The group stage is over and the knockout rounds begin on Sunday morning (NZT). What better time for the Herald to rank the remaining 16 teams in the World Cup, based on first round results, performances in those games and the strength of schedule they faced.

1. Netherlands (9 points)
Four nations advanced with maximum points but only the Netherlands managed the feat by beating a team ranked inside the world's top 10. The fact that team was defending champions and world No 1 Spain - and the fact it was a thumping - leaves the Dutch as the most impressive side to emerge from the group stage.

2. France (7 points)
Irrepressible in attack and having conceded only two goals, the French have found favouritsm with three scintillating displays. They could have scored five in their nil-all draw against Ecuador, with one of the tournament's best squads on paper backing it up on the park.

3. Germany (7 points)
Germany are possibly the most complete team at the World Cup and they made light work of the toughest group in the competition. They were brilliant in beating a 10-man Portugal, battled to a hard-fought point against a fired-up Ghana, and were typically efficient in edging the United States.


4. Brazil (7 points)
The hosts have earned the one-man team tag, and it's true their fortunes fall squarely at the feet of Neymar. But their attack as a whole looks almost unstoppable and only a leaky defence threatens to upend a dream win at home.

5. Argentina (9 points)
Speaking of one-man teams, where would Argentina be without Leo Messi? They'd still be in the knockout stages, courtesy of a cream-puff group, but they certainly wouldn't be among the favourites. If they win the World Cup it will be almost solely down to the world's best player.

6. Costa Rica (7 points)
Costa Rica were easily the biggest surprise of the group stage, beating Uruguay and Italy before holding England to upset the odds in what appeared to be a three-team group. Those results were well-earned, too - no one can accuse them of nicking points.

7. Colombia (9 points)
James Rodriguez may be threatening the big names for both the golden boot and the golden ball, but his teammates also deserve credit for making Colombia such an exciting side going forward. And, for what it's worth, Colombia are easily the best celebrating team at the tournament.

8. Chile (6 points)
There will be a fair few nervous Brazilian fans based on Chile's domination of Spain. And there will be a fair few nervous Brazilian midfielders based on the bite of Arturo Vidal.

9. Belgium (9 points)
Perhaps the least impressive team to win all three group games at a major tournament. Belgium's whole proved to be well short of the sum of their parts.

10. Mexico (7 points)
Mexico are only in Brazil thanks to the hospitality of their northern neighbours and the weakness of the All Whites, but their efforts in the group stage belied their dire qualification campaign.

11. United States (4 points)
Thirty seconds away from being one of the first sides to advance, the US deservedly progressed without the aid of a mutually-beneficial draw with the Germans.

12. Uruguay (6 points)
Poor against Costa Rica, brilliant against England and adequate against Italy. Uruguay shouldn't threaten a repeat of their 1950 win in Brazil.

13. Switzerland (6 points)
Switzerland were surprisingly good while being battered by France, but they owe their progression to Ecuador's defence falling asleep in the final minute.

14. Nigeria (4 points)
For all the scorn poured on Peter O'Leary and his Kiwi crew, the officials are owed a real debt of gratitude from Nigeria.

15. Algeria (4 points)
The benefactors of a group wide open behind Belgium, Algeria ensured two African sides reached the knockout stages for the first time in history.

16. Greece (4 points)
Dull football - and proud of it. Greece are the party poopers of the round-of-16, advancing from an average group to be the only remaining side with a negative goal difference.