Well, the semi-finals are set. The US will take on Spain this Wednesday and Brazil and the hosts South Africa will meet on Thursday to set up the finals and third place game. But, there are four teams that have been eliminated here, where is their place in all of this? Well, how about a quick power ranking of all the teams so far.
1 - Brazil (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group B) - Brazil takes the top spot in our rankings, mainly because of strength of schedule. They annhiliated the Italians 3-0 yesterday, eliminating the Azzurri in stunning fashion. Brazil might not have played consistently throughout this tournament and yes, they were outplayed by Egypt, but they played three incredibly tough games in a tournament setting and after a scary start, played to their normal, dominant form, something that had been lacking in thier CONEMBOL qualifying efforts recently in my opinion.
2 - Spain (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group A) - What else can I say here? Spain handled thier business, nothing more. They played comfortably in front most of their matches, say for the 1-0 win over Iraq. The were favored to win this group and rightfully so, they did what they needed to do and now play the US in the semis. And somewhere I bet the Spanish players are licking their chops, thanking Brazil for taking out the Italians. They can't overlook the US here. 35-match unbeaten and a 15-match winning streak, both records, are on the line.
3 - Egypt (1-0-2, 3 pts, 4th Group B) - Eagle, you can't honestly rank the "worst" team from Group B third overall. Um, yes I can. I can do what ever I want. Egypt came out and outplayed two teams ranked in the top 10 in the FIFA world rankings. Were it not for a late Brazil goal and the Pharohs coming out slightly flat against a pumped up US team, there would be two African teams in the semis. Egypt deserves to be here, there's not a doubt in my mind.
4 - United States (1-0-2, 3 pts, 2nd Group B) - Really, the US could and probably should be lower. But they played Italy tough for 60 minutes, 30 of which they were a man down. That 3-1 loss doesn't do the American's effort justice in my book. They played well when they had too and were able to advance by the skin of their teeth. I just hope this doesn't become a habit for the US team, their last advancement in a major tournament, the '02 World Cup, was lucky as well.
5 - South Africa (1-1-1, 4 pts, 2nd Group A) - I didn't give them much respect at the beginning of this tournament and I'm probably not giving them enough respect now. But South Africa's only victory was against New Zealand, and that's the only reason why they're advancing. I love what the home side has done, but there's not a doubt in my mind that the four teams above them played better opponents and were in better form, including the US, as strange as that sounds. I could put South Africa 4th, ahead of the US, but that would be an injustice. Blame the vuvuzelas.
6 - Iraq (0-1-2, 2 pts, 3rd Group A) - You know what, I like this. Iraq played a solid defensive strategy the whole tournament, played the best out of anyone in their group against Spain. I'm okay with this. Yes, the Iraqis didn't score a goal in the entire tournament. But they only allowed that one goal to Spain. I'm convinced this team can play with anyone and it's a shame that we won't be seeing them in the 2010 World Cup next year. They've already been eliminated in Asian qualifying. Still, this was a fantastic experience for a team that has to play all of it's games on the road.
7 - Italy (1-0-2, 3 pts, 3rd Group B) - This is the team that should be most disappointed right now. They were really out played the entire tournament with the exception of a 30 minute stretch against a 10-man US side. There's no reason to be down 3-0 at halftime in a game where a tie gets you to the next round. Sure, if the Italians won they had a chance to win the group, but they would have needed at least a 4-0 win, and maybe more, to do so. They could have played for a tie, taken a page out of Iraq's book and played 9 guys behind the ball the whole game. Instead, they're crashing and burning. I must note again that I picked them to win it all. Shame on me. This is what happens to teams that I pick to win and greatly underachieve. They go to the doghouse. But sadly, I can't put them last...
8 - New Zealand (0-2-1, 1 pt, 4th Group A) - I like the Kiwis, I really do. But I can't condone a celebration of a draw when you've already been eliminated from the tournament. That's disrespectful in my book, especially since they had just eliminated Iraq in the process. Aside from that, this team did play well in that final match and I can allow them to celebrate a little bit. They have yet to win a game in a major FIFA tournament, so a draw against a very good Iraq team is still a credible part of a nice resume this team is building up. They, like Iraq, didn't score in the tournament and aside from a miserable 5-0 dismantling by Spain, the Kiwis will take a great experience as they try to qualify in 2010.
If you'd like to debate this rankings feel free to comment below. Please be respectful and give insightful reasons to your opinions. I have already been called an idiot more times than I can count and I don't need reminding.
I'll be back with a semi-final preview tomorrow for both games, as well as predictions. Sadly, I'm going to be missing the US-Spain game live due to a doctor's appointment and I'm not DVR'ing the game. Why? Because the only game I didn't DVR was the one against Egypt. That game turned out really well. The other two, um, not so much. Probably will break out the running commentary again for the Brazil-South Africa game, but no guarantees. Until then, feel free to check out the rest of my Confederations Cup entries.