Despite not boasting a traditional heavy-hitter, Group C is one of the most interesting groups that this World Cup has to offer. With three quality teams from three different continents, viewers will have quite the ride watching.
Three attractive teams from three different continents: Group C could turn out some surprising results.
Here are your Group C contenders:
Colombia (Ranked 8th in FIFA’s World Ranking)
Colombia are yet another South American dark horse, and despite having failed to qualify for the last three World Cups, they are back with a new-look team and a fantastic crop of players to put all of that in the past.
Colombia’s squad is made up of a majority of players making names for themselves at European clubs, and it’s easy to see why. From Christian Zapata to Fredy Guarin to Jackson Martinez, Colombia have proven players ready to make an impact for their country.
But Colombia’s crown jewel is undeniably striker Radamel Falcao. The goal-machine has been constantly finding the back of the net at big European clubs for five years now – he introduced himself to world football at FC Porto, before later setting La Liga alight with Atletico Madrid and finally ending up at AS Monaco in France.
He will miss this tournament through injury, but the whole of Colombia (even the president of the country) has moved hell and earth to give their star striker every chance of making a recovery in time for the World Cup. It’s a shame that he hasn’t recovered in time, but Colombia have other strikers to ease the pain.
Player to watch: Falcao was the obvious candidate, but whether or not he played, much of Colombia’s attacking threat will fall on the shoulders of Falcao’s Monaco teammate James Rodriguez. With the most assists in Ligue 1 last season, Rodriguez will be tasked with creating goals for Falcao’s replacement – probably Porto’s Jackson Martinez.
Predicted group finish: First place. Colombia quietly have one of the most interesting squads in the entire tournament. With plenty of firepower and creativity, the Colombians should finish Group C on top of the pile.
Predicted overall finish: This is a tricky one, as it is hugely influenced on who Colombia would play in the round-of-16 – England, Uruguay or Italy. However, Los Cafeteros are good enough that regardless of opposition, they have a solid shot at going even further. A quarter-final place would not be surprising.
Greece (Ranked 12th in FIFA’s World Ranking)
You can never count the underdog out of it – Greece are the perfect example that in football, anything is possible.
Everybody remembers the famous upset of Euro 2004, when Greece defeated host nation Portugal in the group stages, progressing all the way to the final where they would once again defeat the to claim their only ever international trophy.
Unfortunately for the Greeks, they’ve not had any sort of success since then. In the last four international tournaments, Greece has only made it out of the group stages one single time. At one of those tournaments, World Cup 2006 (right after they won the Euro Cup in 2004) they failed to even qualify.
Their FIFA World Ranking is incredibly deceptive (as many of them are) and viewers shouldn’t be expecting them to perform like the 12th best team in the world. If they’re to avoid another poor World Cup, they’ll need to bring back their trademark defense-first style that saw them lift their only ever trophy 10 years ago.
Player to watch: On that note, Greece will need a very high level from defenders this tournament. With plenty of tricky attackers in Group C, centre-half Kyriakos Papadopoulos will have his work cut out for him. Greece will need him in top form to stop the barrage of attacks they will face this summer.
Predicted group finish: Last place. Unfortunately for Greece, they aren’t likely to repeat their 2004 heroics. With such a tough group, surely their defensive approach to games will all be for naught.
Japan (Ranked 46th in FIFA’s World Ranking)
By far the best team representing the Asian continent, Japan have qualified for the last four World Cups, progressing from the group stages on two of those occasions. And with a talented crop of players, they may well do so again.
They are a further example of why Group C could be so interesting; the “Samurai Blue” are another surprise package, and if things click, they could be somebody to watch out for.
Japanese midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda are household names for football fans around the world, and any midfield with two midfielders of that ilk is very tricky to come up against.
With quality defenders such as Yuto Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida, opposition teams will certainly be wary of the threat posed by Japan. If they can keep possession of the football and let their tricky attackers weave their magic, they could edge their way into the knockout stages.
Player to watch: Shinji Kagawa spent the season under a club manager who had no idea how to incorporate the type of player that he is into a football side. Fortunately for the playmaker, Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni will likely not make the same mistake. When on his day (like he was every day at Borussia Dortmund) Kagawa is up their with the finest creators in the world.
Predicted group finish: Second or third place. Colombia should seal first place in the group, but second place is up for grabs for Japan. Their match against Ivory Coast will be decisive, and they can definitely win it.
Predicted overall finish: Although they can qualify from Group C, Japan will probably be knocked out in the first game after that. They would play a very good side in the next round, and although they may be able to knock out Ivory Coast, they probably won’t go any further.
Ivory Coast (Ranked 23rd in FIFA’s World Rankings)
Much like Japan, Les Éléphants are the best that their continent has to offer – if Africa is to have success in Brazil this summer, it will have to come in the form of Didier Drogba and co.
Unlike Japan, however, the Ivory Coast have one of the best players on the entire planet in their ranks – Yaya Toure. The midfielder, along with older brother Kolo, will attempt to inspire his team to a successful World Cup.
On top of the brother tandem, the squad also has talented attackers in Gervinho, Kalou and Lacina Traoré. These are some of Africa’s biggest stars, and with the world watching, they will have to prove that they are worthy of that title.
Ivory Coast went out in the group stages (albeit to a “Group of Death”) at the last World Cup, and they’ll use that as motivation to show everybody that they can compete with the big boys.
Player to watch: It’s been a very interesting year for Ivorian players. Attackers Wilfried Bony and Gervinho have both had great success moving to new clubs. Having said that, Manchester City’s Yaya Toure will need to be the man to make the difference for his country. The box-to-box powerhouse is coming off the back of an astonishing season in English football – opposition beware, there is no containing him.
Predicted finish: Second or third place. Although this group is easier than the one they were eliminated from in 2010, it will still pose a tough ask. The second spot in Group C will likely, as already mentioned, be decided in the Japan-Ivory Coast game. Either team could go through.
Predicted overall finish: Even if Les Éléphants can qualify for the knockout stages, they’ll likely be playing Italy or Uruguay in the round-of-16. This is probably one step too far for the Ivorians.