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Posted: Wednesday June 30, 2010 1:48PM ; Updated: Wednesday June 30, 2010 1:53PM
Grant Wahl

MASERU, Lesotho -- Greetings from the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, where I've repaired for a couple days while my doctor wife is working here for the week. Now that we have the first days of no games since the World Cup started, it's a good time for my latest World Cup Power Rankings. The top teams have all played four times, so we now have a better ability to rank them based on what we have seen on the field here. Bonus points go to teams that have shown attacking ambition (Chile) over those that have not (Portugal).

To give you an idea of where each team stood before the tournament started, I have included my pre-World Cup rankings in parentheses. By using those numbers, the three most upwardly mobile teams have been Japan, Uruguay and Paraguay, while the three most disappointing have been France, Italy and Cameroon.

Let's dive in:

World Cup Power Rankings
Pre-tournament: 6
Did I ever think before the World Cup that I'd put coach Diego Maradona and Argentina at the top of any ranking besides Most Underachieving Team? Honestly: no. But here they are with four impressive wins in as many games. Lionel Messi has done everything right but score a goal, which is no problem as long as Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez continue taking care of the finishing. I'm still worried about Martin Demichelis and the defense against Germany, though.
This is South America's World Cup so far, and when Dunga's Brazil gets things going (as it did against Chile) it is a freight train. The Seleção is certainly a balanced team, featuring the best defense I've seen in the tournament along with a truly fearsome attack featuring Robinho, Luis Fabiano, Kaka and Maicon. Dunga's teams will never play like the Brazil of old, but that doesn't mean he won't win.
Since when does Germany play like the old Brazil? The Germans were a force of nature against England, overwhelming Fabio Capello's team with power and precision. Thomas Müller, the breathtaking 20-year-old forward who scored twice, is making a good case to be named FIFA's Young Player of the Tournament, an award that 21-year-old Mesut Özil might have won if he wasn't a couple months too old for it. Germany-Argentina is a game that could have been saved for the final..
I said this on CNN before the World Cup: The World Cup champion would come from one of six teams (Argentina, Brazil, England, Germany, Netherlands, Spain). France and Italy proved they didn't deserve to be on my list, and five of the Splendid Six (minus England) are still in contention. David Villa and his four goals have been impressive, and yet you get the sense Spain hasn't quite unleashed its full powers yet. You know what, though? I'm sticking with the Spaniards (my pre-tournament pick) to win this thing.
I don't know how to feel about this Dutch team. It's the only outfit along with Argentina that has won all four of its games, and yet those victories have often been dreary and, dare I say it, dull. The soccer lover in me wishes coach Bert van Marwijk would start the electric Eljero Elia (who apparently is named for the jazz singer Al Jarreau), but that would probably mean dropping Dirk Kuyt, which shouldn't happen. By the way, will opposing teams ever figure out that Arjen Robben likes to cut inside with the ball on his left foot? (And is there any chance we might see a Reggie Jackson/Graig Nettles-style free-for-all between teammate enemies Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder? Let's make this happen.)
No team better symbolizes South America's World Cup rise than Uruguay, which has ridden the talent of forwards Luis Suarez (three goals) and Diego Forlan (two) all the way to its first quarterfinals appearance since 1970. The good news for Uruguay is that the rest of the team hasn't dragged down its two stars. Captain Diego Lugano, in fact, has been immense on the back line.
During January's Africa Cup of Nations, I wrote that the Black Stars could be a future world power owing to their Under-20 World Cup title and the presence of so many of those youngsters on the national team. I just thought we might see the evidence of that rise in 2014, not 2010. Ghana's victory over the U.S. was very much deserved, and it wouldn't surprise me if Kwadwo Asamoah, Dede Ayew and mates clinched Africa's first-ever World Cup semifinal berth on Friday against Uruguay.
La Roja got smacked 3-0 by Brazil on Monday, but I still came away impressed by the Chileans and their hellbent willingness to attack under coach Marcelo Bielsa. It was throwback soccer and some glorious stuff at its best, even if the Chileans risked losing by a big number with all that ambition. I'll look forward to following the career of the promising Alexis Sanchez.
I have to admit that after tying Italy and beating Slovakia, the Paraguayans have been less than impressive in scoreless ties against New Zealand and Japan (which they eliminated on penalties). Yet they find themselves in the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time, which is deserving of respect. Do I think Paraguay can upset Spain and perhaps set up an all-South American semifinals? No, I do not.
Tough luck for the Blue Samurai to go out on penalties against Paraguay, but if you'd told me they would get two wins in this World Cup (beating Cameroon and Denmark) I would have called that a very successful tournament. Keisuke Honda isn't going to be a star; he already is one.
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