World Cup Matchday 1 recap and Power Rankings

First game for each team is about to be in the books on this glorious Wednesday, June 19th. No team was perfect at all, and even the worst teams showed some signs of life. This has been an amazing World Cup so far. I wanted to take a second, for those who have been following religiously, and for those who haven’t seen a single minute, is give some semblance of where everyone stands in this week’s power rankings:

1. Spain

After a strong performance against Portugal, the team’s 3-3 draw against Ronaldo and co. has earned them this number one spot in my opinion. They were lacking some of the clutch gene we see with the club titans of Real Madrid, but a number of their confidants were able to take care of the ball, control possession, and if not for a PK, a glorious free kick, and a horrible blunder on David De Gea, Spain would have easily taken this one. Those are a lot of excuses for a #1, I understand, but this is just the beginning.

2. Belgium

After their win yesterday against a squad of middle schoolers, there were still moments in which I saw Belgium and was afraid for other teams. De Bruyne was on target, Lukaku clearly doing well to still score goals against bad teams, and their defense was strong as ever. I think this game spoke volumes about the Belgians’ desire to be there and compete this time around. I think we saw some very bright spots in that play that will carry to any level of competition.

3. England

I know it didn’t show, only winning 2-1 to Tunisia, but for a team with only 4 players having been on a WC squad before, none of them scoring prior to yesterday, it was an extremely telling performance. Harry Kane took their team and put it on his back to secure England’s first WC win since 2010. Teams should be afraid, because this was a good start and it might be their year. Lots of possession, and an unmatched combination of physicality, skill and speed.

4. Mexico

They beat Germany, and sorta deserved it. They played with tenacity and weren’t afraid of the reigning champs at all. They had much less possession, and really took advantage of the counter against a team who had, up to that point, pretty much perfected it. Well deserved goal for Lozano (PSV better be checking its emails for transfer requests), with a smooth finish there. Good looks for Mexico as they change the course for the rest of that Group.

5. Brazil

They drew Switzerland. Neymar, as expected was trying far too much and wanted the ball far too often on his foot. That’s not a bad thing, but when you have the likes of Coutinho, Willian, Firmino and Jesus to play along with, there should have been more of an understanding that it wasn’t your game. They are still one of the favorites to win the whole thing, and I stick behind that, but I think some of it might have just been Neymar’s nerves. The Swiss are a good team but as people who are known for chocolate, skiing, and a great economy, Brazil should have disposed of them easily. I think we’ll see them pick it up though in the second game.

6. Germany

What the shit was that? Mexico beat you, and they deserved it. I’m not sure what Low was thinking with some of his lineup and then subsequent substitutions later on, but it wasn’t the right combination. Germany and Brazil are the two favorites so far in this tournament, and they both need to start acting like it. I know the Germans pretty much did all of qualifiers with their u23 squad, but when you start putting different players into the mix than what they’re used to, chemistry can be a huge factor. Fix it, Germany.

7. France

Another team who was feared to not show up, barely squeaked out a win against the Aussies. A 2-1 victory sealed by Pogba’s fantastic little chip was overshadowed by mediocrity, in my opinion. Sure, Dembele showed moments of brilliance, but we saw two penalties within minutes, giving Australia a decent share of the possession. Not a great look, but still promising for Les Bleus. Interested to see them really turn it on in game two.

8. Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo must be tired from carrying the team. I know, at 33 that that can’t be easy. He managed to single-handedly draw against Spain on matchday 1. Portugal was outplayed but not out-hustled thanks to the recent Champions League winner. I will say, though, that if Portugal starts to hit its stride, they may be an amazing team to watch later in the tournament. They have some incredible talent – I was particularly impressed with William Carvalho battling for control of the center of the field – and they have a nice mix of experience to balance it out. They start clicking and it’ll be very tough to beat them.

9. Croatia

Good win but against Nigeria, so relax. That’s about all I have to say. Modric got a goal which is always nice, and they outplayed Nigeria in a very veteran-like fashion, to be honest. Their midfield was strong and accurate, which is a plus for them. Their tall-ass strikers are going to be tough to handle in the future, and they have a legitimate shot to make it out of Group D. Interested for the Croatia v. Argentina game.

10. Argentina

They lost in their 1-1 tie to Iceland. Long live the Viking clap. As just mentioned above, Croatia has a legit shot of making it out of the group, with no clear commander. Messi with a rare disappointing performance, but i wouldn’t count on that happening again. There’s still lot of time for Argentina to put it together and make a run. Also, put on Dybala for Christ’s sake.

11. Russia

5-0 against the Saudis isn’t that impressive but still something to note. The hosts took charge early and often, marking one of their more notable performances on the big stage, registering 14 shots in the game. I almost discount their last two goals, with the Saudis clearly having given up. But enjoy it, Russia fans, because I think if you give up 62% possession to Saudi Arabia, I can only imagine against one of the better teams if the knockout stage comes.

12. Uruguay

If not for that beautiful 89th minute header by Gimenez, they wouldn’t be ranked this high. Against a team without Salah, we saw Uruguay struggle. They had the lions share of possession, shots, and corners, but barely squeaked out a win. They have some strong players in Suarez and Cavani, though sometimes chemistry and egos can get in the way. Don’t quote me on that though because they might have the easiest route to the knockouts, and could see themselves in the Semis if they figure out how to score.

13. Iceland

In the aforementioned Argentinian recap, I say “Long live the viking clap.” I mean it. They have a legit shot if they just keep playing the way they did against Argentina. Scrappy, but still organized. Not the most skilled, but maybe the smartest. If nothing else, their keeper Halldorsson is a video producer on the side, and created this if you haven’t seen it:

14. Denmark

This team squeaked out a win against Peru, which shouldn’t happen in my opinion. The Danes took some time getting used to the atmosphere of the World Cup I think, and let that stress get to them. Hopefully more to talk about from them in the future, but a cool 3pts to their tally isn’t bad. Christensen (a Chelsea player) was actually relatively promising. More to come.

15. Switzerland

Lol they tied Brazil. To their credit this was a hard-fought point against one of the favorites in the World Cup, especially as a team to who no one is really giving a shot. Shaqiri is great, so is Burki, if you’re into that kind of thing. They fouled Neymar 12 times too, which I guess is a good strategy if you’re not skilled enough to slow him down naturally. I don’t blame that strategy at all either, by the way.

16. Egypt

No Salah first game but still a good performance. I won’t say too much about the bottom-half ranked teams, but I do believe they still have a shot to make it to the knockout stages, we’ll see. Mark my words though, Salah will be playing in the future games and will be destroying defenses in no time, so i think we’ll see this team’s stock rise quickly.

17. Japan

Actually got some good chances and took a game against Columbia and gave themselves a fighting chance, albeit with a man advantage. They were able to control much of the game, though the chances in the final third were scarce. They tighten that up, and we might be seeing one of the more organized fringe teams at this World Cup.

18. Senegal

This was about as good a result as Aliou Cissé and his team would have wanted. They got a couple very lucky breaks but actually looked somewhat organized like an actual team. The 42 year old coach will be very happy with the 3 points today and will absolutely look to continue that into matchday 2. They still need to impress me more to consider them a real contender but this was an awesome start and confidence boost. Gueye strong in the midfield is great for the team.

19. Columbia

A red card 5 minutes into a World Cup opener is never great. But James Rodriguez (without an injury) might just be the saving Grace for this team. I think they’re one solid win away from shooting up my rankings, and definitely increasing their chances of making the knockout. They still grabbed a goal against Japan without a man. For Columbian fans, not time to panic just yet.

20. Sweden

No Zlatan, no party. A few revelations in the Swedish squad, though nothing of note. I think that they may grab a point or two in the rest of this tournament, but they’re in a quiet stage with their international team, with a lot of untested young talent. Wasn’t too impressed.

21. Poland

They were definitely the inferior team today against Senegal, though unlucky on the two goals scored. One vía a deflection and another from (I’ll say it) poor officiating that gave Niang a clear chance to go up 2-0. Still a solid showing from the Poles, who still sit high enough for me to think they’re a fringe team. They grabbed the late goal to make it 2-1, but it wasn’t enough of a push. 2-1 a fair defeat for them I think. But still time to make it up.

22. Serbia

Good win against a shaky Costa Rican team. There are some actual bright talents here, just not what i’d consider a “great” team. They’re good, and could potentially make it out of the group stage, but they still have Brazil and Switzerland to play, so we’ll see. The perennial battle between cheeky, small Brazilians and the large, hoof-footed eastern bloc teams rages on.

23. Costa Rica

Joel Campbell and Keylor Navas weren’t enough. The Serbs were the better team in their 1-0 loss on matchday 1, but there’s still two more games here and this is the kind of team to really shake things up for the knockout stage. A draw could really change the shape of the group.

24. Morocco

Surprisingly good, actually. They lost to Iran from an own goal in the last minute (literally). But they had some moments of brilliance that I didn’t expect. I don’t give them much of a chance to make it out of the group, as that was most likely their best chance of grabbing a win.

25. Iran

I know they beat #23 ranked Morocco, but they weren’t the better team on that field. When it came down to it they grabbed a win, and have found a way to do that all throughout qualifiers. But I don’t see that continuing for much longer this tournament. We’ll see, but I think that’s the last of Iran.

26. Australia

Sucks for the Aussies that France pulled off the win. But they’re always such a hard team to beat because of their heart and determination. They’re very much like Stoke City at home, in my book. Not the greatest at all but get them at their turf or where they’re confident and they’re hard to get by. Just waiting on a Tim Cahill stunner.

27. Nigeria

Had a horrible performance against Croatia. A lot of people have them lower, but I think despite this they’re still potentially a good team. Obviously, the dope jersey doesn’t buy wins. But with a lot of young talent, we might see Nigeria be Africa’s best chance at the knockout – watch, they’ll move up my rankings soon.

28. Tunisia

Honestly I maybe should have had them higher. They somehow held onto a tie with England until the last minute, and lost 2-1. But to be able to do that, and still be this low, is wild. They didn’t show signs of much of anything if i’m honest. They were sloppy and not clean with their passes. 2-1 was a generous defeat for them, in my opinion.

29. South Korea

Not that great of a performance against the not-so-great Sweden. I had some hopes for them, but I don’t think they’re going to get very far. There’s a chance Son comes up big for them and orchestrates a nice comeback but I don’t see it.

30. Panama

They got destroyed by Belgium in this first game. They were that team where they were hopeful to surprise a few, but that is not to happen to them. They’re done, in my opinion. See ya pizza.

31. Peru

Only losing to Denmark 1-0 isn’t that bad, and there’s maybe one more chance to get some points, and that’s against Australia. I think the Aussies will take that one, but I do believe their time is up this World Cup. Roman Torres had a good run.

32. Saudi Arabia

Sorry, but these guys flat out stink. They were made little girls by the Russian team in the opener. I’m not sure if Putin paid someone to make it so, but the Saudis definitely don’t need the money. I foolishly took them for an upset because why not. Sucks for them this series, but maybe this was a fluke and they turn out great….

But there you have it folks! Feel free to drop a comment on our Twitter or even right here and let us know your thoughts after matchday one! Make sure to shoot us a follow, and stay toasty!

-Voggel

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