World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the 32 look with two months to go | World Cup 2022

World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the 32 look with two months to go | World Cup 2022


1) Brazil (up 1)

It is three years since Brazil lost to anybody other than Argentina, a forward line of Neymar, Richarlison, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha potent enough that Gabriel Jesus was left out of the recent friendly wins over Ghana and Tunisia. One defeat in 29 is an exceptional record; the only doubt is that they haven’t played a European team since losing to Belgium at the last World Cup. JW

2) Argentina (down 1)

The retirement of the majority of the fleet of outstanding forwards has cleared the picture for Argentina. Lionel Scaloni’s side may not be as glitzy as most recent iterations, but this Argentina side are harmonious and coherent and get the best out of Lionel Messi. They’ve gone 35 unbeaten and beat Italy in the Copa Finalissima in June – but the only other European side they have played since October 2019 is Estonia. JW

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3) Spain (-)

Luis Enrique announcing his final pre-World Cup squad in a video of him cycling in homage to the Vuelta a España did not quite have the positive effect he might have hoped as La Roja slumped to their first home defeat in almost four years against Switzerland. But despite the Spain manager saying that Portugal have a better chance of success in Qatar it was his side who claimed top spot in their Nations League group after Álvaro Morata’s late winner in Braga. EA

Álvaro Morata celebrates with Nico Williams after scoring the winner against Portugal in Braga. Photograph: Hugo Delgado/EPA

4) Netherlands (-)

4 Netherlands ▶

Could this be Louis van Gaal’s grand finale? None of the goalkeeping options inspire confidence, but the 71-year-old coach turned around a qualifying campaign that had begun badly and has put together a balanced squad playing vibrant football. Perhaps they are slightly overreliant on the goals of Memphis Depay, but there is a sense of purpose and organisation about this squad that recalls 2014. JW

5) Germany (-)

Germany have the potential to win in Qatar but, like many of their traditional rivals, must address glaring flaws. Hungary exposed them with a supremely executed win in Leipzig, Hansi Flick’s first defeat in charge, and although they were largely controlled against England the way they buckled amid a 15-minute flurry will breed concern. They play in Flick’s attractive style but still lack killer instinct. NA

6) Denmark (up 1)

If Denmark were spooked by a narrow setback in Croatia last week, they did not show it. Three days later they toppled France with an outstanding performance and they are playing with the tempo that won so many admirers at Euro 2020. It helps, too, that Christian Eriksen has returned in such imperious form: he scored a stunning goal in Zagreb and then outclassed his French counterparts. A challenge for honours looks realistic. NA

7) France (down 1)

No nation has such a depth of talent as France, but none of the other favourites has such an array of players embroiled in various off-field distractions while there is real ill-feeling between the families of certain players. Add a provocative coach in Didier Deschamps who favours attritional football that rarely seems to get the best out of his side and the possibility of implosion is significant. JW

Kylian Mbappé scores against Austria at the Stade de France in France’s 2-0 win last week.
Kylian Mbappé scores against Austria at the Stade de France in France’s 2-0 win last week. Photograph: Aurélien Meunier/Getty Images

8) Croatia (up 5)

Any suggestion Croatia are a fading force has been dispelled by the fact they deservedly topped a Nations League group featuring Denmark and France. Luka Modric was irresistible in last Thursday’s 2-1 win over Denmark and proceeded to score in a convincing victory against Austria. The old guard appear to have one last push in them and it could propel the team a long way in Qatar. NA

9) England (up 1)

Semi-finalists at the World Cup and finalists at the Euros, England should go to Qatar with optimism, but they’ve won none of their past six games, a number of key players are injured or out of form and patience with Gareth Southgate seems to be running out. Twenty good minutes against Germany at least lifted the mood a little, but the Harry Maguire issue looms large. JW

Harry Maguire in an England wall against Germany.
Harry Maguire in an England wall against Germany. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

10) Serbia (up 5)

Whisper it, but Serbia’s optimism appears justified. They are in outstanding form, this month’s resounding wins over Sweden and Norway suggesting Dragan Stojkovic has nurtured a maturity and balance to complement their undoubted flair. Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic were on target in Oslo, and the former scored a hat-trick against Sweden. A tough group in Qatar should hold few fears. NA

11) Switzerland (up 3)

The favourites should all be wary of Switzerland, who backed up their June win over Portugal by triumphing in Spain with a tactically impressive display. They subsequently overcame the Czech Republic – albeit aided by Yann Sommer’s penalty save from Tomas Soucek – and an experienced side, buoyed by the goals of Breel Embolo, looks well set to trouble the later stages. NA

12) Belgium (down 4)

Kevin De Bruyne shrugged off his self-confessed boredom at playing Wales to mastermind a victory secured through a dominant first-half showing last Thursday, but the way they ultimately squeaked home showed that defensive doubts remain. A narrow defeat by the Netherlands was well contested and salvaged some pride after June’s thrashing but there is a sense that the golden generation’s ship has sailed. NA

Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne takes on the Wales defence.
Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne takes on the Wales defence. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

13) Uruguay (down 1)

A qualification campaign that was running out of steam was salvaged when the difficult decision was taken last year to replace Óscar Tabárez after 15 years in charge. Diego Alonso saw them to Qatar with four straight wins but they’re struggling to find the right balance: one forward leaves them short of firepower (and Darwin Núñez is an implausible wide man) but two renders them open through midfield. JW

14) Portugal (down 5)

A disappointing performance against Spain after the 4-0 thumping of the Czech Republic will have dampened spirits somewhat in Portugal but they remain among the favourites. Their veteran manager, Fernando Santos, had to apologise to Tiago Djaló after the first match when he admitted forgetting the Lille defender was among his substitutes and was criticised by some supporters. EA

15) Senegal (down 4)

Aliou Cissé’s side will arrive in Qatar strongly fancied to follow up their first Africa Cup of Nations triumph with a strong showing under the experienced manager. But despite a comfortable win over Bolivia in France, Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Iran showed there are still concerns over the team’s ability to score enough goals to carry them deep into the tournament. EA

Senegal celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in February.
Senegal celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations in February. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

16) Poland (up 2)

Poland will always struggle to escape the accusation that they are Robert Lewandowski plus 10 others, but they really should be given the presence in the squad of Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zielinski, as well as an array of fine goalkeepers. Czeslaw Michniewicz replaced Paulo Sousa as coach in January and Nations League form under him has been patchy, the only wins coming against Wales. JW

17) Canada (down 1)

After beating Qatar last Friday, Canada’s 2-0 defeat by Uruguay in Bratislava on Tuesday showed they can compete with some of the best sides. Their manager, John Herdman, admitted that his players had been waiting for an opportunity to face sides from outside North and Central America as they prepare for the World Cup and they will be hoping for another test in their final warmup against Japan. EA

18) Wales (down 1)

After the high of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1958, it has been a testing few days for Wales as defeats by Belgium and Poland meant Robert Page’s team were relegated from their Nations League group with one point from six matches. Of course all that will mean nothing if they can progress from Group B into the knockout stages in Qatar. EA

Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring the goal against Ukraine that took Wales to the World Cup.
Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring the goal against Ukraine that took Wales to the World Cup. Photograph: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans/Shutterstock

19) Morocco (up 2)

After the sacking of Vahid Halilhodzic in August – the second time the veteran manager has been sacked after qualifying for the World Cup – there is a new optimism among Atlas Lions supporters. The recalled Hakim Ziyech starred in last Friday’s 2-0 win over Chile in front of 25,000 largely expat Moroccan fans at Espanyol’s ground before Walid Regragui’s side drew 0-0 with Paraguay. EA

20) Japan (up 5)

Solid performances in the 2-0 win against USA and a 0-0 draw with Ecuador will have given Hajime Moriyasu’s side extra confidence before a final warmup match against Canada in Dubai on 17 November. But with the mighty challenge of having to face Germany and Spain in their group, Japan will need to be more clinical to have a chance of reaching the knockout stages for the fourth time. EA

21) Ecuador (up 5)

Nobody has been left much the wiser by goalless draws with Saudi Arabia and Japan, except to conclude that Gustavo Alfaro’s team should not be relied on for fireworks. Enner Valencia would have illuminated the latter game had he not missed from the penalty spot. Ecuador have not conceded in their past five and can field fine young players such as Brighton’s Moises Caicedo but their toothlessness is a worry. NA

22) Mexico (down 3)

Hirving Lozano’s winner against Peru sparked hope that El Tri had seen the back of a poor run; optimism increased after a scorching first half brought a two-goal lead over Colombia. But Mexico ended up losing 3-2 and the evening was blighted further by homophobic chanting in the Santa Clara crowd, which led proceedings to be paused in the 82nd minute. Improvement is needed quickly both on and off the pitch. NA

Hirving Lozano celebrates after scoring for Mexico against Peru.
Hirving Lozano celebrates after scoring for Mexico against Peru. Photograph: Omar Vega/Getty Images

23) USA (down 3)

Following up an abject performance against Japan in their 2-0 defeat last Friday with another lacklustre display in the 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia was hardly the best preparation for the World Cup and Gregg Berhalter is still searching for answers in several key areas. At this rate, the US will face a big task to make it out of their group in Qatar. EA

24) Iran (down 1)

Carlos Queiroz was brought back this month in an effort to recapture the highs of his previous eight years in charge. A win over Uruguay and draw with Senegal, both contested in Austria, suggest it was the right decision. These matches were played to a backdrop of protests at home and Team Melli made a visible statement against the repression of women before facing the African champions. The forward Sardar Azmoun made it clear he does not fear repercussions. NA

25) Australia (up 6)

Back-to-back wins over New Zealand, the second with an experimental side, have bred a little more optimism around the Socceroos but they still appear scratchy and the final makeup of Graham Arnold’s squad remains anyone’s guess. The goals are hardly flowing, although Jason Cummings’ debut against the Kiwis was encouraging, and a lack of top-level experience bodes ill for significant progress. NA

Australia’s Jason Cummings gets stuck in against New Zealand.
Australia’s Jason Cummings gets stuck in against New Zealand. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

26) South Korea (up 2)

South Korea qualified convincingly under the former Portugal coach Paulo Bento, winning seven and drawing two of 10 third-phase qualifiers, but form since has been mixed, wins over Egypt and Chile rubbing alongside convincing reverses against Brazil and Japan. The recent unconvincing draw against Costa Rica and 1-0 win over Cameroon haven’t cleared the picture. JW

27) Cameroon (down 5)

Two disappointing defeats in friendlies against Uzbekistan and South Korea will not have filled Rigobert Song and his squad with confidence heading into the World Cup. Bryan Mbuemo made his debut against Uzbekistan after the Brentford forward switched allegiance from France, and there was a return for the veteran defender Nicolas Nkoulou after five years in retirement since winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2017. EA

28) Tunisia (down 4)

After three successive victories and a run of clean sheets that stretched back to March, the 5-1 thrashing by Brazil on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes was a setback for a team who have built their recent success on defensive nous. But there will still be belief among the Carthage Eagles squad that Jalel Kadri is moulding a team who could be capable of springing a surprise in a group containing France and Denmark. EA

29) Ghana (down 2)

While losing 3-0 to Brazil was no embarrassment in a game that featured Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey making his Black Stars debut off the bench, Ghana laboured to a 1-0 win over Nicaragua on Tuesday that highlighted their deficiencies in attack. But the addition of Athletic Bilbao’s Iñaki Williams – who made his first start against Nicaragua – could make all the difference if he can settle in quickly. EA

Ghana’s Iñaki Williams at the centre of the action against Nicaragua.
Ghana’s Iñaki Williams at the centre of the action against Nicaragua. Photograph: Marcial Guillén/EPA

30) Qatar (-)

Will Qatar be the weakest host side to appear at a World Cup? Their form presents a compelling argument. A 2-0 defeat by Canada in Vienna saw them concede softly early on before struggling to make an attacking impression; losing 3-0 to Croatia’s Under-23s three days previously was even worse and, unless they can find a significant impetus on home soil, it is hard to see them not bowing out early. NA

31) Costa Rica (down 2)

Eleven days ago Jewison Bennette came off the bench for Sunderland at Watford and scored the equaliser. Then he started for Costa Rica against South Korea and scored both goals in a 2-2 draw, his first strikes for his country. He is only 18, and was omitted from Tuesday’s win over Uzbekistan, but already Bennette looks the great hope of Costa Rican football, adding a dash of finesse to an otherwise workaday side. JW

32) Saudi Arabia (-)

Saudi Arabia had been grimly consistent under Hervé Renard, the only coach ever to win the Africa Cup of Nations with two different countries, losing only one of their 10 third-phase group games. Form since the start of December, though, which included a group stage exit in the Arab Cup, has been dreadful: two wins in the last 11, and just four goals scored. JW


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Jorge Oliveira