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2018 World Cup Power Rankings — 7 months B.W.C.

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209 days — that’s how long the world is still being made to wait for the opening game of the 2018 World Cup. It’s close, in that all 32 berths have been secured, but still so far, in that the draw is still two weeks away.

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Perhaps then, and only then, will it begin to feel really real.

According to our esteemed panelists — Joe Prince-Wright, Nicholas Mendola, Kyle Bonn, Matt Reed, Dan Karell and yours truly — four clear-cut favorites for the semifinals have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, followed by another six or eight sides with one half of their squad firing on all cylinders but some serious kinks to work out elsewhere.

[ MORE: Round 1 of the WC power rankings | Round 2 ]

Finally, the latest edition of PST’s 2018 World Cup Power Rankings, now featuring all 32 teams qualified for Russia…

Team Points Best Worst
1 (1) Germany 189 1 2
2 (2) Brazil 188 1 3
3 (4) Spain 177 3 5
4 (3) France 176 3 5
5 (8) Argentina 158 4 10
6 (5) Belgium 156 4 10
7 (7) Portugal 153 6 10
8 (11) England 150 5 12
9 (6) Uruguay 141 6 14
10 (9) Colombia 140 7 12
11 (10) Mexico 129 8 14
12 (12) Poland 125 10 14
13 (20) Croatia 118 7 20
14 (17) Switzerland 115 12 16
15 (NR) Sweden 92 16 19
16 (NR) Denmark 86 13 23
17 (NR) Serbia 83 9 28
18 (NR) Peru 80 15 25
19 (15) Iceland 79 15 24
20 (16) Japan 71 16 27
21 (NR) Egypt 66 18 27
22 (NR) South Korea 64 13 32
23 (NR) Senegal 63 17 26
24 (18) Nigeria 58 15 27
25 (19) Costa Rica 57 14 29
26 (NR) Morocco 48 18 29
27 (NR) Australia 45 22 30
28 (NR) Russia 36 20 32
29 (NR) Iran 34 22 31
30 (NR) Tunisia 30 23 31
31 (NR) Panama 19 28 32
32 (NR) Saudi Arabia 9 31 32

Emotional Neymar breaks down as Brazil coach Tite defends him

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Neymar has understandably been the subject of countless scrutiny and rumors since his extravagant and shocking move to Paris Saint-Germain.

These rumors are getting to him.

The penalty kerfuffle with Edinson Cavani has boiled over into whispers of his full-on dissatisfaction in Paris, and a failure to mesh with the squad. There are rumblings that he is unhappy in Paris, just months after completing his switch from Barcelona.

The latest talk is that, upon reuniting with former Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez in a visit to Barcelona’s training facility, he asked those around him if they would “accept him back.”

When asked about those rumors at his most recent press conference on international duty with Brazil, Neymar was obviously defensive about his personal feelings. “I am doing well, happy and very motivated to win with PSG and to be a player who gives his all on the pitch,” he said. “And that has been making the [journalists] uncomfortable. They are making up a lot of stories that just are not true.”

But his true colors came through on Friday when Brazil national team coach Tite took to defend his player.

“People always said I had problems with Neymar,” Tite said as Neymar began to get emotional. “We are sick of hearing that. I can say he has personality and character. We are not perfect, we are human beings. Sometimes we react in the wrong way. I did that in my career. But we have to be careful when we talk about people’s character and nature. I can talk about Neymar’s character, nature, and big heart.”

Eventually, Neymar couldn’t hold it in any longer, and he excused himself from the press conference abruptly.

Whether he’s unhappy or not, on the field it hasn’t shown. Through 12 matches across all competitions, Neymar has a whopping 11 goals and nine assists. He is scoring a goal every 98 minutes, a gaudy number.

Brazil hammer Japan; Serbia, South Korea win

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There are plenty of friendlies taking place across the globe this week as teams step up their 2018 World Cup preparations.

Five teams who have already booked their spot at the tournament in Russia next summer were in action early on Friday with Brazil, Serbia and South Korea all grabbing wins.

Below is a roundup of the games which took place, with plenty of other international friendlies to come in the next few days.


Japan 1-3 Brazil

The Seleceao were purring in Lille, France as Neymar scored from the penalty spot early on (with the help of VAR giving a decision against Southampton and Japan defender Maya Yoshida) but the PSG star then missed a second spot kick in the first half. Not to worry as Marcelo smashed home to make it 2-0 and and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus finished off a flowing team move to make it 3-0 before half time. Japan pulled a goal back in the second half through Tomoaki Makino but Brazil dominated as they now face England at Wembley next Tuesday. Japan face Belgium in Brugge on Tuesday.

South Korea 2-1 Colombia

Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son scored twice for South Korea as they beat much-fancied Colombia in Suwon. Cristian Zapata pulled a goal back for a strong Los Cafeteros side who had James Rodriguez and Davinson Sanchez in the starting lineup, plus Carlos Bacca and Edwin Cardona jumped off the bench with Juan Cuadrado an unused sub. Colombia travel to Chongqing to face China on Tuesday.

China 0-2 Serbia

Torino’s Adem Ljajic opened the scoring for managerless Serbia in Guangzhou and Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic made it 2-0 in the second half. Serbia play against South Korea in Ulsan on Tuesday. Good preparations for Serbia ahead of their first appearance at a World Cup since 2010.

Watch: Brazilian forward scores howitzer in comeback victory

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With his team facing defeat, Vasco de Gama’s 19-year-old substitute Evander came to the rescue.

The former Brazil Under-17s striker fired an absolute rocket from more than 35 yards to tie their game with Santos at 1-1. Vasco went on to win with a goal from Nene in the third minute of second half stoppage time.

Evander’s goal was the first in his career in the Brazilian Serie A. Take a look at it below.

England’s squad depleted for Germany, Brazil friendlies

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Add three more names to the growing list of absentees for England during the international break.

Manchester City duo Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph, plus Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson, are the latest trio to pull out of the Three Lions’ marquee friendlies at Wembley against Germany on Friday and Brazil on Nov. 14.

West Brom’s Jake Livermore had previously been called up to the squad as a replacement.

Tottenham trio Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks had already pulled out of Gareth Southgate‘s squad and the England boss will now look at plenty of new faces for what he saw as key tune up games to assess where his side is at heading into the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Not anymore.

On the plus side England may well give plenty of minutes to a trio of youngsters who are getting their first call up to the senior national team: Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy Abraham and Joe Gomez.

As they often do, England breezed through their qualifying group but these tests against the top two ranked teams on the planet have now become less of a measuring stick with next summer in mind.

Delph picked up a calf injury late in Man City’s win against Arsenal on Sunday, while Sterling was subbed out in the 78th minute with a back injury and Henderson has a thigh issue.

All six players come from clubs still in the Champions League who are also limbering up to intensify their PL title battle over the long winter months.

Kane, Alli and Sterling will be regulars for England, while Henderson will likely start too. Delph and Winks are both pushing to be squad players for Southgate but their untimely injuries now give the likes of Livermore, and others, a chance to step up.