What a fantastic World Cup! Here is a ranking of all 32 teams, based on their performances relative to other teams.
The Bottom Four
32 - Honduras. Not much question here. Maybe the group was tougher than others, but Honduras never looked very competitive in any of their games.
31 - South Korea. Maybe Algeria was stronger than we gave them credit for, but that was an awful result against a team they were fighting with to get out of the group. And losing to Belgium down a player simply doesn't look competent.
30 - Japan. Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan were supposed to fight for the second spot in Colombia's group, but it was not very close.
29 - Cameroon. Simply outclassed, albeit in a tough group.
Didn't Have a Chance But Made Things Difficult
28 - Australia. Tim Cahill, take a bow. That goal alone was impressive. And they didn't get bowled over in their games so much as they just weren't as good.
27 - Iran. Was moments away from a substantial result against eventual Finalists Argentina, but Messi being Messi, it just didn't work out.
26 - Bosnia-Herzegovina. They probably deserved better. A goal called back in the game against Nigeria might have changed the whole group, and they played strong against Argentina as well. If they make it back, expect better from this team.
25 - Russia. This is low for a country that was expected to get out of Belgium's group, but not being able to get the right results against South Korea and Algeria - simply not good enough.
Not Outclassed But Simply Not Good Enough
24 - England. What a meek performance. I am sure those much more eloquent than I have written more than enough on this. Suffice to say, they did not play up to potential.
23 - Spain. Never recovered from Holland's second goal, the team that had dominated world football for six years simply fell apart.
The Toughest To Decide
Quick comment. This set of teams was the hardest for me to discern. All of these teams played well at times, but were outclassed at different points. Everyone in this group is practically interchangeable.
22 - Ivory Coast. They played well enough to advance for so much of this tournament - at least when Drogba was in the lineup. And oh what a difference that was. But in the end, it was not enough to afford the late penalty mistake against Greece.
21 - Croatia. Possibly the luck of their group - i.e., not good. Tough opening game against the hosts, and then finishing against a really hot Mexico side. Certainly not an embarrassing result.
20 - Ecuador. In a lot of ways this result comes down to one brilliant moment from Switzerland. From that point on, Ecuador simply couldn't do enough to move on.
19 - Ghana. I am giving them some credit for playing Portugal well, Germany fantastically and the US ok. It certainly was a tough group, and they forced the eventual champions to have to come back to tie them late. For a period of time, they were one goal away from advancement, but they just couldn't penetrate the Portugal defense.
The Edges of Quality
18 - Greece. They found a way to get the results to advance out of the group, and it wasn't a cake-walk group, either, but they aren't higher because they clearly weren't a team going beyond the Round of 16.
17 - Portugal. While they didn't advance, it was giving up 4 to Germany in their opening match that did them in. It was 2-0 when they lost a player to a red card, so it wasn't like they were on their way to winning or even tying that match, and their performance against the US was suspect, but you have to credit them for finding the tying goal in that match and beating Ghana - the only team to play in Manaus and win their next match in the Group Stage.
16 - Italy. They did well enough against England to feel good about themselves, but then they didn't take Costa Rica seriously enough and the Ticos made them pay for it. By the time they played Uruguay, they were on borrowed time.
15 - Algeria. What a fantastic tournament for the Desert Foxes. They had a breakout game against South Korea and got the result they needed against Russia. Then they took Germany to the wall in a fantastic match. This certainly should give them confidence going into the next cycle and it was a joy to watch their passion and desire.
What Could Have Been
14 - Uruguay. This might seem a little low to some, but I am factoring in where they were once Suarez had been ejected from the tournament. My rankings, my reasoning. They were a good side, but not great, and might have been bumped by Italy had Suarez shown his colors earlier in the tournament.
13 - Nigeria. A 2-3 result against Argentina was impresive, and they fought through to get their win against Bosnia-Herzegovina showed they were worth the Round of 16. They played as well as they could against France, but the gap between The Super Eagles and Les Blues was just too big.
12 - United States. Clearly, the Americans are now able to say with confidence that, even with a limited amount of talent relative to other top countries, they can get out of practically any group. Four Time World Champions? We may lose but we won't be embarrassed. "Best player in the world"? A mental letdown is the only thing between him and an embarrassing loss. Personal Kryptonite? Solved. The only thing that might have been clearer would be if they had done what was done by the Ticos.
11 - Costa Rica. Hello, World Cup. CONCACAF ain't just Mexico and the US anymore. And we're not just little brother sticking our head in the door either. No sir, Los Ticos are absolutely legit and also able to get out of any group. In fact, you could easily argue they were in a tougher group than the US and not only advanced but won the group. On top of that, they won their Round of 16 match, although the US probably would have advanced against Greece as well. Either way, it was a fantastic run from another team benefiting from players playing in Major League Soccer.
10 - Colombia. Oh what an amazing run they had up to the game against Brazil. They are lower than some here because you have to question their opposition a little, but certainly it was a joy to watch them play some fantastic football.
9 - Switzerland. In some ways the difference between the Swiss and Ecuador was one moment of determination from the Europeans, but what a moment it was. Clearly one of the most dramatic finishes to a Group Stage game I have ever witnessed. Their remaining tournament showed they had heard and character with their only blemish a extratime loss too the Finalists, Argentina.
8 - Mexico. They won the games they should have won, got an unbelievable game from Ochoa to tie the hosts and then lost in difficult fashion to the Third Place team, Holland. Say what you want about how that game ended, but clearly, their performances up to that point was something to behold.
7 - Belgium. Clearly the best team in their group, and clearly better than the US. But also clearly not better than Argentina.
6 - Chile. The only blemish on their record was a loss to Brazil, and they played them closer than any team. (Germany didn't play Brazil close, they demolished them - not even in the same conversation.) The result against Spain was fantastic, and they didn't falter against Australia. Yes, I am saying La Roja beats any of the teams below them in these rankings.
5 - Brazil. Very hard to discern where these guys should be placed. A good team, but not a great one. But certainly enough talent that they would win in front of the home crowd against all but the very best.
4 - France. Their loss to Germany was the right result, but the rest of the tournament for them showed such quality and ability.
The Would Be Champions
3 - Holland. So close! But so far away.... Holland will probably win their World Cup at some point, but it was not to be in this tournament. Both Argentina and Germany were just too strong.
2 - Argentina. Many question their quality, but their victory over Holland showed me that their results to date were not flukes, but one of clear quality over their competition. They were deserving Finalists. They just ran into the best team in the tournament in the Final.
1 - Germany. What an amazing run. What an impressive return on investment. What a validation from Low and Klinsmann, and all those who helped put that plan into place. They overcame all odds and beat worthy challengers along the way. Well, other than Brazil, who clearly weren't what everyone hoped they would be.