Teams: Toronto FC, Fiorentina, Barša
World Cup: The Overrated and the Underrated
Now that the group phase has wrapped up, it's apparent some of the teams have failed to live up to their advance billing, while others have exceeded expectations.
The teams in Groups A and C, at least, finished in the order suggested by their FIFA rankings.
In Group B, 9th-ranked France was a big disappointment, managing only one goal against the ineffectual South Koreans and none against Brazil or Norway. In France's favour, it must be said that they only allowed 3 goals in 3 games. In the same group, 6th-ranked Brazil upset 2nd-ranked Norway - badly, both in the standings and in their head-to-head match. It wasn't even close.
Group D saw upsets as well. Fifteenth-ranked Australia showed that their dismal results in friendlies this summer were no fluke: they lost to 53rd-place Ghana in the crucial final game, allowing China to go into the final group game against Russia knowing they had clinched a quarter-final spot. Former world champions China were generally underwhelming in the face of weaker opposition. As expected, they finished top of the table, but just barely, winning by the smallest possible margin against Russia, and managing only a 1-1 draw against the slumping Matildas and a 1-0 nailbiter against lowly Ghana.
The rumours of an Asian upsurge have turned out to be so much hot air. Seventh-ranked North Korea beat up on 23rd-place Nigeria, but couldn't manage even a goal against Sweden or the USA. Fourteenth-ranked Japan ran up the score on 35th-ranked Argentina, but couldn't handle Canada and Germany. South Korea, in tough Group B, managed only one goal. In three games China managed only 3 goals.
With four teams in the WWC the Asian Football Confederation was greatly over-represented, compared with CONCACAF's 2 teams ande UEFA's 5. FIFA made a mistake by not giving AFC and CONCACAF 3 teams each once the tournament was moved to the USA. Mexico would have been a more competitive team than Japan, and would have drawn bigger audiences to boot.