged)
If you look at France’s spine — Hugo Lloris, Raphaël Varane, N’Golo Kante and Antoine Griezmann — it is as strong as most sides in the competition. Granted, they have been far from exceptional in their three games thus far, but past World Cup winners have often had subdued starts.
2. Brazil (unchanged)
Player for player, Brazil are as good as almost any side in the competition. Following a poor enough opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland, they have got gradually better since then. And if the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus can play to the best of their ability, the team should have a strong chance of prevailing.
1. Spain (unchanged)
Spain have not been especially impressive so far, and needed a last-gasp goal to avoid a defeat to Morocco. That said, the majority of their players have an abundance of big-game experience, and as the competition develops, they will face better teams who play in a much more open style than countries such as Iran, which might just work in Fernando Hierro’s side’s favour.
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