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90min’s definitive World Cup power rankings: round of 16

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The group stage is done and dusted and it’s now all systems go for the knockout stages.

16 teams have made it through to the next stage, and we’re already drawing up brackets and working out routes to the finals for the heavy hitters.

Here’s how all 16 teams look to measure up.

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Harry Souttar

Stoke City’s Harry Souttar has been outstanding for Australia / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

The Socceroos face an obvious talent deficit compared to every other team on this list but that hasn’t stopped them so far. Graham Arnold has fostered an impressive team spirit among his squad demonstrated by their battling, backs-to-the-wall 1-0 wins over both Tunisia and Denmark.

Harry Souttar, in particular, has been remarkable in the centre of defence. They have Argentina next, however, and will need the performance of a lifetime to advance.

That being said, Saudi Arabia have already shown them how it’s done.

Hwang In-beom, Hwang Hee-chan

South Korea are defying the odds / Visionhaus/GettyImages

South Korea stunned the world by making it this far. Their first 135 minutes of action didn’t feature any shots on target, and it looked like they might be crashing out.

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Hwang Hee-chan’s late winner against Portugal was a massive surprise and now the Samurai Blue find themselves staring at a last-16 clash with Brazil. Yikes.

It’s been a momentous winter for South Korea, but the fun probably stops here.

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski is yet to start firing / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Despite the continued goalkeeping excellence of Wojciech Szczesny and the presence of the prolific Robert Lewandowski, Poland are among the worst teams remaining at the World Cup.

They just about squeaked through after losing 2-0 to Argentina in their final game and simply don’t look capable of creating enough chances to progress any further.

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And that’s without taking into account the fact their next opponents are France. Welp.

Christian Pulisic

Not the ‘LeBron James of soccer’ by any stretch but Christian Pulisic has impressed for the USA / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

After a fairly uninspiring draw against Wales and an improved performance against England, the USA got the job done against Iran to finish runners-up in Group B.

Next up is the Netherlands, who have failed to play to their full ability thus far in the tournament.

The USA’s relentless pressing and energy – particularly in midfield – could cause Louis van Gaal’s side some serious problems, but there’s no denying they’re the underdogs.

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FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022"Japan - Spain"

Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan has scored two goals in three games for Japan / ANP/GettyImages

It’s hard to know what to make of Japan. So far they have bookended what can only be described as a disastrous performance against Costa Rica with two superb comeback victories over Germany and Spain.

Where does that leave them now, with European heavyweights Croatia to come?

Playing on the break, it is clear they are a real threat but Croatia may not open up in the same way that Germany and Spain did. It should be a fascinating contest with both teams fancying their chances of progressing.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye

Kalidou Koulibaly was the hero for Senegal against Ecuador / Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Deserving winners in their crunch match against Ecuador to round out Group A, Senegal now face England on Sunday to make it through to the quarter-finals.

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The Lions of Teranga are missing star player Sadio Mane but even so the reigning African champions are not a team to be taken likely.

There’s still plenty of firepower in the squad, with the likes of Bamba Dieng and Ismaila Sarr capable of causing problems for anyone.

Granit Xhaka

Switzerland booked their place in style / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

A dramatic 3-2 victory over Serbia saw Switzerland book their place in the last 16 on the final day.

There are some excellent players in the squad and they’re regular dark horse nominees as a result, but their depth may let them down in the later stages of the tournament.

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Portugal are next up, giving Switzerland a real challenge.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes

They appears to be no love lost between Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes / ODD ANDERSEN/GettyImages

Portugal have underwhelmed thus far. There’s no denying it.

They were ran ragged by Ghana and made hard work of Uruguay, before ultimately losing to South Korea on the final day, albeit with a rotated squad.

Bruno Fernandes is firing but the rest of Portugal’s stars, including a certain striker looking to impress potential new clubs, are not.

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Luka Modric

Can Luka Modric lead his team to a second unlikely World Cup final? / Francois Nel/GettyImages

Croatia were rather fortunate to qualify in they end – they have Romelu Lukaku’s woeful finishing to thank for that.

Regardless, they are, on their day, capable of going toe-to-toe with every other country on this list.

Josko Gvardiol, their 20-year-old centre-back, has been one of the players of the tournament so far, and they’ll expect to challenge anybody in the knockout stages.

Cody Gakpo

Cody Gakpo has scored in every game for the Dutch / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

The Netherlands have hardly set the world alight but qualified with ease thanks to two 2-0 wins against Senegal and Qatar and a 1-1 draw against Ecuador.

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They face the USA next and as mentioned, it doesn’t look like a great match-up on paper for Louis van Gaal’s rather plodding, deliberate team. He could ease off the handbrake slightly by playing Cody Gakpo off two central strikers but that seems unlikely given his natural pragmatism.

It’s far from the best Netherlands side we’ve seen but they are, just about, getting results.

TOPSHOT-FBL-WC-2022-MATCH42-CAN-MAR

Morocco have impressed so far / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/GettyImages

Now the de facto dark horses left in the competition, Morocco finished comfortable winners of Group F which also contained both Belgium and Croatia.

They’re an extremely well-balanced side from front to back and look to have formed a real camaraderie within the squad. They also bring fervent support in the stands.

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With all that in mind, they might even have the edge against a Spain team that would traditionally be considered favourites. As proved over and over in this World Cup so far, don’t write off the underdog.

Alvaro Morata

Spain struggled to break down Japan after their opening goal / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Spain are still Spain, however, and will expect to see off the Africans at the start of what could be a deep tournament run.

After the 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica in their opening game pundits were falling over themselves to praise Spain and their aesthetic style of football. What a difference a week makes.

A 1-1 draw with Germany and a 2-1 defeat to Japan have certainly taken the shine off and means that Spain didn’t even top Group E in the end.

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Their next opponents, Morocco, are smelling blood…

Lionel Messi

Argentina made hard work of things / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Maybe that shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening game was exactly the kick up the rear that Argentina needed. They should certainly feel no complacency now given how much pressure they were under just to make it through the group.

But make it through the group they did, with back-to-back 2-0 victories over Mexico and then Poland meaning they still came top and earned a very favourable draw against Australia rather than France.

Win that and either the USA or the Netherlands will come next. Argentina couldn’t have asked for a better run to the semi-finals.

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Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford scored a superb brace against Wales / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

The sense of optimism is back. England topped Group B after a dominant second-half performance against Wales and must now be full of confidence ahead of facing a Senegal team without their best player.

In contrast, Gareth Southgate has an array of elite attacking talent at his disposal and a selection headache in the best sense. Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford made very strong cases to start after their performances against Wales but Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling shone in the opening victory over Iran.

They should have far too much firepower for Senegal as long as Southgate gets his starting line-up and substitutions right – something he failed to do against Wales. After that, it will likely be France in the quarters. You never know.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has stood out in Qatar / Visionhaus/GettyImages

France’s B-team were beaten 1-0 by Tunisia in their final group game but there’s no reason to read too much into that performance given that Tunisia were fighting for their lives and France had pretty much locked up the top spot.

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Their reward is Poland in the round of 16, a tie they should sweep through with very little difficulty.

England or Senegal will come afterwards, two teams Didier Deschamps’ squad will fancy their chances against – particularly if Kylian Mbappe can prolong this scintillating run of form.

Thiago Silva, Eder Militao, Casemiro, Marquinhos

It is Brazil’s defence that has shone brightest so far / Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

Brazil may have fallen to Cameroon in their final group game, but manager Tite made a point of resting his best players and did well not to get sucked into the occasion and risk the superstars at his disposal.

When those big names are all back, Brazil are a real force to be reckoned with, and that’s even with Neymar facing a race against time to prove his fitness.

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South Korea shouldn’t be much of a threat for Brazil, and if they can get Neymar back for the later stages, the Selecao will fancy themselves to go all the way.



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Nottingham Forest confirm signing of Jonjo Shelvey from Newcastle

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Nottingham Forest have completed the signing of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey from Newcastle United.

Shelvey joins on a permanent deal, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract at the City Ground.

“It’s a pleasure to be here. As soon as I found out Forest were interested, it caught my eye straight away and I just couldn’t wait to get down here,” said Shelvey, who will wear the number 6 shirt for Forest.

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“It’s a fantastic football club that has so much history and I’m really looking forward to getting started.

“My main goal straight away is to fight for my place in the team and stay there. It’s not going to be easy because there’s a lot of competition for places, but it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to and the competitiveness can only help the team going forward.

“I spoke to Eddie Howe and he had such good words to say about Steve Cooper. I previously knew of him from my time at Liverpool, so I knew what a fantastic coach he was, but meeting him for the first time has been a breath of fresh air.

“He’s told me what he expects and the high standards he sets, so I can hope I can come and help the team push to stay in the Premier League. I’ve been in this league a long time, I know what it takes to stay up and what it takes to get a good team to gel, so I’m looking forward to getting started and working with the players that are here.”

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Forest are also hoping to finalise the signing of Keylor Navas from Paris Saint-Germain later on Deadline Day.



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Tottenham confirm loan signing of Pedro Porro

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Tottenham Hotspur have confirmed the signing of wing-back Pedro Porro from Sporting CP on loan.

The Lilywhites had been trying to push through a deal to sign Porro for the past number of weeks and finally struck a deal late in the January transfer window, signing the player on loan with a €48m obligation to buy – Porro’s release clause.

Speaking on Monday following the news that a deal had been struck, Porro said: “I’m grateful to Sporting, I love the club.

“I didn’t train as I was only focused on the transfer to Spurs but I will always be thankful to the club.”

With Porro coming into Antonio Conte’s squad, there have been some outgoings at right wing-back too with Matt Doherty agreeing to join Atletico Madrid, and Djed Spence leaving on loan too. In sealing the move, Doherty becomes the first Irish footballer to ever play for one of Spain’s three biggest clubs.

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Orlando City & Inter Miami bolster rosters

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The MLS transfers are heating up as the 2023 campaign approaches. Here’s everything you missed:

Orlando City make another signing.

Orlando City make another signing. / Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City have signed midfielder Dagur Dan Thórhallsson from Icelandic top-flight side Breidablik. He joins on a two-year contract through the 2024 Major League Soccer season with club options in 2025 and 2026, pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and ITC.

“Dagur Dan is a versatile player that can play both in the midfield for us, out on the wings or even at right back if we need and he’s been involved with Iceland’s national team program since his days with the U16s,” Luiz Muzzi, Orlando’s EVP of soccer operations and general manager, said in a release.

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“He has a great engine and fits the profile of a box-to-box player that can give us strength in both our attack and defense.”

Moussa Djitte

Austin FC loan Moussa Djitte. / Lyndsay Radnedge/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Austin FC loan forward Moussa Djitte to Ligue 1 side AC Ajaccio through June 30, 2023. The deal includes a purchase option.

He departs temporarily after joining the team in 2021 from Ligue 2 side Grenoble Foot 38, for their inaugural Major League Soccer season. He managed five goals and two assists in 30 appearances for Austin.

Djitté has held a U22 Initiative spot for the Verde & Black.

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Sergii Kryvtsov

Inter Miami sign Sergii Kryvtsov . / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Inter Miami sign defender Sergii Kryvtsov from Shakhtar Donetsk.

He joins on a two-year contract through the 2024 MLS season, with an option for 2025. 

The defensive veteran managed 17 titles during his 13-year spell with Shakhtar, and featured for the Ukrainian national team on 31 occasions. 

“Sergii is a composed defender who will provide valuable experience to our defensive line after many years playing at the highest levels both at the club and international levels; he is a solid defender in the air and possesses strong leadership skills having been vice-captain at his previous club,” Chris Henderson, Miami’s chief soccer officer and sporting director, said in a release.

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“Sergii is arriving after preseason with Shakhtar Donetsk, so he is ready to get incorporated into the group. We look forward to watching him represent the Inter Miami colors and help the team work towards a successful season in 2023.”



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