The second round of fixtures at the 2022 World Cup is complete. Three teams have progressed to the next round one game early while two are eliminated with a game to spare. Here are the power rankings after 32 games:
10 | Croatia (previous ranking: NA) – After a disappointing showing against Morocco in the first match, the Croatians sprung to life in Doha. Despite going down 1-0 to Canada, Zlatko Dalic’s men turned things around in impressive fashion, hitting back with four goals. They now sit on top of their group on goal difference, with a point on Thursday being enough to send the 2018 finalists through. Another performance like the one shown against Canada will surely see Croatia move on.
9 | Belgium (previous ranking: 8th) – Roberto Martinez’s side finds themselves in a precarious position. They once again failed to create sufficient chances against Morocco. This time they were punished. A pair of second-half goals saw Morocco earn an impressive 2-0 win over the Red Devils. Belgium are now third in Group F, and will need a win on Thursday in order to qualify. Their Croatian opponents in Al Rayyan have less pressure but can the Red Devils live up to their potential?
8 | Germany (previous rank: 9th) – Niclas Füllkrug came off the bench to give Germany a point against Spain in Group E. It was imperative that Hansi Flick’s side not lose the game, although a draw was also not the most ideal result for the four-time winners. They are now last in the group and need to beat Costa Rica and hope Spain get a result against Japan. The Germans can go through with a win plus a Japanese draw, so long as Germany end up with a superior goal difference.
7 | Netherlands (previous rank: 6th) – In an average performance from the Dutch against Ecuador, Cody Gakpo put De Oranje in front after five minutes, but they created next to nothing after that. In the end, the Netherlands had to settle for a point as Enner Valencia equalized in the second half. Louis van Gaal’s men are still in good shape to successfully negotiate the group, however as they take on the already-eliminated hosts Qatar on Tuesday, needing just a point. They will also be through if Senegal lose to Ecuador. Regardless, better performances will be needed to stand a real chance of going all the way.
6 | Portugal (previous rank: 7th) – Portugal managed to defeat Uruguay courtesy of a Bruno Fernandes brace, qualifying from the group stage with one round remaining. Fernando Santos’ team have not been fantastic, but their efficiency has done the trick before they face South Korea on the final day of group play on Friday. A point will see them win the group but they will need to step it up against higher-level opposition.
5 | England (previous rank: 4th) – England played out a 0-0 draw against the United States, struggling to provide meaningful attacking opportunities, with the CONCACAF representatives that had the better chances in the contest. The good news for the Three Lions is that they are still in excellent shape to progress. A draw against Wales will be enough to see them through but the pressure is on for Gareth Southgate’s side, who will have to show up against their fellow Brits and tougher teams down the road.
4 | Argentina (previous rank: 5th) – Argentina needed a better showing against Mexico and, in the last half an hour they got exactly that from their main man, Lionel Messi who struck the opener and set up Enzo Fernández’s second to get past a stubborn Mexico. Lionel Scaloni’s team are now second in Group C heading into the final day of action but section pacesetters Poland are next for Argentina, who will move on with a win or if both games are drawn. The second half of the Mexico game shows the Copa America holders’ true potential, and they will need more of that to go deep in the tournament.
3 | Spain (previous rank: 3rd) – No change in ranking for Spain as they were pegged back by Füllkrug in their clash with Germany. Alvaro Morata put La Roja in front, but they could not hold on and had to settle for a draw. Luis Enrique’s squad will now very likely make the knockout rounds as only a defeat to Japan plus a Costa Rica win over Germany will knock them out. Seeing that it is highly unlikely to happen, look out for the Spaniards, who once again could make a deep run.
2 | France (previous rank: 2nd) – Les Bleus had an incredibly difficult task as they faced a Danish side who have beaten them twice this year already. In the end, Kylian Mbappé was the difference-maker as the PSG man got both goals in a 2-1 win – a game that was always going to be their biggest challenge in Group D. France are one of four teams to have scored multiple goals in both group games and top spot is almost a certainty. The defending champions as a force to be reckoned with once more.
1 | Brazil (previous rank: 1st) – A deflected Casemiro shot seven minutes from time separated the Seleção and Switzerland as the record champions won their second game in as many outings. It was not their best display by any stretch of the imagination but they managed to get the job done, making the round of 16 with a game to spare. The top spot is very likely going to be theirs, as they only need a point against Cameroon to be sure.
David Parkes | GWFN