The 2022 Qatar World Cup is in full swing and we have now had the opportunity to see every one of the 32 teams in the tournament in action.
Some teams – looking at England (surprisingly!) and Spain here – have been delightful to watch. Some teams – including Qatar themselves – have looked absolutely dreadful. While you can’t make too many conclusions from the first set of fixtures, the situation for traditional powerhouses such as Argentina and Germany does look pretty perilous.
With all that in mind, let’s get 90min’s World Cup power rankings underway, listing the 10 best teams in the competition at this precise moment in time before we then update as the tournament progresses.
This may well be Saudi Arabia’s only appearance in the power rankings during the World Cup, but we do have to give them credit for a stunning turnaround win against one of the pre-tournament favourites Argentina. That being said, it is still Saudi Arabia, and difficult games against Mexico and Poland await.
Let’s be clear: Belgium were extremely fortunate to come away with three points in their opening fixture against Canada. In fact, they were played off the park by John Herdman’s team, who were making their first World Cup appearance in 36 years. Age appears to be catching up with Roberto Martinez’s squad and Kevin De Bruyne aside, they don’t look like the force they once were.
Switzerland edged a tight encounter with Cameroon 1-0, with Cameroonian-born Breel Embolo getting on the scoresheet. Murat Yakin’s side weren’t at their best but did improve in the second half to earn a vital win.
With Serbia and Brazil still to play, advancing from Group G won’t be easy but Switzerland appear to have enough quality across the pitch to get the job done. Goalkeeper Yann Sommer is one of the best (and most underrated) in Europe and will be key to their chances of a deep run in the tournament.
Aside from Saudi Arabia, Japan caused the upset of the week with their spirited comeback win against Germany. Second-half goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano secured the shock victory and the Blue Samurai impressed with their work rate, discipline and tactical cohesion. They also have serious quality on the counter-attack as long as they keep Daizen Maeda out of the starting line-up.
This is a team to be wary of as the World Cup progresses. They also have the best kit, so bonus points for that.
Portugal scraped a nervy 3-2 win against Ghana in their opening game and the mood could have been very different had Inaki Williams not slipped after picking Diogo Costa’s pockets in the dying moments of the match.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty to open the scoring was beyond generous, but Portugal showed their quality with two fine goals from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao on the break. Fernando Santos has a serious array of attacking talent in his squad, but whether he will fully utilise it remains to be seen.
The Netherlands left it late against the reigning African champions but earned their three points through goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen. Gakpo looks a star and Louis Van Gaal’s back three of Nathan Ake, Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt is, on paper, one of the strongest in the World Cup.
Van Gaal’s decision to give Andries Noppert his international debut was a puzzling one but the Heerenveen goalkeeper stepped up to the occasion. With Ecuador and Qatar coming up, the Netherlands should now qualify with ease.
Sure, it was Costa Rica, but Spain were the proverbial ‘different gravy’ during their 7-0 win. Luis Enrique made some interesting calls in his starting line-up, with Marco Asensio playing as a false nine and Rodri at centre-back, but both choices were almost immediately vindicated.
Gary Neville said before the game that the Spain team didn’t have goals in it. Dani Olmo, Asensio, Ferran Torres, Gavi and then Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata off the bench had something to say about that. We should get a clearer idea of just how strong Spain are after their mouth-watering clash with Germany on Sunday.
England were unfortunate not to keep a clean sheet in their 6-2 drubbing of Iran, with only a Mehdi Taremi banger and woeful penalty decision going against them. Going forward, they were sublime. The entire team played with more creativity and freedom in a 4-2-3-1 formation, a system Gareth Southgate must now stick with moving forward. Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham and Raheem Sterling were all outstanding, as were full-backs Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier.
Southgate also has a wealth of talent to turn to off the bench. Tonight’s game with the USA will be no cakewalk but it’s hard to see how they can stop England if they match the level of performance they showed against Iran.
The reigning champions went behind against Australia but came roaring back to win 4-1 – and in convincing fashion. Olivier Giroud remains the perfect foil for Kylian Mbappe, who is more than capable of ripping opposing defences to shreds on his own. Shout out to Aurelien Tchouameni, too, who played with real authority in the middle of the park.
Despite the injuries to Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku and then Lucas Hernandez (which may well prove a blessing in disguise), Didier Deschamps has a squad very capable of defending their crown. Denmark – who have quite the knack of beating the French recently – are up next and should prove more testing examination their World Cup credentials.
Of the favourites, Brazil had the most difficult opening fixture as they went up against those perennial dark horses Serbia.
Serbia held their own in the first half before succumbing to two goals from Richarlison, the second an absolutely beautiful bit of improvisation. With an experienced rearguard, including the eternally savvy Casemiro mopping up in front of the back four, and a devastating attack that has pace and skill in abundance, Brazil look far and away the most balanced team in the tournament.
They’re favourites for a reason and with Argentina spluttering out of the blocks, will now only be more confident of claiming the trophy on December 18.