1) France – Looked dominant all tournament and never lost a game, despite having some tough opponents. Undoubtedly the top team this year, finally. Congrats to Les blues for an excellent tournament.
2) Poland – Only other team to go undefeated in round robin and made it to the final. Undoubtedly #2. They had a tough road to the final and they had to beat many top teams to get there (Canada, Nigeria, Sudan, Jamaica). Without a doubt the best keeper in the tournament as well.
3) Jamaica – Adding Collins and Brown may not have been a move that brought more popularity to Jamaica, bringing in the most infamous players in the tourney, but it sure made them a contender. That attack was relentless and they would have been in the final if Michal didn’t save Poland several times near the end of that game.
4) Laos – Here is where the criticism will start to pile on. But look at their numbers in the round robin from a tough pool. Their only loss was to Jamaica who was a shootout away from the final, and their goal differential was +20, with only 5 goals allowed. 5 goals given up while playing vs Josip and the DB and Collins connection. They were a better team than Afghanistan who just came out a little flat in one game.
5) Canada – Yes, two teams who didn’t make the playoff rounds are ranked 4 and 5. Again, Canada lost to Poland, the silver medalists, 2-1 in a very close game where they outplayed Poland for the most part. Their goal differential was +15, 14 goals better than Nigeria. If not for getting caught flat footed in their first game (or even if a call or two went their way at the end of that game) they would have been playing in the next round. All around they are a better team than Nigeria.
6) Nigeria – Just because I said Canada was better, does not mean I am trying to belittle Nigeria. They were a good team this year and proved that they deserved to be where they were. Taking the eventual champions to a shootout in the quarters was phenomenal. Ultimately, they are less skilled than the teams above, but their up-tempo style with quick counter attacks was enough to catch both Canada and France (two of the most technically skilled teams in the tourney) off guard.
7) Afghanistan – They picked and chose when to show up. They chose correctly in the case of Laos and Jamaica (though I don’t know how much effort Jamaica put into their game, given that #1 was already locked up and an Afghan win knocked out the perennial finalists, Laos) but they didn’t seem to show up with the same team vs Germany and France. Consistency was their issue.
8) Sudan – Both France and Poland put them in their place. They were dominant against ES, but their game against Italy was not nearly as convincing as was expected. Regardless, they play hard and they are exciting to watch. It was a shame was happened last Wednesday, thanks to a few players on both Poland and Sudan, but I hope the majority of the Sudanese team comes back next year with a desire to redeem themselves.
9) Republic of Ireland – Not the team they used to be without Mike, DB and Jonah, but they were still strong. They gave Jamaica a great game in the quarters, but they couldn’t even take first place in the weakest pool in the tournament.
10) Germany – Came out slow vs South Korea and narrowly got by, then Laos and Jamaica put them in their place. However a tie vs Afghan made us remember that they are still capable of playing with the top teams on any given day.
11) Serbia – I know they beat ROI, but aside from that, they merely beat mediocre teams (and lost to Scotland). Ultimately what determined their position for me, is how poorly they performed in the quarters, while ROI played a very solid game vs Jamaica.
12) El Salvador – They were never expected to advance, with Sudan and France standing in their way, but they were expected to go down with more of a fight. They looked more even with Italy than they did with France and Sudan.
13) Hungary – Impressive showing this year given a tough pool. The expectation for them was maybe pulling out at least one win. What they did was tie Norway and then beat Greece and Nigeria. They have some talented players and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make the next round in the next few years.
14) Italy – Proved that last year’s strong showing wasn’t a fluke, by staying in their games with Sudan and ES. They are not the perennial 0-5 team of the past but they also proved that they are not strong enough to be a playoff team yet.
15) Scotland – They are definitely are improving, with a very young squad, but they were caught in the middle of the pack in a very weak pool. This makes me think that, if put in a tougher pool, they would still be much closer to the bottom.
16) Portugal – Very similar to above. They are a very mediocre team. They can beat other mediocre teams, sometimes, but I don’t see them doing much more.
17) Colombia – Disappointment of the tournament. I fully expected them to come out second in their pool (behind ROI) with relative ease (and then get crushed by first in pool B) but they just played poor. Apparently teams figured out their strategy of getting Paco the ball and hoping for the best.
18) Norway – Unless they add something to their team, I predict a steady decline over the next couple years, ultimately ending in them folding. They need to stop thinking of their current roster as a championship team (that was 6 years ago) and start bringing in some new, younger talent.
19) Northern Ireland – See Norway above. They are just not a good team.
20) Greece – If they weren’t trying so hard to get under the skin of the teams they were playing, they would lose by more every game. Their excessively physical play and goalkeeping are the only things that kept them close.
21) South Korea – Almost looked ready to upset Germany, then just fell off the map completely. Maybe the threats from North Korea had them rattled, but more likely they just lack the skill to play in this tournament. I love the multi-culturalism in this tourney and I would like to see them stick around, but only if they can significantly boost their talent level for next year.
22) Djibouti – 0-5 in the worst pool is a pretty good way to solidify your spot at the bottom. Please improve your team for next year if you plan to stick around.
23) Somalia – Not a single close game and then they wrap up their tournament by not showing up to their final game. I am very much against the idea of banning teams like Sudan and Poland for their brawl, since that was sparked by a few hot-headed players in the middle of a very intense game. Punish those players but not the entire teams. However, in Somalia’s case, when an entire team decides to just not show up and not tell anyone, I don’t see why they deserve to be back. Sure some players should still be allowed to play and I don’t think the Somalian country should be banned, but the group managing the team should not be allowed to manage another team, at least for a year or two.
I understand that many do not agree with me and I encourage feedback, but let’s try to keep it productive rather than just telling me I’m an idiot. I put a bit of work in to writing this, so if you want to call me an idiot, at least put some work into that and come up with a creative way to do so.