Power Ranking of European Teams in 2014 World Cup
2014 World Cup: Power Ranking of European Teams
Football fans all across Europe aren’t going to like hearing this, but there are teams participating in the 2014 World Cup that are from places outside of Europe. That’s right, there really are. In fact, there are several teams that come from outside Europe that have a realistic chance of winning the entire tournament and being crowned World Champions. But for now, I’ll indulge the good people in all of the football-crazy nations of Europe, and only focus on the 13 European teams that will be making the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil this summer to fight for a chance to become World Champions.
After all, three of the last four World Cup champions have come from Europe, so in a way the Europeans have a right to think that the World Cup is all about them. That being said, European teams haven’t always done well when the tournament has been held outside of Europe, although Spain did win the last time around down in South Africa. But the challenge of going to the continent of South America and having to compete against a few South American nations with realistic aspirations of winning the tournament is a daunting challenge for them.
But for now, we’ll ignore all the countries outside of Europe; after all, there are 13 European teams in the World Cup, making up nearly half the field. All 13 feel good about their chances this summer, and here is how they rank compared to one another heading into the 2014 World Cup.
The Bosnians may very well be able to surprise people at the World Cup and advance out of the group stage, but they have no World Cup history and they don’t have a lot of experience playing top-flight teams or playing in major tournaments. Teams have to do something to prove that they deserve to move up in the power rankings, and with no World Cup matches on their resume Bosnia-Herzogovinia has to start at the bottom.
Greece has not performed well in their previous World Cup appearances, and even though they had an impressive qualifying campaign on paper, they didn’t exactly blow away inferior teams, often winning by a single goal. They aren’t an explosive offensive team, which means the only way they can win is by shutting out teams and hoping to find the back of the net at some point, and that method doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error, which is why it’s hard to imagine the Greeks making any noise in Brazil this summer.
This isn’t your older sibling’s Croatia team, as they have not done much on the international stage since finishing third in their World Cup debut back in 1998. This generation of Croatian players has some real talent and a chance to advance further than they have in their last two World Cup appearances when they went home after the group stage, but there is no guarantee of success for them, which is why they find themselves outside of Europe’s top 10.
Not only were they undeserving of being one of the eight seeded teams during the draw, but they aren’t even one of the top eight teams in Europe. Switzerland is organized in the back and strong defensively, but scoring goals can be a problem for them, and if that doesn’t change they’re going to have a hard time getting out of the group stage. Four years ago they opened the World Cup with a win over Spain and still didn’t make it out of the group stage, and that result doesn’t necessarily inspire a lot of confidence this time around.
A world championship in 1998 is far back in the rearview mirror and the recent history of Les Bleus at major tournaments is disappointing to say the least. The French still have some star power with players like Franck Ribery, but they barely qualified, and even if they’re considered by many to be the favorites of their group, they are far from being one of Europe’s elite and far from being considered one of the tournament’s favorites.
Despite being absent from the past two World Cups, the Russians had an impressive qualifying campaign by beating out Portugal to win their group, and they enter this summer’s tournament with a good collection of talent. On top of that, they have former English manager Fabio Capello calling the shots, and he should help make up for the lack of World Cup experience, making Russia a solid second-tier European team.
Even before their tough draw, there weren’t high expectations for the English after an unconvincing qualifying campaign that put a lot of distance between them and the top teams in Europe. They still have a nucleus that includes Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, and Frank Lampard to give the team some experience, but that doesn’t necessarily give them an intimidating roster heading into the World Cup.
Portugal doesn’t deserve to be 5th in the FIFA world rankings, as they’re not even 5th in Europe, but having Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo makes them a dangerous team. The Portuguese aren’t exactly a one-man team either, although it can be easy to think that with a player like Ronaldo on the field, but players like Joao Moutinho and Nani playing alongside Ronaldo will give Portugal a potent attack this summer that will give them a fair chance to advance out of a tough group.
Belgium is seen as a dark horse in this World Cup, and for good reason. They are as deep and as talented at just about every position as any of the other top European sides, and they’re coming off one of Europe’s most impressive qualifying campaigns. The only thing that separates Belgium from the European teams ahead of them is success at a World Cup, and there’s a good chance that success finally comes this summer.
The Italians really laid an egg in South Africa four years ago, but that was likely just a temporary set back for a historically brilliant soccer nation. The Azzurra are back with a much younger revamped roster, and despite not being a seeded team this time around, they are favored to win their group and advance deep into the knockout stage. Italy has a lot to prove after the last World Cup, but they should be able to bounce back, and in the power rankings they get the benefit of the doubt and a high ranking compared to the rest of Europe.
The Dutch were runners up four years ago, and they have kept on trucking since then, dominating their qualifying group and entering this summer’s World Cup with a lot of confidence, despite getting a tricky draw after being unfairly denied a seed during the draw. Holland knows how to control a match, and with Robin van Persie playing up top, and the pesky Arjen Robben also involved in the attack, the Dutch can be quite dangerous in the final third, and they’ll be quite dangerous in Brazil this summer, as one of the top European sides in the tournament.
The group of young stars led by Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil that helped the Germans finish third in 2010 are back and even better than they were four years ago. Germany has reached the semi-finals in each of the last three World Cups, and other than having a difficult group to traverse through in their first three matches, there’s nothing to suggest that the Germans can’t make it to at least that stage this time around, perhaps further.
The Spaniards won the last World Cup and they’ve won the last two European Championships, so until someone knocks them off in one of those events they’re going to be the top team in Europe. This generation of players may be getting a little long in the tooth, but on any given day they’re as talented and dangerous as anyone else, and it’ll take a great effort by somebody to knock them out of this summer’s World Cup, because until further notice they are still the reigning world champions.
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