A lot of teams would like to play in Group C. The favorite in the group is Colombia, which is all you need to know. However, unlike other groups, all Four teams have solid chances to advance to the knockout stages. The other three countries are Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece.
Needless to say, this is not the same Colombia team from the 90’s when they went to three straight World Cups. In fact, this is their first WC appearance since 1998. Despite being the favorite in the group, there aren’t a ton of big-name guys on their roster outside of Radamel Falcao. The problem with that is Falcao is recovering from an ACL injury and even if he does play in the World Cup, won’t have a ton of field time before the competition.
Instead, the Colombians may have to rely more heavily on Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez up front. In qualifying, Falcao had seven goals and Gutierrez had six, while only one other player had at least three goals (James Rodriguez). If Falcao isn’t himself, Colombia’s defense will need to step up behind veterans Mario Yepes and LUis Perea.
Ivory Coast will be competing in their third straight World Cup and this could be their best chance to advance out of group stages. In fact, with how some of their players have looked in recent competition, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Elephants to even win the group.
Didier Drogba is the name everyone knows and is the obvious threat up front, but at 36 years old, has seen his best years behind him. The good news is that Yaya TOure is playing the best soccer of his life for Manchester City this season and could be a real difference maker in this group. Wingers Salomon Kalou and Gervinho are also steady options, while Wilfried Bony has shown in England that he can be an option up front as well. The defense will be led by veterans Didier Zokora, Kolo TOure and goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Next up is Japan, who doesn’t get a ton of respect due to results in past years, but isn’t a team you can overlook. Their chances will fall solely on their studs such as Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Okazaki. If those guys can’t get the job done, the Samurai Blue will be all but finished. The good news is that outside of Greece, none of these teams are all that great on the defensive side. While Japan lacks consistency on the back line, Kagawa and Honda are two of the better players in this group on the attacking end. While the Japanese defense isn’t great, they still have experience which can come in handy.
Greece is the underdog in this group, but again that’s not saying much. They needed a playoff win over Romania to qualify for the World Cup. As mentioned before, Greece is an extremely defensive squad. In 10 qualifying group matches in Europe, they scored 12 goals and only allowed Four. Expect them to try and slow down every opponent in this group because their attacking options aren’t on the same level.
Giorgos Karagounis leads the midfield with Kostas KatsOuranis and both are on the wrong side of 30, while Giorgos Samaras and Theofanis Gekas are the main options up front. Vasilis Torosidis is their top defender and he plays for AS Roma.
It’s not hard to see why this group is a toss-up. None of them are exceptional on both ends of the field. Colombia gets the advantage of playing in South America, but without an in-form Falcao, things may be tough and they aren’t a great bet, even though they are favorites to win the group. Ivory Coast has the pieces to lead the group and Drogba, who recently had groin surgery, will be looking to go out big in likely his final major Tournament. The opener between the Ivorians and the Japanese could be monumental in deciding which one of those two advances.