2022 Men's World Cup: Power Ranking Every Team in the Knockout Stage

Alex WindleyDecember 2, 2022

2022 Men's World Cup: Power Ranking Every Team in the Knockout Stage

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    DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 26: Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates as he scores the goal 2: during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between France and Denmark at Stadium 974 on November 26, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images)
    Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

    The knockout stage of the 2022 men's World Cup has finally arrived.

    Sixteen teams will vie for a chance at glory as they look to lift one of the most coveted trophies in sports.

    We took a shot at ranking them based on their performances in the group stages.

    If they topped the group, they moved up a couple of spots; if they played below what they could, they were dropped.

    Some countries fell short in Qatar, while others defied expectations.

    Here are Bleacher Report's power rankings for the round of 16.

Nos. 16-12

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    Hakim Ziyech (left) of Morocco celebrates with Azzedine Ounahi
    Jeroen van den Berg/Soccrates/Getty Images

    16. Australia

    No one expected Australia to be here.

    In what was a difficult Group D that included France and Denmark, the Socceroos made their mark on the biggest stage, winning two of their three group games.

    Led by fearless manager Graham Arnold, Australia has the grit, belief and willpower to potentially pull off an upset against any top side, including last-16 opponent Argentina.


    15. Poland

    Poland played poorly for most of their matches. Although they made it out of Group C over Mexico because of goal differential, the football was uninspiring.

    For large parts of their matches, Robert Lewandowski was left on an island alone, unable to get going offensively. Manager Czesław Michniewicz's decision to bunker down and play reductive football cost them dearly.

    These tactics saw Poland only score two goals in three games. If the White and Reds want to make it past the round of 16, they'll have to switch up their tactics and get Lewandowski into better goal-scoring positions.


    14. Senegal

    Entering the final day of the group stage needing a win, Senegal beat Ecuador 2-1 to finish second in Group A. Even without their talisman, Sadio Mané (leg injury), the Lions of Teranga didn't let his absence stop them as they clawed their way to the round of 16.

    Senegal has an offensively cohesive yet defensively strong style that saw them win two of their three group games. With Ismaïla Sarr leading the charge in attack and Kalidou Koulibaly solid in defense, England could find them difficult to beat.


    13. USA

    The United States made it out of the group stage in spectacular fashion, beating Iran 1-0 in a thrilling finale.

    Many had the Americans finishing third in Group B just behind England and Wales, but Gregg Berhalter's men played pragmatically depending on their opponent. They were defensively strong and offensively sensible.

    With standout midfield players such as Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah, and an attacking front line that includes Timothy Weah and Christian Pulisic, the Stars and Stripes have the talent to pose a massive threat to the Netherlands.


    12. Morocco

    Morocco is a team on a mission.

    The first African nation to top their group since Nigeria in 1998, the Atlas Lions are a force to be reckoned with.

    Blessed with a myriad of technical players, Morocco rattles their opponents by playing fast in transition and flooding numbers into the box.

    Hakim Ziyech is the man that makes things tick in that regard.

    His ability to switch the point of play using his left foot to teammates who make runs off the shoulder of the defense has been key to their rise to the top of Group F.

    B/R Football @brfootball

    Hakim Ziyech wasn't going to miss.<br><br>A huge mistake has Morocco 1-0 up 😤<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/FOXSoccer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FOXSoccer</a>)<a href="https://t.co/sSOOpuuOzj">pic.twitter.com/sSOOpuuOzj</a>

    Their capacity to isolate on one side and then hit on the counter makes them a team built for knockout-round football.

    Expect them to make it difficult for Spain in the next round.

Nos. 11-6

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    Argentina's Lionel Messi
    Fareed Kotb/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    11. South Korea

    South Korea were the underdogs in Group H, but they never let that stop them from competing.

    From the first day of the tournament, the Taegeuk Warriors played fearlessly.

    Even with a half-healthy Heung-min Son, they never let up, beating Portugal on the final day to secure their spot in the round of 16.

    Unfortunately, in the knockout stages, they'll be facing Brazil.

    Unless they can come up with another upset, they will be heading home.


    10. Switzerland

    Switzerland finished second in Group G after they beat Serbia 3-2.

    The Swiss always seem to find themselves in a prime position to go farther in the tournament than most people expect.

    Much like their campaign in Euro 2020, where they beat France on the way to the quarterfinals, the Swiss are experienced in upsets.

    As they go on to face Portugal in the round of 16, the fluidity of their 4-3-2-1 and the scoring form of Breel Embolo will be needed.


    9. Japan

    With their high-pressing style and tactical flexibility, Japan punched its ticket to the round of 16.

    On their way to topping Group E, Hajime Moriyasu's men beat Germany and Spain with tireless determination.

    Japan is blessed with a myriad of attacking options, and the key contributions of Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma off the bench were pivotal in the Samurai Blue's upsets.

    Statman Dave @StatmanDave

    Ritsu Doan has scored 50% of Japan’s goals at the World Cup so far, coming on as a substitute on both occasions.<br><br>Impact from the bench. 💥 <a href="https://t.co/ohDe6xlEUV">pic.twitter.com/ohDe6xlEUV</a>

    As they head to the knockout rounds, they'll have the belief, ability and heart to give Croatia a good game.


    8. England

    England may look strong on paper, but despite the wealth of talent they have, they play a dull brand of football.

    Though the Three Lions won two out of their three group-stage games in blowout fashion, there are concerns about their ability to do so against more talented sides.

    Their 0-0 draw against the USMNT was a prime example of the tedious, boring soccer that they tend to play. In that match, Gareth Southgate's men only managed to get three shots on target.

    The good news is they have a phenomenal front line capable of winning games with skills alone. That is more than enough to make up for their deficiencies elsewhere.


    7. Croatia

    Though they only won once out of their three Group F games, Croatia qualified for the round of 16 in second place.

    The trio of Luka Modrić, Marcelo Brozović and Mateo Kovačić impressed during the group stage as well. Their fluidity and ability to dictate the tempo for their team saw them decimate Canada 4-1.

    With a forward line that includes an in-form Andrej Kramarić and a defense spearheaded by the young talent of Joško Gvardiol, this Croatian team has the team spirit to go far potentially.


    6. Argentina

    This Argentina side doesn't look as dangerous as many expected, but, when there's Lionel Messi on their side, they can't be counted out.

    With his team's back against the wall vs. Mexico, Messi powered Argentina to victory. Against Poland, La Albiceleste looked much more like the team that won the 2021 Copa America.

    As the knockout rounds progress, don't count them out. They have the talent and experience to beat Australia in the next round and make a deep run to the final.

No. 5: Netherlands

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    Cody Gakpo (right)
    Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images

    The Netherlands topped Group A with ease.

    With breakout star Cody Gakpo leading the line with three goals in three matches, Louis van Gaal's men look capable of making a deep run at the tournament.

    B/R Football @brfootball

    Header vs. Senegal ✅<br>Left foot vs. Ecuador ✅<br>Right foot vs. Qatar ✅<br>Cody Gakpo can score them all 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/mHTQ6tGyrh">pic.twitter.com/mHTQ6tGyrh</a>

    Though it's not the total football of previous Dutch sides, this iteration is hungry, dynamic and can be dangerous.

    Offensively lining up 3-4-1-2, van Gaal set up his side so they could play with fluidity. This flexibility allowed them to score five goals during the group stage.

    In defense, the back line, anchored by Virgil van Dijk, saw the Oranje only concede one goal in three games.

    The Netherlands play with patience, have a crafty midfield spearheaded by Frenkie de Jong, and enough guile to beat the United States and move to the next round.

No. 4: Portugal

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    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

    Never count out Portugal.

    Though they fell to South Korea on the final day of the group stage, the Portuguese could have a tough round-of-16 matchup against Switzerland.

    Under Fernando Santos, Portugal has never been the flashiest team, but they play pragmatic football that is conservative but frustrates opponents.

    Mainly playing in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, Portugal's main focus of attack is Ronaldo, who might be appearing in his last World Cup. They use their crafty wingers and technically talented midfielders to recycle the ball in possession while they look for the weak point in the opponent's defense.

    They're also able to quickly strike in transition.

    FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

    Another look at this goal by Ricardo Horta for Portugal 🇵🇹 <a href="https://t.co/nTSdaBzTb7">pic.twitter.com/nTSdaBzTb7</a>

    Against the Swiss, who also play a 4-2-3-1, Portugal needs to look out for the pace of Breel Embolo in behind.

    Fortunately, with defenders such as Pepe and Rúben Dias, they should manage to see out a win.

No. 3: Spain

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    Pedri
    ANP via Getty Images

    Despite finishing second in Group E, Spain still has enough depth and talent in the squad to make amends in the knockout rounds.

    Tactically, in typical Spanish fashion, Luis Enrique lined up his men in a 4-3-3.

    Masters of possession, La Roja love to dominate the ball, basically suffocating their opponents by stringing several passes together at a time.

    It's pleasing on the eye, especially when they're able to blow out teams like they did when they beat Costa Rica 7-0.

    FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

    That makes ✌️ for Ferran Torres<br><br>The goals just keep coming for Spain 💪 <a href="https://t.co/Ah5KHkIoD0">pic.twitter.com/Ah5KHkIoD0</a>

    But, against sides like Japan, they struggle to underlock teams that play compactly on defense and counter.

    Still, Spain has enough depth on their squad to get to the later stages of the tournament.

No. 2: France

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    Olivier Giroud
    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    France is inevitable.

    Despite the looming "winner's curse" that plagues every team that previously won the World Cup, France got out of their group with no issues.

    Even with the mountain of injuries they sustained before and during the tournament, Les Bleus seemed to take those setbacks in stride.

    Kylian Mbappé looks like a man on a mission.

    His three goals in two games saw him beat Thierry Henry's French record of goals at the World Cup.

    ESPN FC @ESPNFC

    Kylian Mbappe now has more World Cup goals for France than Thierry Henry, who played in four World Cups.<br><br>HE'S ONLY 23 YEARS OLD! 🤯 <a href="https://t.co/6HNV0eBhyk">pic.twitter.com/6HNV0eBhyk</a>

    Offensively, they look solid. Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 with Antoine Greizmann as the attacking midfielder, and pace on the wings with Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé, France play with an offensive fluidity that will cause any opposition discomfort.

No. 1: Brazil

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    Brazil's Richarlison
    VCG/VCG via Getty Images

    Even with the ankle injury to Neymar, Brazil still look like the team to beat in Qatar.

    Their masterful display of football against Serbia was breathtaking.

    B/R Football @brfootball

    ABSOLUTE RICHARLISON GOLAZO 😱<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/TelemundoSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TelemundoSports</a>)<a href="https://t.co/RLqvERmMfC">pic.twitter.com/RLqvERmMfC</a>

    Against Switzerland, it was slightly more difficult due to the Swiss press, but they persevered with a Casemiro goal. Versus Cameroon, they fielded a B team and lost, but they probably don't mind because they topped the group.

    In the round of 16, though Brazil may outmatch South Korea, Tite's men must be on high alert if they want to beat them.

    The Koreans have shown that they can pull off an upset and have the team chemistry to do so.

    Despite this, Brazil should comfortably go through to the quarterfinals.

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