Fifa World Cup 2018 is just 78 days away. The event in Russia is supposed to highlight footballing attitudes from all around the globe. The recently concluded series of friendlies are the final international break before the club season campaign comes to an end. All 32 teams who qualified for the WC edition were active during the 7 day span & played two matches each. Based on their performances for these two matches alone, we have compiled a ranking list. Now, remember! This ranking only considers the final two friendly matches and is not an overall list.
32) Panama: Arguably the least fancied team going into summer in Russia, Panama lost both their outings without scoring a single goal. One of them was against Switzerland conceding 6. This team might be a non-factor in a group containing Belgium & England.
31) South Korea: S. Korea lost matches against N. Ireland & Poland after giving themselves a fighting chance. But a group helmed by Germany won’t appreciate lost fights if they are to advance to the knockout stages.
30) Russia: Russia lost their two matches. Comfort is to know that it was against two of the favourites for the tournament in Brazil & France. Comfort is their position in the group where Mexico is the biggest team. But it’s uncomfortable when your team is performing below par & pundits are predicting you to follow the route of South Africa in 2010.
29) Iceland: Iceland was a non-factor for this set of matches where they finished on the losing end to Mexico & Peru. But come June, they are fancied to cause an upset or two.
28) Sweden: Sweden qualified to the tournament after knocking out four-time champions Italy in the play-off. But their performance against Chile & Romania who didn’t even qualify for the world cup is a turn-off. Saddle up lads, Germany awaits!
27) Egypt: Egypt put on a commendable performance against Portugal despite the loss. But the 1-0 against Greece was very uninspired. Their advantages would be an in-form Mohamed Salah & a weak group A at the Russian extravaganza.
26) Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia lost both their matches including a 0-4 thumping at the hands of Belgium. They also have the weak group A advantage. Looks like group A would be boring as hell.
25) Japan: Japan drew & lost their matches against non-qualifiers in Mali & Ukraine respectively. They are not desired to advance from a medium-level group H constituting Colombia, Poland & Senegal. Seems the peak days of Japanese football are behind them.
24) Australia: The Socceroos drew against Colombia but lost their match with Norway in a mixed week of results for them. They have to improve a lot to even finish group C in 3rd spot.
23) Germany: You would be amazed to find Germany down in 23rd rank. But this is solely based on two matches played last week against Spain and Brazil. Germany drew against Spain & lost against Brazil. Considering the pedigree of their opponents, the results are not underwhelming. But Germany are the defending world champions who would have to beat teams like these to retain their crown. You can surely expect Germany to perform in their roles once the world cup is on.
22) Senegal: Senegal has two draws from their matches against Uzbekistan & Bosnia-Herzegovina. Senegal’s best story in football as of yet is defeating the then-defending champions France at the 2002 edition. They would try to improve on that this time with a confident team outing.
21) Costa Rica: A win against Scotland put them in a place on our list higher than they should be. However, they already inspired our hearts with a 2014 display in Brazil from a group that included Italy & England.
20) Serbia: Serbia won against Nigeria & lost against Morocco. Their biggest challenge in the tournament is a showdown with Brazil in the group stage. Serbia are not expected to overcome the odds & their performance here was a testimony of just that.
19) Poland: Poland despite a loss against Nigeria here are still expected to advance to the latter stages of the Russian event with only Colombia serving as credible opponents. Their performance against S. Korea won’t be enough to guarantee them that though since Senegal & Japan can pose a challenge on their day.
18) Iran: Iran is the best Asian representative going into the tournament. Their fortunes rely on a fall from either Spain or Portugal in the group stage. The performance against Tunisia (0 – 1) last week won’t support their cause. 2 – 1 win against non-qualifier Algeria is a temporary comfort.
17) Croatia: Having played against two Latin American sides, the results are like their world cup performances and fortunes itself. Croatia won against Mexico by one goal to nil & lost against an impressive Peruvian side.
16) Mexico: Mexico’s commanding win against Iceland was nullified by a discomforting 0 – 1 loss against Croatia. Mexico has always occupied the role of a bridesmaid at the world cup finals & this event predictably won’t be different.
15) Nigeria: Nigeria played two qualified sides in Poland and Serbia. A mixed bag of results mean they sit at 15th position which would be an ideal place for them to finish their world cup campaign. Nigeria is the African veteran for this edition & their group-stage status is currently floating.
14) France: France should be higher on the list. They are one of the top favourites expected to go all the way through the end. However, the performance of 1998 winners were underwhelming for last week by registering a win against weak-willed Russia & losing to Colombia (2 – 3). France are supposed to take hold back of their reins once June is here.
13) Argentina: Argentina started last week with a commanding performance over Italy (2-0). However, the two-time champions were crushed by Spain (1 – 6). Argentina without Messi simply doesn’t work. But with Messi, they would still have to play top teams like Spain to advance to the semis at least. Brazil’ runner-ups would have to toil hard as a team to achieve anything similar to their last outing.
12) Portugal: A Cristiano Ronaldo inspired finishing performance saw them top off Egypt in their first match. The match against Netherlands changed all that. Holland is the biggest non-qualifier for Russia 2018 after Italy. Even if that’s the case, a 0 – 3 against the Dutch was sub-par from the reigning European champions.
11) Denmark: If you are considering a group stage scenario, Denmark’s win against Panama & draw against Chile earned them 4 points. They will be looking for such performances in Russia and they will be happy.
10) Colombia: Colombia makes a top 10 entry on this list after winning against France and drawing Australia. Performances like the one against France will ensure the smooth passage from group H to the knockout stages.
9) England: You do not expect England to under-perform in a qualifying campaign or friendly matches. That’s saved for the major tournaments like world cup & Euro. Here, the three lions didn’t disappoint after compelling win & draw (thanks to a VAR reference) over Netherlands and Italy.
8) Spain: Spain thrashed Argentina 6 – 1 powered by a hattrick performance from Isco. The highlight however, was the draw against Germany. These are the two current strongest European teams entering the world cup campaign. A win here would have boosted either one of their spirits for Russia.
7) Morocco: Morocco is one of the seven teams who won both their friendly outings from last week. Though not expected to advance much in the actual tournament, their wins against Serbia & Uzbekistan was appealing.
6) Tunisia: Tunisia are a surprise package appearing at no. 6. Their 1 – 0 wins against Iran & Costa Rica are a welcome addition to the unpredictability of football. The after-party against Costa Rica leaves a lot to be desired. But, Tunisia are entering the grand stage after a hiatus of 12 years.
5) Switzerland: Switzerland are sitting comfortably at the fifth spot thanks to their wins against Greece & Panama. These are not the biggest opponents in football. Though scoring 7 goals & not conceding any oozes confidence.
4) Uruguay: Uruguay were participating in the China cup along with China, Wales & Czech Republic. They won the whole thing after commendable wins over Czech & Wales. Uruguay are supposed to easily win their group and fix an intercontinental battle against Portugal or Spain in the round of 16.
3) Peru: Peru is perhaps the top inspired side at the moment considering their moral boost & confidence over the week. 2 – 0 & 3 – 1 wins against Croatia and Iceland were highly admirable and they are showing the right attitude going into June 2018. If Peru can keep the momentum going they could even challenge France in the group stage.
2) Belgium: Belgium are the highest placed European team on our list. With four-goal hauls against Cyprus & Saudi, they felt like a sharpened razor. Though we can claim the low-key status of their opponents, the team is in terrific form & shape entering the world cup.
1) Brazil: No rewards for guessing our number 1 team at the moment. Brazil – with their 3 – 0 win against hosts Russia and an almost revenge-inspired downing of Germany by one goal – are the clear favourites going into world cup 2018. If the geographical factor does not come into play, expect this Neymar-led side to extend their trophy record at the world cup finals.
These are all temporary rankings and the scenario could change for many of these teams at the next set of preparatory matches in May and the world cup itself in June. Till then, these are our power rankings for all the qualified teams. It’s back to the club competitions for now.