The off-the-top-of-my-head how I feel about each team.
Holland – I picked them to win pre-tournament (only because I couldn’t rationalize picking anyone else), and I’m sticking with them. I’ve spent years watching the Dutch, and for some reason this team feels different. I have thought Holland had the best players before, but never really felt like they’d win the tourney. Is it because they are defending? Barring a Chile surprise, they will have to get by Brazil in the quarters, though you have to feel good about facing Slovakia and their semi-finals opponent would be Korea/Uruguay/Ghana/US. I would note that
Brazil — I’ve said before, I think I could pick a better Brazil team from the players left off the squad…at least if you let me pick defenders from Brazil’s bench. Obviously I’d miss some folks like Kaka, Robinho, Maicon… I have in the past said that Brazil’s 2nd team would be one of the best teams in the world (hardly an original thought, I know), so I guess we’ll find that out?
Argentina — The best players in the world, and the best player in the world. They absolutely could win the Cup, but it won’t be because of the manager. His player selection has improved, but color me tactically unimpressed.
In my opinion there is a gap between the top 3 and:
4. Spain — Distinctly unimpressed with their group play matches. Also hard for a team starting Sergio Ramos to be higher than 4th in these power ratings. Chile dominated the first 25 minutes of that match and made Spain look very very un-Spain. Sergio Ramos didn’t backtrack. Fernando Torres in particular has looked out of form as he recovers from injury, and he seems to be a player that you know after 10 minutes whether he’ll perform well. Also, they lost to the US, so that’s a big knock on them. Sorry America, you know I still love you (although your federal bureaucracy is ridiculous).
5. Germany losing Ballack didn’t concern me as much as some. European teams may be underperforming so far, but the Germany brand keeps them in 5th for me. Defense is important in tournaments.
6. Chile — Am I really putting Chile 6th? Apparently I am; I find it mindblowing and can’t quite explain it. Unfortunately, they have 3 (4?) players suspended for Brazil, and that’s going to hurt alot. Under Argentine manager Bielsa, they attack. That makes them dangerous in any particular game, although defend-first teams win tournaments (what’s up Italy? how you doing Germany?). They are NOT 6th most likely to win the World Cup, as they have to face Brazil and likely then Holland.
7. England — I originally had them over Chile and are more likely to win the World Cup. Being manager of England may be one of the tougher jobs in the world, but I have some faith in Capello.
8. Portugal — [ ]. ha. ok, they’ve gotta get by Spain. I don’t think they will. Ronaldo is such a diver, though he and Messi have something to commiserate about.
9. Uruguay — too inconsistent in qualifying to be above 9th. They are above 9th in likelihood to win the World Cup because of their relatively easy path to the semifinals.
10. Paraguay — For some reason I wrote everyone other teams blurb until this one. They have some talent (interestingly, they imported an Argentine a few months ago for their national team. According to a friend when Higuain scored 3 goals, the Paraguayan press reported “Frenchman scores 3 goals for Argentina” as Higuain’s father was playing pro football in France when he was born). They qualified very well in South America.
11/12 US and Mexico — most people reading this are probably Americans or part Mexican, so no reason to spill more words onto the keyboard. The US needs to defend better. Mexico needs to get its best players on the field.
14 Ghana — I feel like this might be the most underrated team in the World Cup. But that might be because they face the US tomorrow.
15 Slovakia they and Slovenia came out of the weakest World Cup qualifying group in Europe.
16 Japan — before the Cup, their manager said the semis were their goal. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it would only take two wins to get there.