Now that the 2014 World Cup has ended, we can dissect the teams. More specifically, we can rank all 32 teams that participated at this year’s quadrennial tournament. These rankings are based on how they played at this tournament and not necessarily based on how far they advanced. The first sixteen teams are teams that made the Round of 16. Without further ado, here are the rankings for all 32 teams.
(Nation, Group Finish, Knockout Stage Elimination)
32. Cameroon (4th in Group A) – It was an abysmal tournament for Cameroon as they scored only one goal and conceded nine while losing all three matches. Their best game was their opening match versus Mexico, but they lost by a score of 1-0. The Indomitable Lions lacked any serious offensive attack in the three games and have been surrounded by allegations of match-fixing at this World Cup.
31. Honduras (4th in Group E) – It was always going to be a tough task for Honduras to come away with points in Group E. They lost all three games after scoring one goal and conceding eight. They played well versus Ecuador, grabbing a 1-0 lead before conceding two goals. Many memories were made for the 23-man roster that they will not soon forget.
30. Japan (4th in Group C) – Perhaps it is a bit harsh to place the Japanese in this spot. Their defense was a weak coming into the tournament and it was proven repeatedly. They held a 1-0 versus Cote d’Ivoire but gave up two goals in two minutes and lost 2-1. Japan could not get a win versus a 10-man Greece team and then were blown out by Colombia 4-1 in the final group game. Japan ended the tournament with one point with two goals scored and six goals conceded.
29. South Korea (4th in Group H) – South Korea had the best draw of all the Asian Football Confederation teams, yet they finished bottom of their group. South Korea was lucky to get the one point they did on a fluke goal in the opening game against Russia. Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev let a shot slip through his hands and into the back of the net, otherwise South Korea would have gone home pointless in the World Cup. South Korea then managed to give up four goals to Algeria, a team that is not considered offensive by any stretch of the imagination. For their efforts, South Korea finished with one point after scoring three goals and giving up six goals.
28. Australia (4th in Group B) – Australia may not have gotten a point, but they played a whale of a game against the Netherlands. Australia lost their opening game against Chile 3-1 before facing the Dutch. In that game, the Dutch were pushed to the brink. Tim Cahill scored a cracker of a goal on a volley from a long-pass courtesy of Ryan McGowan. Australia took a 2-1 lead thanks to Mile Jedinak’s penalty goal before the Dutch rallied for a 3-2 win. The Australians were no match for Spain in the final game as they exited the tournament scoring three goals and conceding nine.
27. England (4th in Group D) – It was the group of Champions, but England played far from it. Their lone point came in the final game against Costa Rica, a game in which Costa Rica had already clinched their spot in the Round of 16. England lacked the needed defense as they lost both of their opening games 2-1. The second goal by Uruguay was particularly troubling as Steven Gerrard flicked the ball right into Luis Suarez’s path. For their troubles, England scored two goals and conceded four. There is a lot to be desired as England heads toward Euro 2016.
26. Iran (4th in Group F) – Iran played surprisingly well during their three games. They opened with a scoreless draw against Nigeria and then took on Lionel Messi and Argentina. It was an amazing defensive performance for 90 minutes, but a touch of Messi magic gave Argentina the win in stoppage time. Iran was decimated in their final game with a chance to make the Round of 16 as they lost 3-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Iran lacked the offensive touch needed to progress in the tournament, but their game against Argentina was impressive, even if they did end up losing.
25. Ghana (4th in Group G) – The “Group of Death” lived up to the hype, as Ghana was the unlucky team to finish at the bottom of Group G. Ghana played solidly in their three matches, but only obtained a point for their efforts. Ghana lost to the United States 2-1 after giving up a goal 30 seconds into the game and later a goal to John Brooks from corner. Ghana played very well versus Germany and nearly pulled the upset. A 71st minute goal from Miroslav Klose gave both teams a point. Ghana had a slim chance to make the Round of 16, but a late goal from Cristiano Ronaldo ended their chances. They may not have made the knockout stages, but Ghana played decently in their three games.
24. Spain (3rd in Group B) – The defending World Champions had a dismal three games. They were dominated by Netherlands in the first game and then lost 2-0 to Chile as they were eliminated from progressing past the group stage. They rebounded with a 3-0 win in the final game against Australia, but it was too late. Spain had problems with their defense and more importantly, Iker Casillas looked completely uncomfortable during the World Cup. It was a magnificent run for Spain, but it ended in spectacular fashion.
23. Russia (3rd in Group H) – Russia had a wonderful chance to make the Round of 16, but was undone by some shoddy defense. Russia’s Igor Akinfeev let a shot slip through his hands against South Korea that led to a 1-1 draw. Russia gave up an 88th minute goal to Belgium’s Divock Origi and lost 1-0. Russia scored quickly against Algeria, but ended up giving up a 60th minute goal to Islam Slimani and had to settle for a draw. Russia could have easily progressed to the Round of 16 so there are some positives as Russia heads to Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, which they host.
22. Bosnia and Herzegovina (3rd in Group F) – This team was high on quite a few people’s list of potential dark horses at this tournament. That did not last long after they were eliminated after the first two games in losses to Argentina and Nigeria. The result against Nigeria was harsh and could easily be argued that Bosnia and Herzegovina should have won 1-0. Bosnia and Herzegovina did not let the elimination stun them as they thrashed Iran 3-1 in their final game. This experience will be beneficial to the players and nation as they move along in their football infancy.
21. Croatia (3rd in Group A) – Perhaps Croatia was a bit unfortunate in their opening game versus Brazil to have the phantom penalty awarded against them. Still, Croatia had everything to play for in the last game against Mexico and really played a stinker. They were demolished as they gave up three goals to a Mexico team that struggled to score during Qualifying and in their first two games at the World Cup. Euro 2016 is a good time for another deep run in a major tournament for Croatia to get back on track.
20. Cote d’Ivoire (3rd in Group C) – They are better known as the Ivory Coast in English speaking countries, but they had a cracker of a chance to make the Knockout Stages for the first time in their history. They were just seconds away from achieving that, until Georgios Samaras was tripped in the box and converted the penalty shot for a 2-1 Greece victory. Overall, it was nice appearance from the Elephants. Shoring up their back four will get them to the last 16 in the future.
19. Ecuador (3rd in Group E) – They were very unlucky to lose the opening game so late in stoppage time to Switzerland. They had a good comeback against Honduras after falling behind in the first half and scoring two goals to get the win. It was always going to be tough to get a win versus France and Ecuador was held to a scoreless draw and knocked out of the tournament. They ended with four points, but Enner Valencia showed how well he can play up front with three goals in the three games.
18. Italy (3rd in Group D) – It was quite harsh that Italy did not go through in the Group of Champions after finishing with three points. The opened with a 2-1 win versus England and then suffered a shock loss to Costa Rica, 1-0. The harshness came in the final game against Uruguay. As practically everyone saw, Luis Suarez did his best Dracula impression and bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. The referee did not see the incident and Uruguay went on to a 1-0 victory. It was unfortunate, but Italy ended up not doing enough to progress in the tournament.
17. Portugal (3rd in Group G) – If not for a moment of madness by Pepe in the first game against Germany, Portugal could have made the last 16. However, Pepe’s dismissal led to a 4-0 thrashing by Germany. Portugal did well to get an extremely late equalizer against USA before winning their final game against Ghana. Portugal ended on four points, but with a negative three in the goal differential department. That blowout suffered at the feet of the Germans was all the difference. Ronaldo played well at times, but Portugal still need more pieces around him to win a major title.
16. Nigeria (2nd in Group F, Round of 16) – In some respects, Nigeria was lucky to reach the Round of 16. They controversially won 1-0 versus Bosnia-Herzegovina, but did play well in their 3-2 loss against Argentina. Nevertheless, Nigeria were the team that went through and played well in spurts against France in the Round of 16 matchup. However, they gave up two late second half goals and fell 2-0. The African Champions can look forward to the 2015 AFCON qualification as they look to defend their title.
15. Algeria (2nd in Group H, Round of 16) – It was a wonderful run from the Desert Foxes as they reached the Round of 16 for the first time in history. They lost a one-goal lead in the final 20 minutes to Belgium before exploding for a 4-2 win versus South Korea. Needing just a point versus Russia, Algeria got a game-tying goal in the second half and held on for the point. They continued to play unbelievably well in the Round of 16 versus Germany. They took the Germans to extra time where they were unable to hold their defensive shape and lost 2-1. Algeria played a great tournament and earned their spot in history for their first Round of 16 ever.
14. Uruguay (2nd in Group D, Round of 16) – Uruguay were lucky to qualify for the Round of 16 as Luis Suarez was embroiled in the biting controversy. They suffered a shock blowout against Costa Rica before rebounding with a 2-1 win over England. They beat Italy 1-0, the game in which Suarez bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. Suarez was ultimately banned for four months and missed the Round of 16 matchup versus Colombia. Without Suarez, Uruguay lacked the needed offensive punch and lost 2-0 thanks to two goals from James Rodriguez. Uruguay lost both games that Suarez did not play and won both games he played. Yes, Suarez is that good to a team, but Uruguay need to develop players to support the team when Suarez is not around.
13. Greece (2nd in Group C, Round of 16) – Greece opened with a 3-0 drubbing at the feet of Colombia, but rebounded to get four points in the last two games and make the Round of 16. They held on for a scoreless draw against Japan as they played a man down for last 52 minutes. They beat Cote d’Ivoire thanks to a stoppage time penalty from Georgios Samaras that put them in the Round of 16. The Greeks played decently versus Costa Rica in the first knockout stage and got a late stoppage time equalizer to send the game to extra time. They wound up losing on penalties, but it was a good appearance for the Greeks at the 2014 World Cup as they made their first knockout stage appearance.
12. Brazil (1st in Group A, 4th Place Finishers) – It may be quite harsh to place the hosts here, but even this might be too high. They benefited from a highly questionable penalty against Croatia that broke the game open in favor of the Brazilians. They were held to a scoreless draw against Mexico and then easily dispatched Cameroon 4-1. The biggest issue for Brazil during the tournament was their defense, which frankly, was non-existent at times. They survived Chile in the Round of 16 on penalties. Hulk made a horrendous error that led to Alexis Sanchez’s goal. They beat Colombia 2-1 in the Quarterfinals, but the defense was still shaky and gave up a penalty goal to James Rodriguez. Then came the obliteration. Brazil was blown out of the universe by Germany, 7-1. There was no defending by Brazil in the game and the score line proved it. Brazil’s woes deepened as they gave up two quick goals to the Netherlands in the 3rd place game and lost 3-0. Yes, Brazil did make the semifinals, but a lot of it had to due to the brilliance of Neymar. If not for him, it is reasonable to believe that Brazil may have struggled to make it out of Group A. Brazil need to rethink how to play football and focus mightily on their defense.
11. Chile (2nd in Group B, Round of 16) – They made the most of a tough Group by dismantling Australia and Spain in their first two games. They lost their final game to the Netherlands, but otherwise played a wonderful group stage. They were unfortunate to lose to Brazil in the Round of 16 on penalties, but put on a good show in all four games they played. The trio of Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, and Eduardo Vargas looks formidable for at least the next World Cup cycle in 2018. Good times lay ahead for Chile.
10. United States (2nd in Group G, Round of 16) – The US navigated a tough “Group of Death” and did so with little expectation. They started well with a 2-1 win over Ghana and then suffered a heart-breaking draw against Portugal 2-2 in Manaus. They lost their final game against Germany, but did enough to survive and advance. Their Round of 16 game versus Belgium was both good and bad. The good, obviously, was Tim Howard’s brick wall performance, even if he did give up two goals. Julian Green looked fabulous in his short time on the field in extra time. The lost to Belgium 2-1, but the young group of players look promising for Jurgen Klinsmann. The main issue for the US is finding a solid and formidable back four that gave up a few weak goals. Michael Bradley also did not look comfortable during the tournament. Overall, there is a lot to build on for the US and few expected them to even get to the Round of 16.
9. Switzerland (2nd in Group E, Round of 16) – It was an interesting tournament for the Swiss. They got a late game-winning goal versus Ecuador and then had the doors blown off against France. They were losing 5-0 to the French until two late goals made the score line a bit more respectable at 5-2. They did end the group stage in style thanks to a hat trick from Xherdan Shaqiri as they won 3-0 over Honduras. In the Round of 16 they faced Argentina and took them to extra time. They gave up a goal two minutes from penalties and even had a chance to tie the game with under a minute remaining, but Blerim Dzemaili’s header went off the post. They played well defensively after the France debacle and played Messi tough. This year’s World Cup will help the Swiss out immensely as they look to qualify for Euro 2016.
8. Mexico (2nd in Group A, Round of 16) – The Mexico run in the 2014 World Cup was remarkable. After the way Mexico limped into the tournament, it appeared they would not go very far. However, a wonderful tournament performance by Guillermo Ochoa allowed Mexico to progress to the Round of 16. Mexico beat Cameroon 1-0 in a game filled with questionable calls against Mexico. Then, Ochoa played the game of his life against Brazil to keep them off the board as the game ended in a scoreless draw. Finally, the offense showed up for Mexico against Croatia as they pounded home three goals in the final 18 minutes and won 3-1. In the Round of 16, Mexico faced the Netherlands in a game that had plenty of controversy. Mexico went up 1-0 shortly after half-time thanks to Giovani dos Santos. Ochoa played well, but eventually the Dutch tied the game at one. Deep in stoppage time, Arjen Robben was judged to have been fouled in the Mexican penalty box by Rafael Marquez. The controversy arose because it was inconclusive whether there was enough of a foul to award a penalty. Jan Klaas Huntelaar converted the penalty kick and Mexico was out. For Mexico, they need to get past the Round of 16, which is something they have not done since 1986.
7. Belgium (1st in Group H, Quarterfinals) – One of the hottest picks to make a deep run in the tournament did not disappoint. They did, however, wait until late in the game to win each time. They trailed Algeria 1-0 before two goals in the final 20 minutes gave them the 2-1 victory. Against Russia, they waited until the 88th minute to score and won 1-0. In the final game versus South Korea, Belgium scored in the 78th minute to get another 1-0 victory. That pattern did not stop in the Round of 16. They went to extra time where they got goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to hold on for a 2-1 victory over the United States. Their run ended in the Quarterfinals after giving up an early goal to Argentina. The Belgian future looks bright in football especially with the likes of Hazard, Lukaku, Mertens, Witsel, and Courtois still in their twenties.
6. Costa Rica (1st in Group D, Quarterfinals) – The Ticos are easily the biggest surprise of the tournament. In the Group of Champions, they ended up as the Champions of Group D. They stunned Uruguay and Italy AND booked their spot in the knockout stages by the end of their second game. They had a scoreless draw in the final game against England, but there was not much to play for at that point for either team. The improbable run was not done in the Round of 16. They took a 1-0 lead against Greece early in the 2nd half and then had a man sent off in the 66th minute. They gave up a last minute goal in stoppage time, but did not lose faith as they held in extra time to send the game into penalty kicks. Keylor Navas came up with a save and Costa Rica moved on to the Quarters for the first time. There, they faced the Netherlands where they ended up going to penalties again. Unfortunately, Costa Rica were stopped twice on penalties and lost to the Dutch. It was an historic run by Costa Rica one which should not and will not be forgotten soon. Look out CONCACAF, Costa Rica is here to stay for a while and Keylor Navas is one tough goalkeeper.
5. France (1st in Group E, Quarterfinals) – Given what happened in 2010, it was a safe bet that France would bounce back in 2014. France started the tournament quite well with 3-0 and 5-2 victories over Honduras and Switzerland, respectively. They ended group play with a scoreless draw versus Ecuador and finished with seven points. In the Round of 16, France drew Nigeria and it took them until well into the second half to score. A goal from Paul Pogba and an own goal from Joseph Yobo were the difference. In the Quarterfinals, France ran up against Germany. The French never seriously threatened the Germans after an early goal from Mats Hummels. Yes, France did get a wonderful draw to reach the Quarterfinals. However, as we saw four years ago in South Africa, sometimes a favorable draw is not enough. The team needs to be there as well and this French team looked much better this time around. Now, France needs to go out and recapture their glory with Euro 2016 on their home soil.
4. Colombia (1st in Group C, Quarterfinals) – Most of the world got an introduction to James Rodriguez, despite the fact he transferred to Monaco in 2013 for a fee of 45 million Euros. Colombia made group play seem easy with three wins. They started by easily defeating Greece 3-0, then held on to a 2-1 victory over Cote d’Ivoire, and finished off the group stage with a 4-1 demolition of Japan. In the Round of 16, Colombia faced Uruguay and James Rodriguez came up with two goals in the first 50 minutes. Uruguay had no response as Colombia moved on to the Quarterfinals for the first time in their history. The Quarterfinal matchup against Brazil was scrappy from the start and Colombia found themselves trailing 1-0 after seven minutes. They were down 2-0 until James Rodriguez converted a penalty, but it was not enough. Colombia made a great run and played cohesively as a team. It was a bit harsh they did not get to the semifinals, but that is the way soccer goes. James Rodriguez announced himself to the rest of the world as a star in the making.
3. Netherlands (1st in Group B, 3rd Place Finishers) – For as much as Louis Van Gaal dislikes the 3rd Place game, his team responded well even if it was against a poor Brazilian defense. They blew out Spain in the opening game 5-1 and then struggled with Australia a bit, but pulled out the 3-2 win. They ended with a 2-0 win over Chile to take all nine points in the group stage. In the Round of 16, the Dutch needed a controversial penalty to get by Mexico 2-1. The Dutch then took on Costa Rica, but were unable to beat Keylor Navas and needed penalties to advance. They faced Argentina in the Semifinals and once again needed penalties to decide the outcome. This time, however, it was the Dutch on the losing end as they had two shots saved by Sergio Romero. Netherlands came back in the 3rd place game and put another beat down on Brazil as they won easily, 3-0. It was another great tournament for Netherlands though they did not win that elusive World Cup title.
2. Argentina (1st in Group F, Runners Up) – It was a great a World Cup for Argentina, though they failed to win the coveted Trophy. They got through the Group games as expected with wins over Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iran. Messi was sensational in those games with four goals. In the Knockout Stages, Argentina’s defense really stepped up. They needed extra time to beat Switzerland 1-0, followed by another 1-0 victory against Belgium. In the Semifinals, they played a luck luster game against the Netherlands, but their defense held strong again and went to penalties. There, Sergio Romero came up with two saves as Argentina went to the World Cup Final after defeating the Dutch on penalties. In the final, Argentina lacked the needed touch in the final third and went scoreless again as they lost 1-0 in extra time. Argentina’s defense was great in the knockout stages, but Messi was shut down with no goals in the four games. Messi took the Argentines as far as they could, but the lack of help in the final game came back to haunt them. Still, finishing second to the Germans was impressive.
1. Germany (1st in Group G, Winners) – Arguably, they were the best team at the tournament. They thrashed Portugal 4-0 to start the tournament, struggled against Ghana a bit, but got a 2-2 draw, and then held off the United States for a 1-0 win. Germany struggled to beat a strong defensive Algeria team in Round of 16, but scored two extra time goals and won 2-1. They cruised against France and won 1-0 in the Quarterfinals. The Semifinals saw Germany destroy Brazil’s defense as they put down one of the greatest beat downs in World Cup history. Germany won 7-1, for the record. Finally, they played Argentina for the World Cup Title. Led by a great Jerome Boateng performance, Germany stifled Lionel Messi and got their fourth World Cup Title on a wonder goal from Mario Gotze. The scary part for Germany is the amount of youth in the squad. Thomas Muller is only 24 years of age, Mario Gotze is 22, Toni Kroos is 24, Boateng is 25, and Neuer is 28. Still, Julian Draxler is only 20, Andre Schurrle is 23, and Mesut Ozil is 25. The future is very bright for Germany.
That completes the ranking of all 32 teams at the 2014 World Cup. It was a great tournament overall, despite all the worries surrounding the event hosted by Brazil. The next World Cup will take place in 2018 and will be hosted by Russia. It may be four years away, but there are a multitude of Confederation tournaments until then. There will be the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, the 2015 African Cup of Nations, the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, two editions of the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, and last, but certainly not least, Euro 2016.