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FIFA World Cup 2014: Preview and Predictions - Group C

A Winter's Tale


Group C is an incredibly open group and the toughest one to call as they all four teams are at least a decent international outfit yet there is not one outstanding team. Every team has their strengths and weaknesses and their own style and approach so it will be intriguing to see how the pragmatic Greeks, athletic Japanese, physical Ivorians and potential dark horses Colombia fare when they all meet each other. Whoever progresses probably won't be one of the favorites to go all the way but all the teams will put up a stern test any opponent. As I haven't seen much of any of these teams, they all remain unknown quantities which makes even more interesting to see how this group unfolds. I'm going for Colombia to top the group, given their high world-ranking and reputation aswell as having the advantage of it being a South American world cup. After that I will opt for the Ivory Coast, who are perhaps not quite as strong as in recent times, who have been unlucky in their previous two World Cup appearances, perhaps they are due a better run this time although again you can never be too sure about how some African sides will perform against teams from other Confederations. The remaining, sides Japan and Greece all have a chance of having a say in the group and have a decent shout of progressing.

Colombia have been tipped by some to be a team to impress this summer and potentially go far. They have their admirers for their flexibility, power and technical skill aswell though the injury of star striker Falcao will be a huge blow. This is certainly a seed I will be fascinated to see in this World Cup. Their squad is quite diverse: 6 from Italy (Milan, Inter, Napoli, Atalanta, Florientina, Calgiari); 4 from Argentina (3 from River Plate, 1 from San Lorenzo); 3 from France (Monaco, Toulouse, Nice), Colombia (Santa Fe, Athletico Nacional, Deportivo Cali); 2 from Portugal (Porto), Spain (Elche, Sevilla); from England (West Ham), Netherlands (PSV) and Germany (Hertha Berlin). Colombia have a squad of generally young players although they have the oldest play in the World Cup with goalkeeper Mondragon, age 42. They should offer good attacking quality, especially in the wide areas with star player James Rodriguez and there will be extra attacking options with the full-backs. The holding midfielders should provide cover for the full-backs whilst defense will be an area of concern for Colombia but overall, I expect Colombia to perform well and reach the knock-out stage but being a competitive group, it may not be all that easy. If they go through, then the last 8 isn't beyond their capabilities.

My pick to progress as group runners-up are the Ivory Coast. In the past World Cups, their golden generation have perhaps failed to live up to expectations and this ageing squad is probably past its best, with Didier Drogba now 36. They've been placed in tough groups in 2006 and 2010 and perhaps a lack of cohesiveness, defensive quality and adaptation to play against different types of teams have cost them. These flaws still remain but they are again in a competitive group but there is no Brazil, Portugal or Argentina and Netherlands standing in their way. I expect the Ivory Coast to go through because of this but perhaps their weaknesses will be part of their downfall again. Their squad is made up of: 5 from France (2 from Saint-Etienne and Toulouse, 1 from Lille); 4 from Germany (Stuggart, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Honnover, Eintracht Frankfurt), Turkey (2 from Trabzonspor, 1 from Galatasaray and Caykur Rizespor); 3 from England (Liverpool, Newcastle United, Manchester City); 2 from Switzerland (Basel); 1 from Belgium (Lokeren), Italy (Roma), Wales (Swansea), Norway (Stabaek), Ivory Coast (Sewe Sport). Yaya Toure if fit will be a crucial player for their intentions to reach the last 16. They have other options in midfield and wide areas aswell as a choice between Drogba and Bony whilst their defense remains very suspect. If they do go through then I don't see them going beyond the last 16.

Japan can be a surprising and excellent team to watch. They impressed in South Africa and were unlucky to miss out on a quarter-final against Spain follow a penalty shoot-out defeat by Paraguay. There's not many young players in their squad and after not seeing very much of them, it could be easy to assume that Japan perhaps might not have as good a World Cup in Brazil. They were quite decent in the Confederations Cup and were very unlucky against Italy in a thrilling match. Japan has a squad with many players based in Japan and abroad in Europe: 11 from Japan (2 from FC Tokyo, Gamba Osaka, Cerenzo Osaka, 1 from Urawa Red Diamonds, Kawasaki Frontale, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Jubilo Iwata, Yokohama Marinos); 7 from Germany (2 from Nuremberg, 1 from Schalke, Stuggart, Mainz, Hannover, 1860 Munchen); 2 from Italy (Milan and Inter) and England (Manchester United and Southampton) and 1 from Belgium (Standard Liege). Japan should be pretty good in an attacking sense with their star players being Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa and perhaps Shinji Okazaki could be an important goal-scorer. Perhaps, Japan's biggest weakness is defense and if they struggle to attack effectively then they could be going out at the group stage.

Greece are not a favourite of many football fans - mostly down to the defensive route to winning Euro 2004 - but no one can deny that they have an effective team. In qualifying they didn't score many goals but nor did they concede many. They didn't do well at the 2010 World Cup, but they did achieve a first ever win at a World Cup Finals. At Euro 2012, they found a way out of the group and ended up in a quarter-final against Germany. Certainly Greece should be a difficult team to break-down and they could reach the last 16. Their squad is made up of: 9 from Greece (4 from Olympiakos and PAOK, 1 from Panathinaikos); 6 from Italy (2 from Bologna, 1 from Roma, Genoa, Torino and Verona); 2 from Spain (Levante and Granada), England (Fulham); 1 from Scotland (Celtic), Germany (Borussia Dortmund), Turkey (Kayserispor). Greece will probably be the most difficult team to breakdown in this group but their lack of goals could be their downfall although Mitroglou and Samaras should be sources for goals. I expect Greece to be competitive but not scoring enough goals will cost them.

There are not many standout games in this group and it's difficult to predict which game will be a decider but perhaps Colombia v Ivory Coast on the 19th June at 5pm could be a vital game.


[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Colombia[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-0 Greece, 14[sup]th[/sup] June @5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Ivory Coast[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 2-1 Japan, 15[sup]th[/sup] June @ 2am[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Colombia[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 2-1 Ivory Coast, 19[sup]th[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Japan 2-1 Greece, 19[sup]th[/sup] June @ 11pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Greece[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-0 Ivory Coast, 24[sup]th[/sup] June @ 9pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Japan[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-2 Colombia, 24[sup]th[/sup] June @ 9pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]


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