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World Cup: Ranking Round of 16 Finalist

The+final+bracket+for+the+Round+of+16+is+set+and+kicks+off+Saturday.+Photo+credit%3A+Christina+Animashaun%2C+Vox
The final bracket for the Round of 16 is set and kicks off Saturday. Photo credit: Christina Animashaun, Vox

The final bracket for the Round of 16 is set and kicks off Saturday. Photo credit: Christina Animashaun, Vox

The final bracket for the Round of 16 is set and kicks off Saturday. Photo credit: Christina Animashaun, Vox

No. 16

Japan

Japan enters the Round of 16 with nothing to lose. After defeating Colombia in its opening match the Japanese have already exceeded expectations.

Pitted up against Belgium in the first round of knockouts means we shouldn’t expect to see much of the Blue Samurai for the remainder of the tournament.

No. 15

Russia

Like Japan, the host nation is another squad that has bettered its predicted outcome.

Beating Saudi Arabia then Egypt, losing to Uruguay 3-0 showed Russia’s reality. Backed by its supporters has brought them this far but facing Spain next means farewell Russia.

No. 14

Denmark

In the final group stage match, Denmark’s effort to defend deep to secure round two qualification didn’t sit well with most people. Danish talisman Christian Eriksen, who’s so used to the ball at his feet, was forced to chase shadows in a more compact defensive role.

Coming up against Croatia Sunday, Eriksen told media the squad was preparing to open its style of play and be more expansive. With their lack of personnel though, that might be a bad idea against the ruthless Croatians.

No. 13

Sweden

The Swedes are heading to a knockout phase with plenty to feel positive about. A 3-0 romping of Mexico followed up a cruel last-minute loss to Germany and the win instilled loads of confidence.

The win also put them in first place of Group F which meant avoiding Brazil and what many suggest is the “easier” side of the bracket. Up next is a winnable match against Switzerland but their lack of idea in the frontline makes me feel the Swedes’ luck will be up soon.

No. 12

Switzerland

The Swiss come into the knockout rounds after grabbing second place in Group E. Their style of play has been marred by an average midfield and an attack that heavily depends on the creativity of Xherdan Shaqiri.

Like Sweden, Switzerland’s style banks on the reliance of avoiding penetration first then attacking when able. This is going to make for an enticing matchup between the two most defensive squads in the knockout rounds.

No. 11

Mexico

Mexico shocked the world in its inaugural match of the tournament. Their 1-0 victory over defending champions Germany was the start of something special for El Tri.

Following the win, the Mexicans also defeated South Korea before being dragged to reality by Sweden in a 3-0 loss. The loss to Sweden meant El Tri fell to second place in the group which meant a tough Round of 16 matchup against Brazil. It will be an open game between two teams that enjoy pace and short passes so don’t count out Mexico just yet.

No. 10

Colombia

A 2-1 loss to Japan in the first game got everyone to think about just how good (or bad) Colombia was. A bounce back 3-0 thumping of Poland was followed up by an adequate 1-0 victory over Senegal to put them atop Group H and quell any stress.

Things looked to brighten up yet talisman midfielder James Rodriguez fitness is in question for the remainder of the tournament which is why it’s difficult to place Los Cafeteros any higher in the order.

No. 9

Argentina

It’s been a hell of a roller coaster for the South American juggernauts this summer. Lionel Messi has looked a shadow of himself and the squad itself looks deadbeat.

A motivational victory over Nigeria in game three, though, may provide the boost necessary for La Albiceleste to reach full potential.

No. 8

England

The Three Lions have enjoyed a fairly relaxing group stage. Two wins out of two were followed by a 1-0 loss to Belgium that England manager Stuart Pearce made six changes to his lineup for.

Both teams were qualified and before the game began it seemed logical to lose and get second place to be fixed on the side of the bracket which, on paper, has an easier journey into the final. No excuses now as, with a win over Colombia, England may see themselves making a run.

No. 7

Croatia

Of the 16 teams on the list, Croatia is the lowest ranked team I believe has a serious chance to end lifting the trophy. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are the best center midfield pair in the tournament and Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic are offering offensively.

The Croatians first face Denmark then, with a win, would most likely come up against Spain, their biggest threat to making a final. With a bit of luck, don’t be surprised if they were their.

No. 6

Uruguay

Uruguay is the only team that has yet to concede a goal. Better yet they’re the only country that has a shutout streak in all of 2018. November 14, 2017 was the last time the South American’s have allowed a goal indicating scoring against them won’t be easy.

The Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez pairing are a promising duo that can score against anyone. The question for the first round of knockouts against Portugal will be if Cavani and Suarez can together outdo Cristiano Ronaldo.

No. 5

Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo can’t be guarded by just one player. At least that’s what Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay manager, said in his pre-match press conferences. His presence alone Saturday will put Tabarez’s side under fire and provide a genuine threat to a defense that has yet to concede a goal.

Winning the European Championships in 2016 was unexpected and going into Russia they were nothing more than a hot take, dark horse. In a one-game, winner-take-all it’s hard to not favorite Portugal when they have one of the best players alive in the squad.

No. 4

Brazil

A lot has been expect from Neymar Jr. in the Brazilian camp but the Paris Saint Germain forward isn’t having the most satisfying competition. Philippe Coutinho has emerged as a game-changing option which relieves Neymar of additional offensive duties.

Central defender, captain Thiago Silva’s leadership at the back serves as the right pedigree for the South Americans to take its sixth title. For the gamblers and bookie-reliers, betting lines going into the knockout stage have Brazil no. 1 option to win the whole thing with 7/2 odds.

No. 3

France

France is a heavyweight in the knockout stage which have yet to reveal full ability. The French haven’t been challenged in the tournament but Argentina, their Round of 16 opponents, are expected to serve as a difficult contest. It’s one of the best matches of the Round of 16 but France’s talent and sense of serenity appears reliable.

No. 2

Belgium

On paper, Belgium bolsters the best 23-man roster in the knockouts. Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Jan Vertonghen are just four of a starting eleven that’s fearsome.

Dries Mertens has scored one of the goals of the summer and center back Dedryck Boyata has emerged as the team’s general balance from the back line flanked by veterans Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.

No. 1

Spain

The 2010 World Champions have rightfully gone through to the knockout stages despite finding it difficult to beat Iran and draw Tunisia. Their display against Portugal felt more like a Spanish “tika-taka” style before switch to a more patient, pensive team against Iran and Tunisia.

Diego Costa has looked sharp up top and Isco’s connection with the attack has been superb. Veteran World Champion Andres Iniesta can still provide a spark as well, making it clear the Spaniards have the right amount of experience and youth.

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Ignacio Cervantes, Reporter
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World Cup: Ranking Round of 16 Finalist