We’re halfway through Matchday 1 at the World Cup and a few teams already look like sure-fire contenders for the title.
Alexi Lalas ranked his top-10 teams of the tournament so far on the “State of the Union” podcast — here’s who made the cut.
Denmark didn’t start have the start to the tournament many thought it would, but it’s too early to say it’s not a contender. A favorable result against France on Saturday (11 a.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app) would put it right back into the dark-horse conversation.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be the talk of the Portuguese men’s national team until he retires from international soccer. As long as Portugal can keep its focus on the pitch, it will be a threat in the tournament, with or without its star man.
Spain likely won’t be true contenders until 2026, but its ceiling is as high as any team in the tournament with FC Barcelona stars Gavi, Pedri, Alejandro Balde and Ansu Fati leading the charge for the new generation. Plus, when Luis Enrique is on the sideline and managing the game, anything is possible.
Even with the absence of key players such as Marco Reus and Timo Werner, Germany has the quality and experience to make its tournament more memorable than it was in 2018, when it was knocked out in the group stage.
The Netherlands has to be feeling confident after its 2-0 win over Senegal on Monday. Its defense was as good as advertised, Cody Gakpo lived up to all of his pre-tournament hype and its path to the knockout stage should be clear with the Lions out of the way.
Argentina’s worst nightmare came true when it was upset by 51st-ranked Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday. It’s not over for La Albiceleste, though. It has all the talent to get six points in its final two games and advance to the knockout stage. Counting Argentina out is counting Lionel Messi out, and that’s never a good idea.
England dispelled some of the concerns surrounding its pre-tournament form with a convincing 6-2 win over Iran on Monday. The question that lingers is whether it can look as dominant against the top teams at the tournament. Monday’s result suggests it can.
Experience isn’t everything at the World Cup, but it counts for a lot and Belgium has plenty of it on its roster to go along with its world-class talent. It’s true the window is closing for its golden generation, but at the moment, it’s as open as any other team’s.
Brazil has the deepest and most talented squad at the World Cup, but until it has points on the board, it’s hard to call them the best team at the World Cup.
The World Cup hangover doesn’t seem to apply to France, who beat Australia 4-1 in its group stage opener on Tuesday. Injuries have tried to derail Les Bleus from repeating, but it might be too deep and rich in talent — both young and old — to matter. Be very wary of the French.
You can watch the “State of the Union” podcast on YouTube or subscribe on podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts.
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