World Cup Preview: Group C

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We continue our look at the upcoming World Cup with Group C.

My colleague Will covered a tough group yesterday in Group B.  Group C?  Not as tough.  Let's see how it breaks down:

GROUP C

COLOMBIA

FIFA Ranking: 8th

World Cup Titles: 0

Possibility of advancing to knockout rounds:  91.9% (Note: I noticed that, when previewing Group A, I put "Possibility of advancing to group stage".  Just call it a mental note.  Also, call me an idiot.)

Trivia: 83% of Americans spell "Colombia" incorrectly.  (This might not be true.  I just don't want to bring up cocaine, okay?)

Sad Fact: Poor Andres Escobar.  (Seriously, if you haven't seen the ESPN 30 for 30 "The Two Escobars", go view it immediately.  That is an order!)

Short Team Preview: Missing quite possibly their biggest star in Radamel Falcao, Colombia will benefit from an easier group than most and a quick style of play that they are known for.

Player to Watch: Pablo Armero is a stout defender and part of the cog of the defense.

Other Player to Watch: Despite 24 caps, Adrian Ramos (Borussia Dortmund) only has 2 goals.  If he can get in the groove, watch out.

Goofy Fact: Colombia has 95 percent of all the emeralds in the world.  Oh, and certainly no corruption, violence or drugs.  Nope.  Everything is fine now.  LOOK AT ALL THE EMERALDS!

American Team Equivalent: Would the Michael Irvin Cowboys be too easy of a pick?  SNIFF SNIFF!

Conclusion: Too talented not to make it to the knockout rounds.  Colombia could surprise some people once there as well.  Less pressure without death threats from warlords.  Please don't kill me, people of Colombia.

GREECE

FIFA Ranking:  12th

World Cup Titles: 0

Possibility of advancing to knockout rounds:  35%

Possibility of boring everyone with their style of play:  341%

Trivia: Somehow won the European Championship in 2004.  People are still wondering how.

Sad Fact: Their economy.  Also?  The whole "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" movie and short-lived television show.

Short Team Preview: Slow.  Slower.  SLOWEST!  The people who argue that soccer is boring?  Well, Greece certainly helps their case.  I'm yawning just typing about the damn team.

Player to Watch: Giorgos Karagounis.  Hey look, a FULHAM guy!  And he's the captain for the Greeks.  (I'm slowly climbing under desk and into the fetal position while crying about Fulham's relegation.)

Other Player to Watch: Kostas Mitroglou.  WAIT A SECOND?  ANOTHER FULHAM GUY?  GREECE IS BECOMING MY 3RD FAVORITE TEAM IN THIS CUP FINAL!

Goofy Fact: 93% of men (and 13% of women) of Greek ethnicity struggle with back hair.

American Team Equivalent: Iowa football.  SOOOOOOOO boring.

Conclusion: If they make it through to the knockout rounds, it will be because of their defense and goalie.  They live for 0-0 draws.  I don't see them keeping Colombia and Ivory Coast scoreless.

CÔTE D'IVOIRE (From here on known as Ivory Coast)

FIFA Ranking:  23rd

World Cup Titles:  0

Possibility of advancing to knockout rounds:  71%

Trivia: World's largest producer of cocoa beans.  Sooooooooo....yeah.  That's nice.

Sad Fact: All the dead elephants.

Short Team Preview: Talented, deep and ready to kick some ass.  I like this bunch.

Player to Watch: Only arguably the best midfielder in the world today: Yaya Toure.  He's awesome.  I have nothing else to say about him.

Other Player to Watch: Captain Didier Drogba and Gervinho.  Both are threats to score at all times.

Goofy Fact: "In 2009, research on chimpanzees in Ivory Coast showed that female chimps are more likely to have sex with males who shared meat with them."  Well, yeah.  Who doesn't know that?  They actually took time to study that?  I could have told you that after a night out at The Palm.

American Team Equivalent: Golden State Warriors.  Fun to watch.

Conclusion: I expect them to make some noise in the knockout rounds, reaching possibly the quarterfinals.  All of Africa is cheering for them!  (Except Ghana, but screw them.  I hate you, Ghana!)

JAPAN

FIFA Ranking:  46th

World Cup Titles:  0

Possibility of advancing to knockout rounds:  21%

Trivia: Their nickname is the Samurai Blue.  How awesome is that?

Sad Fact: 1945.

Short Team Preview: An overachieving team that has made the quarterfinals twice in the past four World Cups, the Samurai Blue (awesome, right?) will need to rely on the experience of veterans Shinji Kagawa and Yasuhito Endo to advance to the knockout rounds.

Player to Watch: Kagawa, a mainstay now at Manchester United, has 18 goals in 56 appearances for the Japanese national team.

Other Player to Watch: Shinji Okazaki is another goal scorer who must step up for the Blue Samurai.

Goofy Fact: I have a great friend who, and this is no lie, orders the ASPARAGUS ROLL when we go out for sushi.  This has become a running joke.  I had no idea it was even on the menu the first time he ordered it.  I don't think the waitress did, either.

American Team Equivalent: San Diego Chargers.  I have no idea why.

Conclusion: They have the talent to make it to the knockout rounds, but facing both Colombia and Ivory Coast will prove a challenge.  I don't see them making it out of the group stage.

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