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Jun 052014

Going in alphabetical order is for conformists! If you ask me, this is the most even group from top to bottom. Any combination of these teams could advance to the Round of 16 and it wouldn’t shock me one bit.

So without further ado, let’s break it down!


If there’s a “favorite” in this group, I’d have to go with the Colombians.

Obviously, the big story for Colombia will be the absence of Radamel Falcao. He’s been left off the final roster as he recovers from a knee injury he suffered in January. Falcao led Colombia, who finished second just two points behind Argentina in qualifying, with a total of eight goals. Only three other players tallied more than one goal: James Rodriguez, Teofilo Gutierrez, and Mario Yepes. Gutierrez figures to be the replacement for Falcao, but there’s also FC Porto’s Jackson Martinez to consider. Martinez only appeared in six of Colombia’s qualifiers, with only three of those appearances coming as starts. He’s talented, but Gutierrez certainly had the better qualifying campaign.

It’s not all gloom and doom for Colombia though. Their strength is out wide with guys like Rodriguez, Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado, and Napoli’s Camilo Zuniga. In the middle they’ll look to Inter’s Freddy Guarin for stability and the defense in anchored by Milan’s Cristian Zapata and Atalanta’s Mario Yepes. And in addition to Gutierrez and Martinez, Adrian Ramos had a breakout season in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin and is rumored to be headed to England this summer. You’d be hard pressed to find a more talented team in this group.


You know what you get when you go up against Greece: defense, defense, and more defense.

The Greeks love to defend in numbers and get their goals on the counter. This year’s team is no different. It’s been 10 years since they shocked the world and won the 2004 European championship and they missed out on advancing from their group in South Africa in 2010 by just a single point. That was a similarly tricky group with Argentina, South Korea, and Nigeria. The Greeks got here after knocking out Romania in the playoffs of UEFA qualifying after finishing second in their group.

The main player to watch is striker Kostas Mitroglou. He’s built like a tank and led Greece with four goals in six appearances throughout qualifying. Due to his size and strength Mitroglou is a tough mark on set pieces. Greece will be looking for him quite a bit as a source for goals. There’s also PAOK forward Dimitris Salpingdis, who figures to play underneath Mitroglou. Salpingdis added three goals in six appearances. Then there’s 37 year old veteran midfielder Giorgios Karagounis who will look to marshal everyone from the midfield.

With Falcao out for Colombia, Greece’s task in defense becomes a bit more manageable and they have a decent chance of advancing if they can stay organized and keep their opponents off the scoreboard.

Ivory Coast

The Elephants boast perhaps the best player in the group in central midfielder Yaya Toure. Veteran striker Didier Drogba will be riding off into the international sunset after this summer and will want to take the team as far as possible.

Ivory Coast coasted (oh, hey) through qualifying up until their final two-leg series with Senegal. The Elephants saw their leaky defense exposed by Senegal’s Papiss Cisse, but they held on to win by just one goal and punch their ticket. The defense is so poor that 33 year old Didier Zokora, normally a midfielder, is likely to be converted into a center back in the starting lineup.

Despite having plenty of talent, the Ivory Coast has struggled in its previous two World Cup appearances in 2006 and 2010. In 2010 they were drawn into a very difficult group with Brazil and Portugal and were ultimately denied a spot in the Round of 16 by just one point. This year’s group will be provide a similar challenge, but their chances of advancing are probably easier than in 2010 as long as the defense holds up.


Other than my native United States, this might be my favorite team going into the tournament.

Japan features a very technically gifted side led by midfielders Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, who ply their trade at AC Milan and Manchester United respectively. However, the key player for the Blue Samurai is Mainz standout Shinji Okazaki who played all but 20 minutes of qualifying. The Japanese had a fairly straightforward qualifying campaign in Asia and were the first team to officially clinch their spot in Brazil.

The big question for Japan is their defense. Center backs Maya Yoshia and Yasuyuki Konno will need to be strong in defense against the powerful forwards that populate this group if they are to advance. It will be interesting to see how they match up against the likes of Martinez, Drogba, and Mitroglou.

Japan will be itching to get out of the group and make a run in the knockout phase. In 2010 they finished second in a tricky group composed of the Netherlands, Denmark, and Cameroon. Ultimately they were defeated by Paraguay in penalty kicks in the Round of 16. Expect them to surpass that finish in this summer’s tournament.

Player To Watch

It’s always tough to pick just one player, but Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado made waves with Fiorentina this season and is on the wish list of quite a few big name clubs this summer. Blessed with a ton of speed and the technical ability to complement it, Cuadrado plays on the right side of either the midfield or defense depending on where he’s needed more. If he can pick up where he left off in Serie A, he’ll make quite a bit of money this summer and provide Colombia with a boost into the knockout round.

Group Winner/Runner Up

This will be my favorite group to watch in the tournament. All four teams have fairly distinct styles and should provide a number of intriguing tactical battles. Even without Falcao, Colombia will prove difficult to stop and ultimately I see them coming out on top of this group. History shows that teams outside South America struggle when the tournament is held on that particular continent, so I’ll give the Colombians first place based simply on their familiarity with the playing conditions of Brazil. That leaves Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan to duke it out for second place. I’m very high on the Japanese and they appear to be the most well rounded team on paper. The Blue Samurai go through in second place and don’t be shocked to see them surprise their opponents from Group D in the round of 16.

Winner: Colombia

Runner Up: Japan

Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

  One Response to “World Cup Preview: Group C”

  1. Nice piece, living in Colombia I am slightly wary of their billing as a favourite in this group, they may very well end up underachieving. One player you failed to mention is Seville’s Carlos Bacca who will be playing up front as well. Very noteworthy and with a great touch. Hear my most recent podcast on Colombia’s chances in the WC here:

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