World Cup power rankings update
PRETORIA, South Africa -- My apologies for not banging out the latest World Cup power rankings immediately at the end of the second set of games. Life gets busy here in South Africa. But here they are as of Wednesday morning (i.e., before the U.S.-Algeria and England-Slovenia games):
1. Brazil (Last week: 2)
No, this is not Brazil's 1970 team, but the power of Maicon and Luis Fabiano defines the word awesome (in its original sense).
2. Argentina (6)
Coach of the tournament so far? Diego Maradona. (I can't believe I just wrote that.)
3. Netherlands (3)
O.K., we get it: This Dutch team can win without playing well. Now: play well. Pining for the return of Arjen Robben.
4. Spain (4)
Righted the armada with an easy win against Honduras. Are the Euro champs headed for a second-round date with Brazil?
5. Germany (1)
Stumble against Serbia reminds me of loss to Croatia in Euro 2008. Enough for a reality check, but the Germans still made the final.
6. Portugal (9)
Impressive 7-0 beatdown of North Korea essentially guarantees second-round berth. Smart lineup changes by Carlos Queiroz.
7. Uruguay (15)
Diego Forlan is a contender for Player of the Tournament so far. By winning Group A, La Celeste avoided Argentina to get a second-round date with South Korea.
8. Chile (10)
Marcelo Bielsa's team is a gas to watch and symbolizes the domination of South America so far. But have twin 1-0 wins given La Roja enough breathing room if the group comes down to goal-differential?
9. Paraguay (17)
These guys are hardly flashy, but they just get the job done. Can beat out Italy for first place in the group with a win against New Zealand.
10. Serbia (21)
My sleeper pick to reach the semifinals got a huge win against Germany and can head into the knockout round with a victory against Australia.
11. Mexico (18)
The good news: El Tri got out of a tricky Group A. The bad news: Disappointing loss to Uruguay sets up another second-round showdown (and exit?) against Argentina.
12. Denmark (20)
Who says the Danes play dour soccer? Two terrific goals in the 2-1 showdown win against Cameroon.
13. South Korea (14)
Who knew that the South Koreans were masters of the set-piece? Took advantage of Nigeria's mistakes to advance, but they deserved to do so.
14. Ghana (11)
The Black Stars need a big game against Germany to survive. Much like the Netherlands, they have gotten results without standing out much in a positive way.
15. England (5)
Can Fabio Capello and the gang get things on the right track? The scoreless tie against Algeria was about as ugly as the John Terry fiasco afterward, but I still think this team is going through.
16. United States (12)
The U.S. clearly has heart: no other team in the tournament has come from behind twice to get a result. But the Yanks can't keep falling behind early and expect to stay in the tournament.
17. Italy (8)
Will Italy end up going through? I suspect so. But the tie against tiny New Zealand remains the shock result of the World Cup for me.
18. Slovenia (23)
Only a referee's controversial call kept Slovenia from losing to the U.S., but getting four points in Group C is still a surprise.
19. South Africa (27)
Bafana Bafana got Africa's second win of the World Cup with a 2-1 victory over France, exiting the tournament on a high note. It's South Africa's second straight World Cup in which it got four points but failed to advance.
20. Japan (19)
The Blue Samurai had a letdown against the Dutch after a big opening win against Cameroon. Now it's all riding on a Game 3 with Denmark.
21. Ivory Coast (7)
Granted, it was unlucky for Les Éléphants to draw into another Group of Death. But the 3-1 loss to Brazil was disappointing, not just for their play but for their unsporting behavior at the end. Virtually eliminated.
22. Switzerland (13)
It's possible that a team will get six points in Group H and fail to advance. That's why the Swiss need to bang in the goals against Honduras.
23. New Zealand (28)
The Cinderella of this World Cup has somehow pulled off two ties against Slovakia and reigning world champion Italy. Can the Kiwis bag yet another surprise against Paraguay?
24. Greece (30)
The Greeks showed heart that I didn't think was there in a comeback win against Nigeria, but their conservative approach against Argentina was dismaying. Why not go for it?
25. Algeria (31)
Played better in Game 2 to get a tie against England, but the Desert Foxes have yet to score a goal.
26. Australia (32)
What is it with all the red cards? Oz's two best-known players (Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell) have been hit with reds, but managing a tie with 10 men against Ghana provided more optimism.
27. Nigeria (22)
The Super Eagles have no excuses for their elimination. Two blown leads, a stupid red card and the worst missed sitter of the tournament? That would be a choke job, folks.
28. Cameroon (24)
I never would have suspected the Indomitable Lions would be the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup. Paul Le Guen's foolish lineup changes in Game 1 were a killer. Tell me again why African countries hire European mercenary coaches so often?
29. Slovakia (26)
One of the tournament's bigger disappointments. Drew into a punchless group but still have little chance to survive.
30. Honduras (29)
Maybe it's because I see the Catrachos often in CONCACAF, but I expected more out of them. Seemed too happy just to be here.
31. North Korea (25)
Lost any mojo from the Brazil game by going down 7-0 to Portugal. I'm hoping this team doesn't turn into a sequel to The Two Escobars.
32. France (16)
What can you say? A complete disgrace from a proud soccer country, shared equally among Raymond Domenech, the French federation and the ringleaders of the players strike. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.