2018 World Cup Power Rankings: Brazil remains No. 1; France slips after draw vs. USA

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The World Cup kicks off on Thursday as host Russia takes on Saudi Arabia, and the other 30 teams will play their first match in the following days as they battle for the right to be crowned champions of the world. But how do all 32 teams stack up before the cup officially begins? Here's our latest installment of World Cup 2018 power rankings:

Brazil -- The Brazilians got Neymar back, and he's already looks awesome. This team is still the favorite to hoist the trophy when it's all said and done. Losing Dani Alves to injury hurts, but Tite's men have enough to take home a sixth title.
+2 Lost to Austria in a friendly but fielded a different, young lineup. Created lots of chances in the win against Saudi Arabia and has all the pieces. Timo Werner is the real deal up top.
Spain -- Some concerns after the national team fired its manager. Also a bit of concern in attack in the matches following the blowout of Argentina. Who starts up top? Is it Diego Costa, Rodrigo or Iago Aspas? Should still make semifinals.
France -2 A 1-1 draw against a youthful USA squad was ugly and doesn't provide a good vibe going into Russia. It was an inexperienced team that struggled to finish. Better to miss those chances now. 
Uruguay -- A real threat to win it all. This team is loaded at the back and up top, but it is the young midfield that will be key. This team will escape its group, and if it can get the right matchups, look out. Keep an eye on young midfielders Nahitan Nandez and Lucas Torreira.
Belgium -- Belgium has scored three goals in four out of the last five matches. That's the scoring touch we need to see to be convinced this team can make a deep run. Hitting the back of the net often and at the right time. 
Portugal +1 With Cristiano Ronaldo pretty well rested, it's a good sign to see others like Andre Silva and Goncalo Guedes perform well. But can fielding this past-their-prime defenders help Portugal to reach the final? It's a massive question mark. Pepe and Bruno Alves are on the team, and this isn't 2010. 
Argentina -1 It feels like this team will make the final or crash out in the round of 16. Lionel Messi is going to need some help. Cristian Pavon has clicked well with him, but Paulo Dybala needs a bigger role. Jorge Sampaoli has a lot to figure out.
England -- I'm liking this team more and more. Harry Kane is a superstar, but the defense has to be near perfect. John Stones may be more of a liability.  
Croatia +1 From the midfield to the top, this team is incredibly talented, but at times the guys don't click. Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic must be on the same page for this team to do damage.
Colombia -1 Losing Frank Fabra to an ACL injury really stinks, but it will be fine. But is Falcao the definite starter up top? Miguel Borja deserves minutes for what he's done at Palmeiras lately.
Switzerland +1 This team is sneaky and has been together for a while, but it just feels like there isn't enough in attack to get very far. It's looked good in friendlies as of late though.
Peru +1 Getting Paolo Guerrero back is absolutely huge. He can be the difference between this team crashing out in the group stage and reaching the knockout round. 
Mexico -2 Didn't look good in the win over Scotland, and it struggled in the 2-0 loss to Denmark. Juan Carlos Osorio is keeping his starting XI a secret, and the belief is this team will look much better in Russia.
-- Four straight friendlies, and no victories (but played France and Brazil). I still think the host nation should be fine. Lots of footage to examine to see what's gone wrong in attack.
Denmark +1 Nice showing against Mexico where the team regained its scoring touch. Need to win the opener against Peru.
Poland -1 The attack is strong, obviously, but at the back there are some huge concerns. Also, why play a friendly on the 12th? Seems risky before the opener. 
Serbia +5 A huge mover. Bounced back from loss to Chile to put five past Bolivia and regain momentum. Aleksandar Mitrovic's hat trick is a really good sign.
Costa Rica -1 Really struggled with possession in a 2-0 loss to England. Serbia and Brazil like to dominate the ball too, so more pressure is going to be needed. 

South Korea +2 This team has struggled to score with one goal in its last two matches, but the chances are there. The improvement in creativity is visible and with Son Heung-Min starting, South Korea should be fine. 
Nigeria -1 The awesome jerseys aren't matching up with the team's play. Nigeria has not won a friendly since March, scoring two goals in fourth matches. Wasn't the attack supposed to be a strength?
Sweden -3 Feels like this team has next to no chance of moving on. Three straight matches without scoring a goal. Should have called Zlatan Ibrahimovic up, guys.
Japan -2 Japan has not won a match this calendar year. Three defeats and a draw, all of them friendlies. But this team just hasn't shown much to build excitement. Hidetoshi Nakata isn't walking through that door.
Morocco +1 Couple good results to build momentum by beating Slovakia and Estonia. Five goals in those games and building some good vibes ahead of the opener against Iran.
Iceland -1 Iceland slipped after failing to win a game this year, so far. Losing to Norway and drawing Ghana isn't that big of a deal, but allowing five goals in those two matches raises some concern. The team will have to be more in-sync defensively, especially in the middle of the field.                 
Egypt -- We're not moving the Egyptian team anywhere in our rankings until Mohamed Salah makes his return. A loss to Uruguay in the opener will put the team in a tough spot. How healthy is Salah going to be, anyway?
Australia +1 Following up two poor attacking shows in March by scoring six goals in two matches this month. The attack was always the big concern, and the squad is improving at the right time. 
Senegal -1 Some serious talent on this team, but they aren't looking sharp. I have them getting out of their group, but two goals in last four games scares me. Sadio Mane has to be in tip-top form.
Saudi Arabia  
+1 Struggled against Peru but did better against Germany. Held tough defensively and it's a positive to have only conceded one pure goal, with the other being an own goal. A momentum builder to play the world champs close. Next up, the World Cup opener on Thursday.
Tunisia   +1 Drew against Portugal and Turkey before losing to Spain 1-0. Those are some results that have to give the guys some belief. Good prep for England and Belgium.
Panama -2 Another team that just doesn't have enough in attack. It's failed to score in four of its last five matches. The first-time participants should just enjoy the short trip to Russia. 
Iran -1 Earned a 1-0 win against Lithuania but was wasteful in the final third. This team hasn't scored more than a goal in any of its last three matches. Not a good sign ahead of facing Morocco, Spain and Portugal.

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Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Goal.com... Full Bio

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