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Posted: Wednesday June 30, 2010 1:49PM ; Updated: Wednesday June 30, 2010 1:49PM
Grant Wahl
World Cup Power Rankings
Pre-tournament: 9
The team that is supposedly the third-best in the world (per the latest FIFA rankings) showed a surprising lack of ambition in this World Cup. It was obvious that Portugal had plenty of firepower, but we only saw it in a 7-0 drubbing of lowly North Korea--and not against Ivory Coast, Brazil or Spain (against which Portugal scored a total of zero goals). Hey Carlos Queiroz: Cristiano Ronaldo is on your team! What were you afraid of? Beats me.
12Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast
Les Éléphants will regret being drawn into such a difficult group for the second straight World Cup, but they did get four points in Group G and left with their heads high. It's hard to know what might have been had Didier Drogba been healthy, but it's also not a good sign that the lasting image of Ivory Coast's tournament will be that of Kader Keita feigning a facial injury to get Kaka sent off.
The good news: the Americans won Group C, showed inspiring resolve in the face of deficits and drew unprecedented TV audiences back home. The bad news: the U.S. looked unprepared in giving up a series of easy early goals, went out in a winnable game against Ghana and wasted a realistic opportunity to reach the World Cup semifinals.
About the only thing this underachieving England team can take comfort in is that it wasn't as embarrassingly bad as Italy or France. But not by much. Fabio Capello's team finished behind the U.S. in Group C and got swept away by Germany, albeit after an uncounted goal by Frank Lampard changed the face of their second-round game.
Yes, Mexico got jobbed on Argentina's first goal, in which Carlos Tevez was so far offside you had to wonder what was going on. But the officiating crew had nothing to do with the two subsequent goals El Tri allowed. Javier Hernandez scored two good goals in this tournament, but let's be honest: It's yet another second-round exit for a team that could have beaten Uruguay and gotten a much easier knockout-round matchup.
16South Korea
South Korea
After watching the South Koreans during this tournament, I couldn't help but feel that their results were a bit underachieving considering their impressive talent and effort. Tying Nigeria? Losing to Uruguay? Could have been better. Still, this was the first time South Korea had reached the second round outside of the tournament it hosted in 2002.
The Socceroos improved mightily after a brutal 4-0 opening-game loss to Germany, but not even a tie (against Ghana) and an eye-popping win (against Serbia) was enough to save the Australian campaign. You had to like the way Pim Verbeek's outfit responded in the face of negativity, which reminded me a lot of the United States team.
The historic win against Italy will last forever in Slovakian sports lore, but there wasn't much to look at in the other three games. This World Cup will be something to build on, though.
19South Africa
South Africa
True, Bafana Bafana is the first World Cup host not to advance from the group stage, but it went out in style with a 2-1 victory against France. Now come the challenges to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup 2014.
How do you beat Spain in the first game and fail to survive the group stage? The Swiss found a way to do it. What it came down to was this: Needing goals against modest Honduras, Switzerland just didn't have the capability of producing them. When that happens, you deserve to go out.
Five teams earned four points without advancing from the group stage (Slovenia, Ivory Coast, Australia, South Africa, Switzerland), so we should save some dap for the Slovenians and their Charlie Brown jerseys. That said, they really did blow it by frittering away a 2-0 halftime lead against the U.S. that would have qualified them for the second round had they merely held the lead.
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