Brazil v Spain final on track
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Say what you like about the FIFA world rankings, they are looking surprisingly credible as the 2010 World Cup draws nearer to its grand climax.
And if you employ the rankings as your dedicated yardstick for the remainder of the tournament, then we are all set for a Soccer City final on July 11 between Brazil and Spain – the teams currently ranked first and second on the planet.
FIFA last updated the ladder about a fortnight before the World Cup began, and however subjective you may consider them to be, six of the teams ranked in the top seven remain “alive” as we reach the midway point of the round-of-16.
The only exceptions are fifth-ranked Italy, the 2006 champions, who exited at the group stage with their tails very much between their legs in bottom place with two draws and a defeat.
But otherwise the official barometer of world power -- at least at its top end -- is proving a decent gauge.
And on that basis Cape Town, in particular, has two looming plumb ties: Tuesday’s last-16 meeting between neighbours Spain (ranked second) and Portugal (third), and the now known quarter-final on Saturday afternoon between Germany (sixth) and Argentina (seventh).
Using the FIFA rankings for your logic, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay and Ghana – the latter two play each other in a Johannesburg quarter-final on July 2 – will be joined by Holland, Brazil, Paraguay and Spain in the last eight.
And that would mean the following fixture list in the quarters: Holland, ranked 4 versus Brazil, ranked 1 (Port Elizabeth, July 2); Ghana, ranked 32 versus Uruguay, ranked 16 (confirmed Soccer City, July 2); Germany, ranked 6 versus Argentina, ranked 7 (confirmed, Cape Town July 3); and Spain, ranked 2 versus Paraguay, ranked 31 (Ellis Park, July 3).
Of course Holland first have unfinished round-of-16 business against 34th-ranked Slovakia very shortly (16:00, Durban), and ditto Brazil against 18th-ranked Chile (20:30, Ellis Park).
The same applies to Spain on Tuesday, in the seismic meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo and company, and Paraguay against 45th-ranked Japan in Pretoria earlier in the day.
But if Monday and Tuesday’s remaining last-16 matches and then all quarter-finals were to go strictly to rankings form, these would be the semi-finals: Brazil v Uruguay (Cape Town, July 6) and Spain v Germany (Durban, July 7).
And they would lead to the previously-mentioned Soccer City showpiece between Brazil and Spain.
The FIFA rankings certainly aren’t the be-all and end-all. Argentina, for instance, remain many pundits’ favourites: they look so formidable an attacking force and their hugely eccentric coach Diego Maradona is hardly proving an impediment, is he?
But they aren’t exactly being shown up for pure folly yet, either …