By DAN KARELL
The FIFA World Cup brings nations from all over the world together during the tournament and no group represents this better than Group C.
Four nations from four different continents have been placed together in one of the most open groups the World Cup has ever seen. Even more, all four teams play a distinctly different style.
Colombia plays a short-passing game with strong support from its wingers. Greece plays a slow, methodical, plodding game with emphasis on set pieces. The Ivory Coast uses strength and speed to overpower teams in midfield and in the box, specializing on counter-attacks, while Japan plays a fast, fluid style with one-and-two-touch passing through the middle of the field.
Los Cafeteros, led by wily veteran head coach Jose Pekerman, are the favorites to win the group thanks to three games in the southeast of Brazil and an outstanding qualifying campaign. The Ivory Coast is at the tail end of its “golden generation” and it’s up to Didier Drogba and brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure to live up to expectations.
Most Americans may not know as much about Japan or Greece because of their lack of players in English-speaking leagues but neither nation can be counted out in this tournament. Both teams will play to their strengths to create interesting matches all throughout the group stage.
Here’s a closer look at Group C:
WORLD CUP GROUP C
6/14 – Colombia vs. Greece; 6/14 – Ivory Coast vs. Japan; 6/19 – Colombia vs. Ivory Coast; 6/19 – Japan vs. Greece; 6/24 – Japan vs. Colombia; 6/24 – Greece vs. Ivory Coast.
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH
Colombia: James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca, Fredy Guarin, Abel Aguilar
Greece: Giorgos Samaras, Kostas Mitroglou, Giorgos Karagounis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Wilfried Bony
Japan: Shinji Kagawa, Yasuhito Endō, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki
YOUNG PLAYERS TO WATCH
Colombia: Eder Alvarez Balanta
Greece: Panagiotis Tachtsidis
Ivory Coast: Serge Aurier
Japan: Hotaru Yamaguchi
SBI’s PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Colombia. Even without heart and soul of the team Radamel Falcao, Colombia is just too strong not to finish top of the group.
2. Japan. The Blue Samurai finished top of World Cup qualifying and play a beautiful attacking style, all while staying strong at the back.
3. Ivory Coast. Though it has plenty of talent on paper, the Ivory Coast will come out just short again, ending Didier Drogba’s World Cup dreams.
4. Greece. Greece is always sound defensively but a lack of scoring will hurt its chances in Brazil.
If there was one position that Colombia could have afforded to lose a starter, it’s their forwards. Colombia has plenty of talented players to step up in the wake of Radamel Falcao’s injury including Carlos Bacca, Victor Ibarbo, and Jackson Martinez. The question for them will be defensively, with 38-year-old Mario Yepes starting for them and losing his pace quickly. Japan, Ivory Coast, and Greece could all stake a claim for a place in the knockout stages but the SBI staff feel Japan is best suited to the heat of the Brazilian northeast after experiencing it in person last year at the Confederations Cup. The Ivory Coast has plenty of goal-scorers and could make things interesting against the smaller Japan but this could be the end of the road for Didier Drogba’s international career. Greece shocked everyone in Euro 2004 by winning the competition but isn’t expected to repeat those results 10 years later.
How do you see Group C shaking out? Do you think Colombia has the talent to top the group? Can Ivory Coast live up to expectations? Do you think Greece and Japan have a realistic shot of winning the group?
Share your thoughts below.