World Cup Power Rankings: Where do England sit compared with Brazil, France and Lionel Messi's Argentina
England’s quarter-final with France on Saturday evening is the standout game, but there are also three more mouthwatering ties, including Brazil v Croatia, Argentina v Netherlands and Portugal v Morocco.
Here, we rank the teams remaining based on what we have seen so far.
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Hard not to have the boys from Brazil as the top dogs. During the first half of their round-of-16 evisceration of South Korea, the football was so sublime it was just like watching Barnsley, as they say on the terraces of Oakwell.
Richarlison can barely get start for Tottenham, but Brazil’s No 9 has proven most effective and scored a couple of wonderful goals as well. Neymar is not fully fit but still the centre of attention, while Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior offer plenty of menace.
Thiago Silva provides the steel and experience at the back, and Liverpool’s Alisson is arguably the best goalkeeper Brazil have ever gone into a tournament with.
Plus they have the ill health of the great Pele providing them with spiritual guidance.
I’ve done plenty of purring over Kylian Mbappe this tournament, and justifiably so, he’s the best player in the world in the form of his life.
How do England stop him? Kyle Walker is likely to be deployed to do that on Saturday night as Gareth Southgate tries to match pace with pace.
But it’s not just Mbappe, Olivier Giroud is scoring the goals that were conspicuous by their absence when France won the World Cup in Russia four years ago, and Antoine Griezmann has an absolute wand of a left foot and can put the ball anywhere he wants.
If they have a weakness it’s in defence. I’ve not seen a defender as dominant as Samuel Umtiti was four years ago and Hugo Lloris always has an error in him.
Having said all that, France are still favourites to beat England because of their pedigree at the business end of World Cups, and they have Mbappe.
But they’ll be foolish to under-estimate England who are the joint top scorers in the tournament with 12 goals and carry a multitude of threats in Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and as he showed against Senegal, even Jordan Henderson.
All that and I’ve not even mentioned Jude Bellingham, England’s wunderkind in midfield who is arguably the young player of the tournament so far.
Question marks remain over the defence – have they been properly tested yet? But Jordan Pickford looks in mean form behind them.
In the first of the round-of-16 games at the weekend they basically said to the United States, go on then, come at us with everything you’ve got, and then proceeded to pick them off at will.
Three more goals, Cody Gakpo looking sharp up top, strong in defence, the Netherlands look as complete a ‘team’ as any at this tournament, which for me, gives them the edge in their tantalising quarter-final with Argentina on Friday night.
Oh, and they also have master tactician Louis van Gaal in the dugout.
Lionel Messi was superb on Saturday night against Australia. He scored one goal (the way he controlled the cleared corner to keep the momentum alive in the run up to the goal did not get the credit it deserved) and threatened Australia with every touch of the ball.
He closed them down when he needed to, he strolled around the pitch with his hangdog expression when the mood caught him, but he was mesmerising. What a player. Where would Argentina be without him?
Probably eighth in these power rankings, or already on their way home to Buenos Aires.
And therein lies the crux, Messi’s supporting cast is just not up to scratch. Sadly for one of the more uplifting narratives of this World Cup, if Messi is to finish his glorious career on a high he will have to do it on his own.
Talking of the best in the world, Portugal no longer need Cristiano Ronaldo, or at least they didn’t in their 6-1 destruction of Switzerland in their first knockout game.
It was a brave move by Fernando Santos, and if Ronaldo can get over it and not let his ego get in the way, then what an impact substitute to call on in the latter stages of a tournament he could become.
It also helps that the man who replaced Ronaldo, Goncalo Ramos, scored the first hat-trick of the tournament. Pepe looks fearsome at the back as well.
All in all, Portugal look sneaky good.
Only the third African nation to make a quarter-final after Cameroon in 1990 and Ghana 12 years ago, the Atlas Lions have been a breath of fresh air in Qatar.
Their fans have been a constant joy and the quality of play, the bravery they have shown in dispatching Belgium, Canada and Spain on penalties, has been impressive.
Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech is the standout name but it is their defence that is their strength – Morocco have conceded only once in the tournament.
Bottom of the pile, which they might well have been were these rankings around four years ago in Russia, and yet they made it all the way to the final.
But Croatia look an aging squad. Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic (is there a better header of a ball than Perisic?) are still capable of moments of magic, but Croatia can’t keep relying on winning penalty shootouts as they did twice in Russia, and have done already once out in Qatar.
Have we mentioned that they face Brazil in the quarter-finals?