Photo credit: Alexandre Meneghini / AP
1. Brazil — I didn’t think they’d be this good. The organization in the back is probably the most impressive trait displayed so far. Lucio is a rock in the back, and Gilberto Silva still has it. Counter-attacking has been clinical and the depth (even without Ronaldinho and Pato) is very strong.
2. Argentina — Despite having zero goals, I think Messi has been the star of the whole show. He’s had help too, as that offense is loaded. Defense continues to be a concern, as well as goalkeeping. Maradona’s goading of Germany is a perfect example of how he’s taken the pressure off his team.
3. Germany — The revelation of the tournament for me. I didn’t think the young kids (Muller, Ozil, Khedira) would be able to shine like this. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Klose and Podolski are saving their best for the biggest stage. Brutal draw in the quarterfinals, though, versus Argentina.
4. Netherlands — The best is still yet to come from this side I feel. Sneijder has probably been the best midfielder in South Africa so far, and the addition of a healthy Robben in the lineup is huge. Not sure if they — especially the defense — have been tested yet. Beating Brazil would be a bit of a shock.
5. Spain — Like the Sounders FC has learned this season, possession means little without finishing. So while La Furia Roja has again proved to be the best passing team in the field, the chances and goals haven’t been there. Without David Villa, they’d be in serious trouble, especially as Torres continues to struggle.
6. Uruguay — Another strong showing from a South American team. Allowing just one goal in four games is incredibly impressive. And the Diego Forlan-Luis Suarez combination up top might be the best forward combo I’ve seen in the World Cup. Good draw against Ghana can help.
7. Ghana — Speaking of which, I think Asamoah Gyan has quietly had a phenomenal tournament leading his team this far. The offense has plenty of weapons and playmakers, but the defense continues to be a weakness. It’s got to be nice to have the host country and continent on your side as well.
8. Paraguay — My weakest team left, but certainly deserving of being in the final eight. That scoreless draw with Japan probably lost them some fans, but until then they had played some very entertaining soccer. I expect them to be competitive against Spain on Saturday.