Power Ranking the Top 20 Qualified World Cup Teams so Far

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 16, 2013

Power Ranking the Top 20 Qualified World Cup Teams so Far

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    With the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers largely drawing to a close, more than half of the 32 teams required have already qualified for the showpiece event.

    Twenty-one, to be exact, have made it through so far, and we've taken it upon ourselves to rank those who have sealed their passage in order of strength and ability to win it.

    Brazil aren't in the list as they automatically qualify, and it's tough to gauge where they are with so few competitive games in the past 24 months.

    Disagree with our thoughts? Whack your order in the comments below.

20. Australia

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    Australia sacked manager Holger Osieck after a 6-0 defeat at the hands of France in an international friendly last week.

    The federation made the move for fear of being humiliated at the 2014 World Cup, and rightly so, as the Socceroos have looked limp of late.

    They will travel to Brazil with a new manager, new regime and fresh hope, but ultimately with very little expectation on their shoulders.

19. Iran

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    For those scoffing at Iran's chances, they qualified first in their group above South Korea in the AFC region.

    They conceded just two goals in the final stages, so it won't take a genius to guess how Carlos Queiroz will set out his side against even stronger opposition.

18. Honduras

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    Honduras are the third and final team to ensure automatic qualification from the CONCACAF region and will be looking to surprise the neutrals once again in Brazil.

    They're a much more accomplished outfit than many will give them credit for on paper, and in Jerry Bengtson they have a shot at scoring—and therefore winning—in any game.

    They boast plenty of top-flight experience through Maynor Figueroa, Emilio Izaguirre and Wilson Palacios.

17. Costa Rica

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    Costa Rica qualified in second place from the CONCACAF section, four points behind the U.S. national team and an impressive seven ahead of Mexico.

    Their emergence as a force in the group was largely thanks to their formidable home form, as they won all five of their matches in San Jose to accrue the bulk of their points tally.

    Watch out for Joel Campbell, Celso Borges and, of course, Bryan Ruiz.

16. South Korea

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    South Korea are making great strides in football and have built on an impressive third-placed finish at the Olympic games.

    The country boasts plenty of premium home-grown talent, but a lack of truly world-class players will hinder their progress in Brazil.

    Son Heung-Min, of Bayer Leverkusen, is the one to watch, and while they were beaten by Iran in the qualifiers at home, that was an anomaly. South Korea are the second-strongest side coming out of the AFC zone.

15. United States

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    The U.S. national team were the strongest in the Hexagonal zone, qualifying in first place with an impressive seven wins.

    After stomping their authority on the CONCACAF, they'll be looking to turn more heads at the tournament proper next year. Their strong showing in South Africa in 2010 will mean a group stage exit is seen as a disappointment, and as an emerging nation, Jurgen Klinsmann knows his side will face increased expectation and scrutiny.

14. Switzerland

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    Switzerland were dealt a relatively easy qualifying group (in the grand scheme of things) and took advantage, going unbeaten throughout the campaign with seven wins and three draws.

    They're a consistent qualifier for the World Cup and, as a result of finishing first, will be a top-seeded team for the draw. It means they avoid most of the big guns (Brazil, Argentina, Spain etc.), but it also means qualifiers are hoping to be placed in their group.


13. Japan

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    Japan have used the privilege of hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup wisely, promoting the growth of football and its academies across their country.

    As a result, they're consistently producing streams of talented players, and the one thing holding them back right now is that many of these players play the same position—attacking midfield.

    They can't contend with the elite-level sides until they produce some excellent defenders, but they'll always be a joy to watch.

12. Bosnia & Herzegovina

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    The streets of Sarajevo were alight with flares on Tuesday night as Bosnia and Herzegovina qualified for their first-ever FIFA World Cup.

    They staved off the steady threat of Greece on goal difference, with Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic constant menaces throughout the campaign.

    They've put together a rather good squad, full of attacking firepower, and they're extremely hard to gauge at this point in time.

11. Ecuador

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    Ecuador pipped Uruguay to the fourth and final automatic qualifying spot in the CONMEBOL region, and if you're picking out a dark horse for success, this could be it.

    Jefferson Montero, Antonio Valencia and Frickson Erazo are all strong players, and every goal the country score this summer will be in tribute to Christian Benitez, who tragically passed away earlier this year. 

    They'll have emotional firepower behind them on home soil, and as a result look primed to impress.

10. Russia

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    When Russia were dealt a challenging qualifying group that included Portugal and Israel, many thought Fabio Capello's men would be destined for the playoffs.

    But luckily for the Eastern Europeans, Portugal always do things the hard way and slipped up multiple times on the way to finishing a point shy of their rivals.

    That gives Russia passage to the tournament proper, and while they're no contender to win it, they're always an extremely tricky customer.

9. England

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    England secured passage to Brazil on Tuesday night with an exciting 2-0 victory over Poland.

    Despite consistent worries and anguish throughout the qualification period, the Three Lions went unbeaten through 10 games, accrued 22 points and scored 31 goals.

    They travel to Brazil better prepared than ever and with optimism thanks to the rise of young talents Andros Townsend, Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere.

    That said, it's easy to foresee England making their token quarterfinal appearance and bowing out on penalties.

8. Belgium

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    Belgium have gone from dark horses to semifinal certainties in the space of 18 months—a quite remarkable and hyperbolic transition.

    At this point they're in danger of being overrated, as despite their obvious talent and quality, the lack of major tournament experience could well be an Achilles' heel.

    If the Red Devils had proper full-backs to complement the rest of the team they'd be a force you cannot ignore.

7. Netherlands

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    The Netherlands have put together an astonishing qualifying campaign for the World Cup.

    Louis van Gaal has discarded many peripheral or older players and instead focused on grooming a youthful, promising XI.

    That's resulted in the likes of Bruno Martins Indi, Kevin Strootman, Jordy Clasie and Daley Blind accruing serious experience ahead of the summer spectacle.

    This is a work in progress, but an extremely promising one at that. Expect the Netherlands to flunk or fly.

6. Chile

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    Surprised to see Chile this high? Understandable, but when ranking teams in terms of their chances of winning the World Cup, South American outfits receive a natural bump.

    La Roja beat Ecuador 2-1 in Santiago courtesy of Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel's first-half strikes, ensuring they qualify for the showpiece event by finishing third in the CONMEBOL region.

    Jorge Sampaoli's side are an exciting watch and with Alexis, in particular, catching fire, they become an extremely ominous opponent in the demanding climate of Brazil.

5. Colombia

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    Colombia staged a remarkable comeback against Chile on Friday to rescue a 3-3 draw and officially qualify for the World Cup.

    It was a genuine test of their mental strength and readiness for the spotlight, and Jose Pekerman's troops turned it on to reverse a three-goal deficit.

    With home-soil advantage, this talented group are a fore-runner for the quarterfinals at a minimum. It remains to be seen how they handle the pressure, but if Chile were a litmus test, they passed.

4. Italy

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    Italy have always been traditionally strong, but there's a chance they'll fly under the radar next year despite a remarkable qualifying campaign.

    At the 2013 Confederations Cup they impressed a lot of neutrals, and Cesare Prandelli is one of the finest, most tactically reactive young managers around.

    They have a strong talent pool to choose from, and the first XI appears largely set. Who'd rule out a glorious Andrea Pirlo swansong on the international stage?

3. Spain

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    Spain will always be a contender given their incredible recent record at major international tournaments, but tangible evidence suggests they won't make it over the line.

    They went to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup and were beaten soundly by the hosts, having struggled to overcome Italy (on penalties) in the round before.

    No one will be surprised if La Roja grind their way to a second straight World Cup win, but they're not best-placed to do so right now.

2. Germany

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    Germany will travel to Brazil as many people's top-ranked European team despite the obvious prowess of Spain, and the country's public are expecting a semifinal appearance at the very minimum.

    While Die Mannschaft's PR team work relentlessly to lower expectations, the feeling is that the slip-up against Italy in Euro 2012 will be a one-off occurrence.

    There's too much talent—in both starting XI and depth—to fail here. They have players who'll miss out of the squad who could waltz into England's first team.

1. Argentina

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    Despite the obvious strengths of Germany and Spain, history is on Argentina's side.

    No European team has ever won the World Cup on South American soil, and it just so happens that La Albiceleste are hitting top form under Alejandro Sabella having blitzed the CONMEBOL qualifying region.

    With Lionel Messi finally performing in his national team's shirt and with dedicated weapons around him, Argentina could rack up high-scoring affairs against poor, unsuspecting enemies.