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All 16 remaining World Cup teams ranked by likelihood of winning it all

One of the most entertaining group stages in World Cup history is now behind us. But none of that really matters anymore. The knockout stage is where the chaff really gets separated from the wheat, and we find out who the real contenders are. In anticipation of that, our soccer staff ranked the remaining 16 teams based on how likely we think they are to win the World Cup.

Brazil came into the tournament as favorites, and they’ve certainly shown the stability and talent to warrant that so far. Neymar getting injured in the first match hurts Brazil, but late heroics from Casemiro saw them clinch top spot in the group without their No. 10. Whether he returns for the knockout stage or not, Brazil are no longer totally dependent on him. They have an abundance of talent at nearly every position, and are so far deserving of the pre-tournament hype. – Colin Damms

The defending champions bucked the trend they started of the title holders failing to get past the group. It wasn’t always pretty against Australia and Denmark, but then again it wasn’t always pretty in 2018 when they won it. What matters is they have Kylian Mbappe in great form. He was under fire from the typically harsh French media after a poor showing at the Euros, but he is back with authority for this tournament. They still have some questions in replacing their reliable midfield of Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante, but they have no questions about their ability to carve teams apart in attack. – Colin Damms

Spain got off to a roaring start, a 7-0 victory over Costa Rica that doubled as a statement to the rest of the world — La Furia Roja were back with a vengeance. However, they cooled off significantly in the later matchups, playing to a draw against Germany and losing on a controversial goal to Japan. The young stars in Pedri and Gavi have been equally sensational, bringing a jolt of energy and speed to the Spain midfield, and Alvaro Morata is in sensational form, finding himself right at the top of the goal sheet with three goals. If Spain can stay out of their own way, they have enough firepower to win the whole thing. – J.P. Acosta

The pressure of Lionel Messi’s last real shot at World Cup glory weighed heavily on Argentina’s shoulders in their shock opening match loss to Saudi Arabia. Since then, they’ve returned to the form that had many picking them as pre-tournament favorites. With a dynamic supporting cast surrounding Messi and finally a stable defensive base to stand on, there’s real hope for Argentina to capture glory in Qatar. – Rob Usry

For all the talk of how conservative the Three Lions are under Gareth Southgate, their nine goals scored during the group stage were tied for the most with Spain. They also had the best goal-difference of the group stage (+7) while being tied for the most points (7). If anything, England may have a bit of a perception problem based on their country’s expectations. But make no mistake, this is among the most talented groups in the tournament a real threat to win it all. – Jeremiah Oshan

For a team that made it all the way to the final of the last tournament, no one seems to be talking much about Croatia. Sure, their stars are getting a little old and this is probably a last hurrah for many of them, but they were one of only five teams to escape the group stage undefeated and their one goal allowed was tied for the fewest. Their statement win came against Canada, a 4-1 thumping that followed John Herdman telling TV audiences his team was going to “F Croatia” which will go down in history as one of the most ill-advised things a soccer coach has ever told a worldwide audience. – Jeremiah Oshan

It’s tough to know what to make of Netherlands after they finished atop what most seem to agree was the weakest group. They opened with a solid 2-0 win over Senegal, closed with a rather ho-hum 2-0 win over Qatar and settled for a 1-1 draw with Ecuador in between. They’ve got good players, but probably aren’t a threat to go too far. – Jeremiah Oshan

Like Argentina, many eyes are on Portugal because this is the last World Cup hurrah of a superstar. Unlike Argentina, Portugal’s superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, is well and truly washed. Lucky for them they are not reliant on his abilities anymore, and they powered through qualification despite his errant No. 9 play. Bruno Fernandes was particularly good for them in their two wins, and their habit of leaking goals hasn’t held them back yet thanks to the performances of their younger forwards, notably Joao Felix and Rafael Leao. It hasn’t been a totally convincing start, but it was enough to put them top of a difficult group. – Colin Damms

Japan had maybe the most up-and-down group stage in recent memory. They managed to knock off two world powers in Germany and Spain while somehow losing to Costa Rica in the middle of those astonishing results. It seems impossible to know what you’re going to get on a daily basis from this team. But one thing is clear: They can beat any team at any time and that makes them an opponent to fear in the knockout stage. – Rob Usry

The young and exciting Americans lived up to the hype in the group stage. How far their storybook run goes depends on the health of their squad and their ability to find the back of the net. They’ve proven to have a resilient and stout defense but can they muster the attacking firepower to knock off the world’s elite countries? – Rob Usry

The World Cup did not get off to the best start for the Lions of Teranga, as Sadio Mané was ruled out of the tournament with an injury, and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté suffered an injury in their loss to Netherlands to open the tournament. But thanks to hard-fought victories over Qatar and Ecuador, they are through to the Round of 16. Senegal will also be without midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who picked up a pair of yellow cards in group play, But their ability to counter, as shown in the win over Ecuador, could be critical against England. – Mark Schofield

On the backs of a pair of wins in group play — including a 2-0 stunner over Belgium — Morocco advanced to the round of 16 as the winners of Group F. Their reward for advancing to the knockout round for just the second time? A matchup with Spain. But the efficiency Morocco showed on set pieces, particularly against Belgium, coupled with what they were able to do on the counter against Canada, could be dangerous in the knockout round, and perhaps beyond. – Mark Schofield

For just the third time in their history, South Korea are going to the Round of 16 following a highly dramatic 2-1 win over Portugal in the Group H finale in which Hwang Hee-chan scored in second-half stoppage time. Unfortunately, they face Brazil in the Round of 16, the team we think is most likely to win the whole thing. – Jeremiah Oshan

A team with Robert Lewandowski can’t be completely overlooked, but Poland is frankly a little lucky to be here after just barely squeaking past Mexico on goal-difference. The only game Poland won or scored in was against Saudi Arabia and they were outplayed in that one too, getting outshot 16-9 and losing the expected goals battle 1.73-1.56. – Jeremiah Oshan

Switzerland are through to the knockout round, thanks to a win in their final match of group play. But how well will their back line hold up against Portugal in the round of 16? During qualifying, Switzerland surrendered just a pair of goals in their eight qualification matches, in route to winning their group. And after conceding just once in their first two matches, to eventual group champion Brazil, Switzerland allowed two goals to Serbia on Friday. Is that a harbinger of things to come, or just the result of facing a Serbian squad that needed a win to get to the round of 16? Time will tell. – Mark Schofield

After taking a turbulent path to qualification for the World Cup itself, it only makes sense that their path to the knockout round was turbulent as well. After a blowout loss to France in the opening match, it looked like the Socceroos would be headed home early. But wins over Tunisia and Denmark saw Australia through to the Round of 16, with only goal differential separating them from France atop the group. Can that magic continue against Lionel Messi and Argentina in the knockout round? The defensive prowess they showed in their last two matches, holding both Tunisia and Denmark scoreless, will be critical in that effort. – Mark Schofield

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