With the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup, we rank all 32 teams with 17-32 in this installment as Egypt hit rock bottom but Morocco are surprise high movers.
Fortune favours the brave and perhaps had Aliou Cisse’s side followed that mantra they would not have needed to rely on the agony of exiting on yellow cards.
A win over Poland was deserved but they lacked discipline beyond bookings to twice surrender an advantage against Japan and then regrettably retreated in the decider with Colombia. They are at the forefront of African football so they were missed in the knockouts.
Morocco were the dark horse tip to emerge from a group of sharks but it was Iran who actually came closest with four points.
Carlos Queiroz sent out of his side to strangle rather than entertain. Their discipline delivered against the Atlas Lions and they battled well against Spain before almost embarrassing Portugal. Sardar Azmoun didn’t score but at 23 impressed with his aerial prowess and protection of the ball as the loneliest frontman in Russia.
Bold to have Morocco so high on the list considering they were bottom of Group B with a point, but context is everything.
Herve Renard’s limited tactics infuriated long before the own goal against Iran yet they battered Portugal. A genuine No9 married to their enterprise would have seen them challenge and the 2-2 draw with Spain – owed only to late VAR controversy – showed what this talented crop is capable of.
Peru didn’t capture a knockout spot but they did conquer our hearts.
Their fervent fans brought plenty of personality to Russia and it was replicated on the pitch through their attacking endeavour. A missed penalty in the 1-0 loss to Denmark was ruinous and by the time they found a finish to their flow against Australia, the damage was done.
The swirling hype created by their vibrant kits was immediately drained away by the colourless opening defeat to Croatia.
However, a shift from 4-2-3-1 into a 3-5-2 for the second half of the Iceland clash saw them burst into life with Ahmed Musa a lethal weapon on the counter. They needed to draw with Argentina but crumbled. However, this is a young exuberant side, one for the future rather than the present.
Few teams frustrated like Serbia. The man mountain Sergej Milinkovic-Savic arrived with a big reputation but failed to build on his eye-catching display against Costa Rica before missed chances cost them dearly against Switzerland.
Brazil caught fire as they cooled off in the final fixture but had they not collapsed against the Swiss in the second game, they’d have gone through.
23) South Korea
A tough group so expectations were understandably kept to a minimum. But while they were impotent against Mexico and Sweden, struggling to create the same attacking atmosphere Son Heung-min enjoys at Spurs, against Germany they got it together in a big way for the shock of the tournament.
Goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo is an emerging star, too.
Iceland were far from the limited side many predicted and while their tower of strength was predictably at the back, they meshed their steel with a cutting counter-attack style.
The high point, of course, was drawing with Argentina. Hannes Thor Halldorsson’s save to deny Lionel Messi will live long in the memory but they could have harvested more from this tournament were it not the second-half capitulation against Nigeria.
The Germany blueprint may not need ripping but it is certainly back to the drawing board after the holders finished bottom of Group F.
Indeed, they unravelled spectacularly against Mexico, were suffocated by Sweden before South Korea embarrassed them. Joachim Low made tactical blunders so their ignominious exit was uncharacteristic rather than systemic. They’ll be back but their dire defence will take some forgetting.
Robert Lewandowski evaporated defenders in qualification and for Bayern Munich so it was a shock to see him disappear in Russia.
Yet blame is apportioned to Adam Nawalk because given the talent at his disposal it was scandalous that they lacked any coherent plan other than to lump hopeless balls from the back.
27) Saudi Arabia
The lowest ranked side in the tournament were set to become the World Cup’s worst ever team after being hammered by the hosts to open the competition.
But they gave a good account of themselves against Uruguay and then grabbed a memorable win over Egypt to ensure a much more rosier outlook for the Green Falcons.
Unlucky against the Three Lions with Harry Kane pouncing to secure three points, a draw would have changed the complexion of Group G entirely.
As it was, though, Nabil Maaloul’s anaemic attack was always going to struggle and alongside a porous defence, they were indebted to Panama’s ineptitude for their three points.
29) Costa Rica
Oscar Ramirez opted for cold caution and although they were a little unlucky against Brazil with that style, ultimately they heated up when on the attack, as they did against Switzerland when it was far too late after the group opener defeat to Serbia proved a high-priced result.
The managerial merry-go-round was never going to be conducive of a good tournament but Australian fans would have expected more than the point garnered against Denmark.
Bert van Marwijk’s pragmatic approach and bizarre substitutions blunted any promise and it was shame we didn’t see more from teenage talent Daniel Arzani.
Purely because the expectations were so low anyway, their credible performance in defeat to Tunisia lifts from the bottom. They were shapeless and shocking against Belgium and England but in scoring against the latter and in their final game, they deserve some praise to avoid being this tournament’s worst team.
If the size of support equated to shape of success then Egypt would be inside the top 10.
However, Hector Cuper’s counter-attacking style lost its focal point with Mohamed Salah struggling to shoulder the burden through injury and their tragic campaign ended with appropriate last-minute disaster against Saudi Arabia.
Much more was hoped for from the Pharaohs, even with their Egyptian King struggling and so having scored the same goals with just a point more than Panama, they sit bottom.
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