The 2018 World Cup field is set after Peru became the last team to qualify with its 2-0 victory over New Zealand intercontinental playoff. Now, with just a month away from the World Cup starting, its time to make our predictions.
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World Cup Power Rankings
The World Cup Power Rankings are filled with the usual suspects along with a few surprises. Ironically, the biggest shockers may have happened before the first kick-off with both Team USA and Italy failing to qualify.
This has been the best team in World Cup qualifying and just dominated the most challenging region. With Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and veterans at the back, Brazil is back and looking as strong as it's been in quite a while. Don't be shocked if the South Americans are the last team standing next summer.
They are the reigning champs. Loaded with talent but maybe not as good as the 2014 World Cup team, they still have what it takes to win the cup, and this could be the coming out party for striker Timo Werner. Germany is Germany. They've made the quarterfinals every year since the 1982 World Cup, making at least the semis in the last four, finishing second in 2002, third in 2006 and 2010 and winning the 2014 edition.
Nothing will compare to the magic of the 1998 team, but this French team is up there with the best in the world and is absolutely stacked in attack. With Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette and more, scoring goals shouldn't be a problem. If the defense can find consistency and a centerback pairing that can show unity, watch out.
Spain is back after that horrific display in Brazil, but is there enough talent up top? Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) and Rodrigo (Valencia) have starred for their clubs and have made big impacts with the national team as of late, giving Julen Lopetegui some flexibility. It's always all about the midfield in Spain, and Isco's emergence at Real Madrid has been a great sign.
Don't tell me they should be higher. Sure, this team won Euro 2016, but they were only in the knockout stage due to that ridiculous cup expansion that resulted in some third-place teams advancing. With Cristiano Ronaldo you always have a chance, but this team is no "favorite" to win. Pepe is getting up there and the central defense has some questions, so there probably isn't enough there to win it.
The second best team in South America during World Cup qualifying, when you have Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in attack and a world class defender like Diego Godin at the back, you will always have a chance to contend. If the youth can mesh well with the vets, as manager Oscar Tabarez is attempting to do, there is no reason why Uruguay can't make a run at this thing.
Here's a GIF of the national team.
Yeah, it's Lionel Messi and pretty much everybody else. Jorge Sampaoli has a lot to figure out before this team can actually contend. As much talent as any other country, there are problems in the midfield and concerns at the back. If Sampaoli can get the defense figured out, Argentina can win it. Until then, they are just a second-level contender but don't be shocked if they make a run to the final and win it.
Roberto Martinez has his work cut out for him. There is no shortage of amazing players on this team, but getting them on the same page is another story. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard will be the engines in the final third, and this is a darkhorse pick to win it all. Which means they won't get to the semis.
It's England, which means disappointment is expected. While the English have seemingly won every tournament this year at the youth level, the national team is far from super. There are questions at goalkeeper, but Harry Kane up top means this team can make a run. With Dele Alli in the middle, this team just needs to get the most out of Raheem Sterling to have enough in the final third to make a run.
It's James Rodriguez's team, and this is a squad with a fantastic coach is Jose Pekerman, who got them to the quarterfinals at the last World Cup. Radamel Falcao is back in fine form, Juan Cuadrado continues to shine at Juventus and the defense has young, hungry talent in the likes of Yerry Mina, Davinson Sanchez and Eder Balanta. Los Cafeteros shouldn't have trouble getting out of their group, as long as it isn't the group of death.
This is where people start seeing just how good Hirving Lozano is. He won't be at PSV long, especially with a great showing here. Mexico is the top team in CONCACAF and should get to the knockout stage. But can these team continue to get away playing some players who are past their prime?
Russia isn't close to having the talent of a semifinal team, but at home, the hosts are always dangerous. Nobody thought South Korea would make the semis in 2002. While Russia is more likely to go out in the group stage than make, say, the quarterfinals, never underestimate the power of being the host.
Croatia has one of the world's best players in Luka Modric, but this isn't the '98 Croatia that was absolutely tremendous, with guys like Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Jami and others. Good enough to get to quarters but probably won't.
Robert Lewandowski and little else. A quality European team that at the end of the day doesn't have the talent to contend for much.
Barely got to the World Cup, needing to beat Northern Ireland in a playoff. Some fine players here in Ricardo Rodriguez and Breel Embolo, but the Swiss top out at getting through the group stage.
16. Costa Rica
Made the quarterfinals at the last World Cup, so why not again? Keylor Navas in goal and Bryan Ruiz creating in the final third, Los Ticos are always dangerous and will be one of the more smaller nations creating the most buzz entering the cup.
Kind of like Poland in the sense that there is one superstar (Christian Eriksen), but a lot left to be desired. Kasper Schmeichel in goal will keep them in matches, but Eriksen can't do it all.
A lot of Americans will be cheering for Iceland after their amazing performance at Euro 2016 and the U.S. men's national team's failure to qualify (sorry for the reminder). This team isn't super skilled by any stretch of the imagination, but heart, passion and determination can take you far, as we've seen. Don't be surprised to see Iceland in the knockout stage.
Back in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, I don't think Peruvians will be all to upset to see this team out in the group stage, considering expectations. Now, it can certainly make it out, but they are just happy to be back, something many Peruvians probably thought they would never see again. Enjoy it, Peru. You deserve it.
Tons of momentum after getting past Italy in the playoff, but this team really lacks anything of quality in attack. Now if Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes out of international retirement, watch out...
21. South Korea
Son Heung-Min is a fine attacking player and Ki Sung-yeung holds down the midfield well. Another team that plays together and with tons of heart, they can move on. Out in the group stage is most likely scenario though.
Winners fo the 2013 African Cup of Nations, this is not the Super Eagles of old. However, Nigeria is still very dangerous. Probably the African team contenders will want to avoid, Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) and Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City) are both just 21 and rising stars and they always have speed. John Obi Mikel is somehow only 30 years old, and he'll captain this team and be the heart of the midfield. Nigeria has experience and talent to make a run here.
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A group that works well together but isn't tested much in the Asian region. Shows the ability to control the ball well, but will have loads of trouble against teams that also like to dominate possession. A chance to get through, but that's about it.
Always a menace to deal with on the pitch, the Serbians give it their all. But they are led by Branislav Ivanovic, who is way past his prime and has lost more than a step at the back. Not enough good players to do much of anything in this cup.
Mohamed Salah and 10 more. The Liverpool man is going to have to put the ball away plenty for the Pharaohs to even have a chance of advancing.
Winners of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, this is a team with some guys past their prime, Australia is just happy to be there. Four straight World Cups is a tremendous accomplishment, but anything more than getting out of the group, which is a stretch, isn't likely.
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Defender Kalidou Koulibaly will be a busy man. If he can play out of his mind and make up for the other defensive shortcomings, Senegal can move on if in a manageable group.
Getting a rude welcome to the World Cup, blown out in every match
Why ranked here: Kind of like Peru, they are just happy to be there. But it is their first time at the World Cup and their pressure and physicality can be disruptive for some teams. If they can win a game, then it has been a good tournament.
Not a whole lot to be excited about here. Lots of guys who don't have a ton of experience playing again top competition. One win would be a good tournament.
Iran has made back-to-back World Cups for the first time ever. Only once, out of 12 matches, have they ever recorded a victory, against the U.S. in 1998. About as good a chance of advancing as Aston Villa winning the Premier League (Spoiler - Aston Villa is currently in the Championship, not the Premier League. Therefore, they have no chance. Get it?)
A slightly better version of Saudi Arabia. Just not good. No way this team moves on.
32. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia made every World Cup from 1994 to 2006, and in the last three of those, the team never finished higher than 28th. This team has a very, very small chance of moving on.