2014 World Cup Preview: Group C

Group at a Glance: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan. Some groups are made up entirely of teams that would surprise nobody if they advanced as far as the quarter or semi-finals. Then there are groups, like Group C, that are made up entirely of teams that would likely not earn more than a point or two in the group stages if the groups had shaped up differently. Somehow, Colombia is ranked high enough in the FIFA world rankings to have earned a seed, but that’s neither here nor there. Greece is a former European champion, and though most of their participants from that team have since retired, you can make the argument that their discipline and organization can serve them well on big stages. The Ivory Coast has fire power up front with Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, and Arouna Kone. And Japan made it out of the group stages last time so they shouldn’t be discounted.

Favorites to Advance: Ivory Coast and Japan. The Ivory Coast does have some elite players on it, and if they move Yaya Toure back into defense from midfield to pair with brother, Kolo, they should just about be able to defend well enough to win the group. Japan always impresses me with their selfless, team-first approach across all sports. And there is some talent there too. Nothing short of Sepp Blatter being caught in a bathhouse with 16 hookers and being forced to retire in shame would make me happier than Colombia, the seeded team of the group, going winless and finishing last in the group. Nothing against Colombia, but processes that don’t work are rarely changed unless the whole not working thing is featured in a bright spotlight. A seeded team finishing last in their group could do that.

Player(s) to Watch: The Japanese backline, namely Maya Yoshida, the 6 foot 2 center back currently holding his own quite will with Southampton in England’s Premier League. They’ve got some good talent, including Inter Milan’s Yuto Nagatomo, but they’re going to be way outsized by pretty much every opponent, and will need to be on point. Yoshida, as the biggest of the backs, will be under the microscope. Wait, that makes no sense…

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