World Cup 2010 Preview: Power Rankings

Stew FlatsCorrespondent IJune 9, 2010

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 08:  Vuvuzelas are displayed on a market stall in central Cape Town on June 8, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. The first World Cup ever held in Africa is due to begin in less than a week and the Vuvuzela has been causing controversy with some calling for the instrument to be banned.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

With the tournament approaching, we rank the teams from top to bottom before play begins.  This list is absolutely in rank order, so fire away with your thoughts below.



1. Brazil


It seems like in every tournament, this team is a trendy pick, and 2010 will be no exception.  Dunga has managed to graft traditional Brazilian flair with a defensive discipline more associated with Europe.


The result is a truly powerful team that will take something special to be beat.  Added to that, the Brazilian’s should be good value for a few girls dancing around in green and yellow bikinis in the crowd.



2 . Spain


After blazing a trail through the field at Euro 2008, Spain look to lift their first World Cup.  They bring a talented squad that is simply a joy to watch. 


Questions are being thrown around about the fitness of Torres, but when that is your biggest criticism, you are a very good team. Marco Senna and Mikel Arteta did not make the roster of 23, yet how many teams would they start for?



3. England


The Three Lions had a fantastic qualifying campaign. England won nine of 10 games and they were the leading European goal scorers. 


Wayne Rooney will look to lead them deep into the tournament.  England received hefty criticism for a 3-1 win over Mexico during the build up to the tournament.  A result put into perspective by Mexico later beating Italy 2-0. 


England’s chances will be helped immensely if Wayne Rooney does not break a Vuvuzela over an opponent’s head in a fit of rage, leading to a certain red card.


4.   Netherlands


Another team with a legitimate shot at their first-ever World Cup title, the Dutch are remarkably nimble for a nation known to wear heavy, wooden shoes.  The Dutch, when in full flow, are a joy to behold, and will entertain as they rack up wins in South Africa. 


The Orange army racked up a 6-1 win over Hungary in a pre-tournament friendly.  The injury of Arjen Robben is a blow, but the attacking depth of this team is vast.  Champions League winner Wesley Sneijder will be joined by EPL stars Robin Van Persie and Dirk Kuyt.



5.  Germany


Ze Germans have a long and proud history of excellent tournament play.  The Germans were unbeaten in European qualifying, a campaign that included two wins over Euro 2008 semi finalist Russia. 


While some stars are aging on this team, youngsters like Mesut Ozil and 25-year-old Lucas Podolski ensure the future looks bright.  If a game goes to penalties, the opposition may forfeit.



6. Argentina


Player for player, this could be the most talented team at the tournament.  Lionel Messi needs no introduction and Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, and Champions League hero Diego Milito lead the Argentine attack.  Behind them, Juan Veron and Javier Mascherano add bite to the midfield. 


The only problem with Argentina is they seem as up and down as their enigmatic—and some would say lunatic—coach, the great Diego Maradona.  Doubtless if he reads this criticism and wins the World Cup, I will be told to “suck it, and keep sucking.”



7. Italy


The defending champions are climbing up in age, but will be a very tough out this summer.  Fabio Cannavaro is slowing down, but Giorgio Chiellini seems a more than capable heir apparent. 


The Italians are strong in defense, but do not seem to have the firepower to win it all.  Then again, we all said that last time. 


Materazzi was unfortunately dropped from the squad, quashing many office pools on which player would “do a Zidane” this time round.



8. Chile


Chile are an attack-minded team who had an excellent qualifying campaign.  Their innovative and disciplined coach, Marcelo Bielsa, has them playing a game that is sure to entertain and win fans in South Africa. A 1-0 win over Argentina was the highlight of their qualifying campaign. 


A fun bet would be to see how long before winger Mark Gonzalez is given the name ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ by imaginative commentators.



9. Paraguay


Another strong South American side, they will be missing their leading goal scorer from the qualifying rounds. Salvador Cabanas was shot in the head in a Mexico City nightclub, but thankfully survived.


Although he will not make the trip, Manchester City star Roque Santa Cruz will lead the line. A strong back line conceded only 16 goals in 18 qualifiers. 


Goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert is a renowned nut job who had a better goal scoring record than Emile Heskey.  He is long retired and will not be at the tournament, and that is a crying shame.


10. Uruguay


An un-fancied dark horse.  Uruguay find themselves in a difficult group, but they may just be the best team in it.  Diego Forlan had an excellent season with Europa League winners Athletico Madrid, despite bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Sally Gunnell. 


Forlan will be joined up front by the lethal Sebastian Abreu. Captain Diego Lugano adds presence at the back.


11. Denmark


Many will feel this is a high ranking, but Denmark had an excellent qualifying campaign. They beat Portugal 3-2, and were also responsible in eliminating fellow Viking nation Sweden from the tournament. 


The Danes have a range of solid veterans from European top leagues.  The only question many ask is what does Agger do do do?



12. Portugal


I will try and avoid doing what all media do and revolve my Portugal preview around Cristiano Ronaldo.   Cristiano Ronaldo is the main threat on this team, and hopefully the back line can play well enough for games to be won on the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo.  


Pictures of Cristiano Ronaldo in his pants have filled magazine shelves, and Portugal will likely make the second round thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo.  How did I do?



13. Serbia


The Serbians have a rock-solid defense that includes Premier League stars Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Vidic.  The Premier League and Champions League experience of this pair will be a valuable asset. 


If the USA run into this ruthless bunch of eastern Europeans in the second round, it will be reminiscent of Rocky IV.



14. Nigeria


Pele predicted an African nation to win the World Cup by the year 2000.  He was great at football, but clearly rubbish at predictions.


He also said his team in ‘Escape to Victory’ had “no chance” to beat the Nazi guards when they were down 0-4. A stellar performance from Sly Stallone in goal helped the allies to victory. 


Nigeria will have a good chance to advance to the second round, and seem the best placed of the African contingent after recent key injuries and suspensions.



15. USA


The USA should score plenty of goals, but could pay for what is an average defensive line.  Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey give the USA a legitimate scoring threat.


USA should have enough firepower to make it out of the group, and should they beat England, expect to see ‘Game of Their Lives 2’ at a movie theater near you soon.



16. Mexico


“Nobody can like a Mexi can,” so goes the old saying.  However, an average qualifying campaign had some questioning the validity of that statement. 


After the firing of Sven-Goran Eriksson and the hiring of Javier Aguirre, they had a big upturn in form.  A recent victory over Italy marks this talented squad as a team to watch.



17. France


Many shall mock this ranking due to the star power and talent on the French team, they even have history on their side.   However, the fact is: France are simply not playing very well. 


Their qualification included a 3-1 defeat to Austria and a controversial win over the Republic of Ireland in the playoffs.


They followed that up with a draw with Tunisia, and defeat to China in their warm up games.  Expect plenty of dramatic gesticulating if referee calls do not go their way.


18. Cameroon


Roger Milla was disappointingly seen as past his best and missed the squad.  Cameroon’s hopes were dealt a further blow when current star Samuel Eto’o was suspended for the opener. 


The Indomitable Lions have plenty of talent, but must take a result from Netherlands or Denmark to advance.




19. Ivory Coast


The unfortunate arm injury of Didier Drogba was met with rapturous scenes of celebration throughout Portugal. 


Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men have plenty of talent, but a reputation for not achieving to their potential.  Without Drogba, success seems a real long shot.



20. Greece


May be too low a ranking for a team that is ruthless in defense. Theofanis Gekas led all scorers in European qualifying. 


The Greeks will look to soak up pressure and hit teams on the break. They could be a difficult team to face, especially if they get a 1-0 lead.


21. South Africa


The recent "Invictus" Hollywood movie was a true story about a South African sports team with a talented captain named Pienaar.  They were completely written off as having no chance to win the World Cup. 


They rose up on home soil, the words of President Mandela helping them rise to the challenge and upset world powers.  It couldn’t, could it?  No, it couldn’t!



22. Australia


The Socceroos have a veteran squad that will be organized and disciplined. They have the athletic ability to cause problems, but not the creativity.


It is, however, a pretty good bet that Tim Cahill will score at least one goal before laying a beating on the nearest corner flag.



23. Ghana


One-season wonder fans will be forever grateful to this team for Tony Yeboah.  The loss of Michael Essien will be a significant blow, but Asamoah Gyan provides a breakaway threat for a solid defensive team.



24. Switzerland


Another team with a solid defensive record in qualifying. Striker Blaise Nkufo will lead the line before joining the Seattle Sounders of MLS after the tournament.


Switzerland have been harshly called boring, and accused of being the type of team who could tie a penalty shootout 0-0.



25. Slovakia


Slovakia were led through qualifying by a father-and-son combination. Father Vladimir Weiss watched from the dugout as Vladimir Weiss Jr. dazzled with his wing play. 


Slovakia should entertain, even if they don’t go particularly far in the tournament.



26. Slovenia


A team that had the stingy record of conceding 4 goals in 10 qualifiers, and then eliminating Russia from the playoffs. 


Slovenia are certain to make things very difficult for England and the USA.  West Brom’s Robert Koren is the star midfielder.



27. South Korea


Park Ji Sung and Sum Otha Guy will likely provide pace and flair to proceedings. 


It is likely that the commentator will give up on name pronunciation and simply refer to them by shirt number, like a drunk in a Chinese restaurant.



28. Algeria


The Algerians produced a truly brave display to eliminate African champions Egypt in the qualifying playoff. 


They play an entertaining style, but simply lack the quality to do damage at the tournament.  They have the misfortune of some of their best players choosing to represent France.


29. Japan


Japan coach Takeshi Okada has publicly stated his goal of reaching the semi finals.  Good luck with that!



30. Honduras


Former MLS star Amado Guevera leads a feisty bunch.  However, the Hondurans have a tough group and a real job on their hands to win a game.



31. New Zealand


Put simply—no chance!  The only consolation for New Zealand is that they would murder anyone on this list at rugby.




32. North Korea


When you have a lack of talent, it helps to have organization from the coaching staff. 


The North Korea head coach tried to bend the rules by bringing an extra forward, only to be told upon arrival that said forward cannot play outfield at the tournament and can only go in goal. 


Oh well, at least they have an easy opening game.


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