By Grant Wahl
June 01, 2010

You knew they had to be coming: World Cup power rankings are here. Let's dive in:

World Cup Power Rankings
1 Spain
La Furia Roja
The World Cup co-favorite has lost only once in its past 48 games over nearly four years -- a 2-0 defeat to the United States in last year's Confederations Cup semifinals -- but it was missing injured midfielder Andres Iniesta that night in Bloemfontein. Iniesta is healthy now, though striker Fernando Torres (knee) may not see the field until the end of the group stage. If David Villa flies solo up top, it may allow us to answer the question: Is Spain more more dangerous when it uses just one forward?
2 Brazil
A Selecao
It's amusing to see promos touting this Brazil team as a bunch of Beautiful Gamers when Dunga's outfit is built instead on power, athleticism and a killer counter-attack.This Seleção may be more feared than loved, but it is still very effective at what it does, and there is a tactical appeal to the way Dunga has constructed his team's attack. Group G has some of the most enticing first-round matchups involving Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast, and even the games against group outsider North Korea will be intriguing as the three heavyweights try to break down the compact North Korean defense in the pursuit of a potentially crucial goal-differential advantage.
3 Netherlands
If I was going to pick a team to win this World Cup outside the co-favorites, it would be coach Bert van Marwijk's Dutch side. Midfielders Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) are in top form after leading their teams to domestic league titles and the Champions League final, and the return of forward Robin van Persie from injury bolsters an already scary attack force that can select from Dirk Kuyt, Eljero Elia, Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The potential weakness lies on the back line, and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg won't make anyone forget the (internationally retired) Edwin van der Sar.
4 England
The Three Lions
Is England capable of winning the World Cup? Why not? It has Wayne Rooney, who played better in World Cup qualifying than any of the other candidates for World's Best Player (Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo). It has a battle-tested lineup of Premier League stars (Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand) who have sacrificed their egos for the team. And it has manager Fabio Capello, whose career could be defined by this event if he becomes the first foreign coach to lead a team to the World Cup title.
5 Germany
Die Mannschaft
Losing captain Michael Ballack for the World Cup due to injury is a severe blow, but it's not a death knell for the Mannschaft. In fact, Ballack's absence could allow rising star midfielder Mesut Özil to have a bigger impact on the field. While we talk a lot about star players who perform better for their clubs than for their countries (Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo), the Germans often feature the opposite phenomenon. They'll have to hope that's the case with forwards Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) and Lukas Podolski (Cologne), who had poor club seasons but still figure to start up front in South Africa.
6 Argentina
La Albiceleste
For me this is easily the most fascinating team at the World Cup, a psychological case study of coaching mismanagement (Diego Maradona) despite having one of the world's most formidable talent pools. Can Messi put this team on his back and carry it to the title a la Maradona in 1986? I just don't see it. Messi isn't a No. 10, as Maradona was, and he needs teammates who can get him the ball in dangerous spots. If Juan Sebastian Veron is going to be in charge of that group, it's hard to have confidence in Argentina's chances to win the whole thing.
7 Serbia
Beli Orlovi
Call me crazy, but I don't pay much attention to results in pre-World Cup friendlies, including Serbia's head-scratching 1-0 loss to New Zealand on Saturday. I actually predicted that Serbia would win Group D in print long before injuries knocked Germany's Michael Ballack and Ghana's Michael Essien out of the World Cup -- and I still feel good about that call. The Serbs won their qualifying group, beating out France, and they have a fearsome back line that includes Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Neven Subotic (Borussia Dortmund) and Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea). A potent attack featuring Milan Jovanovic and Milos Krasic will make life tough on opposing defenses, and Serbia has a wily veteran in midfielder Dejan Stankovic. The Serbs are my sleeper pick to make the semifinals.
8 Italy
Why are so few observers feeling good about the chances of the defending champion? Perhaps it's because coach Marcello Lippi's squad is creaky and old, including defender Fabio Cannavaro (36 years old), Andrea Pirlo (31), Gianluca Zambrotta (33) and Gennaro Gattuso (32). For various reasons, Lippi has also chosen to leave home perhaps Italy's four most gifted attackers: Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. It will be hard to get a read on the Azzurri in the group stage since their foes -- Paraguay, Slovakia, New Zealand -- aren't exactly world-beaters. But it's hard to envision a deep run in this tournament.
9 Portugal
Seleccao das Quinas
The Portuguese barely qualified for South Africa 2010, but their ability to get results in their final must-win games should provide some confidence to coach Carlos Queiroz's players. The key game in Group G will be Portugal's opener against Ivory Coast, which could determine the team that would advance alongside group favorite Brazil. Cristiano Ronaldo has become a better big-game player in recent years in European club competition, but he needs to show it for Portugal after failing to score in World Cup qualifying.
10 France
Les Bleus
Coach Raymond (Crazy Ray) Domenech has been in a heated battle with Maradona to see who can waste more talent, and Crazy Ray might actually be "winning." Domenech left talented youngsters Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri at home, and his refusal to include Patrick Vieira backfired when Lassana Diarra learned he would miss the World Cup due to an intestinal illness. Domenech has gone with a new 4-3-3 formation of late, which means Thierry Henry will likely be watching from the bench. Franck Ribéry and Florent Malouda could still be forces on the wings, but this team seems like a powder keg getting ready to explode -- and not in a good way.
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