World Cup Power Rankings: Messi and Argentina fall; Belgium replaces Brazil as new No. 1

We have reached the halfway point of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Thirty-two of the 64 games have been played, which means every team has one game remaining in the group stage before the knockout stage begins next weekend with 16 teams. There has been plenty of surprising results like Argentina losing to Croatia and two Group G teams, Belgium and England, putting together convincing performances. And with surprises comes heavy movement in our rankings, with teams like Argentina sliding and Belgium and England flying to the top. Here are our rankings ahead of the final group games:

World Cup Power Rankings through Sunday, June 24

RK TEAM
CHG ANALYSIS
1.
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Belgium+4Eight goals in two games. Two wins and flying high. Big test next against England. We'll see if the early results are a product of facing poor teams or if the Red Devils are a legitimate contender to win it all.
2.
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England
+5Harry Kane has five goals, but let's be honest -- two penalties and a fluke goal that ricocheted off his foot is not an earned hat trick in my book. I like where this team is on set pieces. Just like the team ahead in our rankings, we'll soon find out if the Three Lions are a  pretender or a contender.
3.
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Brazil-2Came alive in added time against Costa Rica to earn three much-needed points. Still at risk of crashing out, so it must get a result against Serbia. This team is built to win it all, but the finishing has to be better. 
4.
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Spain -2 Fortunate to beat Iran, so it slips two spots in our rankings. Once this team gets going, watch out. Don't forget Spain has a new coach, after all. Give the team some time to gel.
5.
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France-2Thought France was outplayed by Peru. It has six points but this team feels far from a sure thing. There is very little creativity in the final third.      
6.
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Germany -2Toni Kroos came up big when it mattered most, putting Germany right back in the thick of things. And that's without playing well. If this team starts to click, it can repeat as champs. But so far, it hasn't looked impressive.  
7.
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Uruguay-1Hasn't looked sharp despite winning its first two games. The midfield has struggled and it allowed Saudi Arabia to stay in the game. Not a good sign. El Maestro Tabarez has some work to do.
8.
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Mexico --Two wins and El Tri are still at risk of being eliminated. Sweden did them no favors. Filled with confidence though, and I like Mexico's chances of moving on. 
9.
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Croatia+3Taking care of business. Playing well, especially in the middle and made Argentina pay. Nobody is going to want to play Croatia in the next round.   
10.
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Russia+1The host nation continues to look strong, especially in the final third. Eight goals and clicking. Denis Cheryshev's revival has been huge.
11.
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Portugal-2Outplayed by Morocco. Feels like Euro 2016 all over again, where it endured terrible matches on the way to the title. Ugly, but effective. Doing it again here seems like too much to ask. This team is Ronaldo and 10 other guys.
12.
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Colombia+1Caught fire against Poland and control its own destiny. Boy, how 90 minutes can change things. 
13.
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Switzerland+1Win at the death against Serbia and is now in good shape to move on. Big last game against an eliminated Costa Rica side that may not have much to play for.
14.
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Senegal+11Deserved more against Japan, but it moves up a bunch because of its play. Calm, sharp, fast and effective, this team is a threat to make a run. But now it is going to need to probably get at least a draw against Colombia.
15.
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Denmark                                
--Could have locked up a spot in the round of 16 against Australia, but there wasn't enough there in the final third. Christian Eriksen can't do it all. Now it's in a little bit of trouble with France up next.     
16.
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Nigeria+8 Jumped into second place with a win over Iceland. Lots of confidence and will be favored against Argentina. If Jorge Sampaoli goes with three at the back or four with Eduardo Salvio, there is going to be a ton of room on the wings to do damage, just like Ahmed Musa did against Iceland. 
17.
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Argentina-7 This team has stunk, thanks to Sampaoli's tactics. The players need to rally together -- forget their coach -- and play for themselves and the fans. Can't believe Argentina still has a shot to move on.  Put together its best performance in a while, and it probably moves on. A 3-0 win is likely enough, but is this team capable of that kind of result? 
18.
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Japan+4Hard-fought point against Senegal. This team has some serious skills. Keisuke Honda is a super sub. Needs a win over Poland to move on.
19.
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Serbia -2 Buzzkill losing to Switzerland especially in the last minute. Now, you've got to get something against Brazil. Yeah, good luck with that.             
20.
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Sweden--Game plan nearly worked against Germany. Unfortunate to not get a draw, but what a silly tackle late to set up the winning free kick. Pressure is on against Mexico.
21.
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Poland-3Thanks for coming. Robert Lewandowski led the European qualifiers in goals, beating out Ronaldo. In this tournament, he's empty-handed in two matches, and that's because his teammates aren't doing enough to set him up.     
22.
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Iceland-1Brought back down to Earth against Nigeria and now must beat Croatia. Not an easy task, but the belief and desire is there.
23.
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South Korea  --Did well to create opportunities in the first two matches, but just couldn't finish nearly enough. South Korea is still alive, though, but its chances of advancing are very slim.
24.
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Peru -8Headed home. Zero goals in two matches, which, for a team that has quality in attack, is just devastating.     
25.
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Costa Rica-6Another team without a goal. Fail to score in the first two games, and you know where you are headed.                            
26.
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Iran+3Big chance to beat Portugal and pull off a shocker. A lot of heart in this team, despite the lack of quality. No goals scored by, with only an own goal in the opener to show. Not enough.     
27.
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Australia -- Can't rely on penalty kicks to get points. Time for Daniel Arzani to start and play most of the match. He's special.
28.
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Morocco -2 This team has been impressive and tough, but it has wasted more chances in attack than any other team I can think of. 
29.
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Egypt-1Thanks for coming. Having Mohamed Salah wasn't nearly enough.
30.
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Tunisia -- This team gave it everything it had, but going up against Belgium and England to start is almost an impossible mission. 
31.
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Saudi Arabia+1 Only lost by one to Uruguay! Baby steps.   
32.
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Panama -1 No team has allowed more goals than Panama's nine, but who cares. The first-time participants scored its first World Cup goal and the fans are enjoying the ride. Welcome to the world's biggest stage. Enjoy it. 

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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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