2014 FIFA WORLD CUP PREVIEWS – GROUP C

COLOMBIA

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The last time Los Cafeteros had high hopes going into a World Cup was in 1994. Colombia crashed out of the group stage and defender Andres Escobar was murdered due to a costly own goal against USA. Under Jose Pekerman, Colombia finished second in the CONMEBOL region and are highly ranked by FIFA as one of the top ten football nation presently.

Pekerman has managed to mould a host of high calibre attacking players into a system that facilitates some captivating play. Radamel Falcao is the team’s biggest name, but he misses out due to injury. But in his place, there is a group of stellar attacking players that Los Cafeteros are set to unleash on the world stage this summer.This team is brimming with pacey, and powerful talents. Jackson Martinez and Carlos Bacca are quality players who can nick results even when they aren’t playing that well.

Doubts linger over the defence too, where they have little in terms of squad depth. It is perhaps less of a concern when you consider they do have the attacking talent to outscore any team in the competition, though.

In the absence of Falcao, club teammate James Rodriguez will have to carry this team. The Monaco man is an exhilarating player to watch. His dribbling is tricky and tight, and when this is combined with his supreme agility and powerful frame, it makes him a undeniably tough prospect for opposition defenders to deal with. The attacking midfielder is also remarkably quick off the mark and possesses a thunderbolt of a left-foot. He will offer the chief supply line to the centre-forwards and has a huge role to play in Pekerman’s progressive outfit.

This World Cup represents their best chance of progressing to the quarter finals which beats their best record of a second round berth at Italia ’90.

GREECE

It’s ten years since The Piratiko stunned Europe and won the Euro Cup in Portugal. With two World Cup appearances , Greece qualified for this World Cup after a hard fought victory against Romania in the playoffs. A pulsating first leg saw the job pretty much done, with prolific forward Konstantinos Mitroglou bagging a brace in a 3-1 win; they went on to draw 1-1 in Romania.

The Ethniki are a team that remain tough to beat ten years on from when their resolute defence and unequalled togetherness saw them overcome the odds in Portugal. Fernando Santos has tried to introduce a little more fluidity into this side, their footballing principles has been built on Otto Rehhagel’s model for the past decade. They conceded just four goals in their ten qualifying games and have two outstanding young central defenders in Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Being solid is all well and good, but keeping the ball will be an issue in Brazil. They don’t have an abundance of technical players and could yet start the tournament with thirty-six-year-old Giorgos Karagounis at the heart of their midfield.

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Greece does not have a top quality centre-forward, which means scoring goals will be an issue in Brazil. Fulham striker Konstantinos Mitroglou is the player to get them goals but considering his limited playing time since he moved to England in February, this might prove difficult. Greece will not make it out of this group but they will definitely have an influence on those progressing.

 

 

 

 

IVORY COAST

Can this group be called the Golden generation? Les Elephants have some unfinished business at the FIFA World Cup, having been dumped out at the group stage on the two occasions they have qualified. The highest ranking African team qualified by beating Senegal in a two-legged playoff. 2014 World Cup draw has been a little more favourable, and they’ll fancy their chances of getting out of Group C, where they’ll face Colombia, Japan and Greece.

Coach Sabri Lamouchi has set up a solid team. The Elephants are pragmatic and press the opposition well, but when they’ve got the ball they are capable of expressing themselves and playing some fluid, attacking play but it’s at the back that their problem lies. Get through the midfield and the opponents should have some joy, though. Ageing centre backs and a dearth of quality in the full back position mean the Ivory Coast defence are easy to pull apart.

This has got to be his final swansong. Didier Drogba, the giant striker is a joy to watch when at his brutal best, brushing off defenders, powering his way through tackles and finding the net with aplomb. The Ivory Coast captain will lead the West African nation as they look to progress beyond their first round exit this time. He will be supported by Yaya Toure, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou.

A second round berth is the least from Lamouchi’s team.

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JAPAN

Japan is competing in its fifth consecutive World Cup and looking to repeat the successes of 2002 and 2010, when it advanced to the Round of 16. The “Samurai Warriors’” squad includes a number of Europe-based players, and head coach Alberto Zaccheroni is hoping their experience at club level will transfer to the international stage. The Samurai Blue were the first team to qualify for the competition when Keisuke Honda scored in injury time to secure a  1-1 draw against Australia. That late strike ensured they finished the group with a four point lead, and they suffered only one defeat in their entire qualifying campaign. Japan, like their fellow Asian qualifiers, know that while it is one thing to reach the World Cup finals, it is another matter entirely to do well once there. Alberto Zaccheroni knows that the team’s defensive frailties need to be addressed if they are to equal or surpass their best outing which is the Round of 16.

For Japan to better their last-16 appearance from the previous World Cup, Zaccheroni must make full use of Blue Samurai’s hugely creative forward players and the dynamism of flying fullbacks Yuto Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida.

The Japanese talisman – Shingi Kagawa has been criminally underused by Manchester United. During his time at Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Season, along with the set-piece wizard Keisuke Honda, Kagawa is Japan’s main attacking outlet, combining wonderful vision, intelligent movement, and exceptional technique.japan

The former Dortmund man is at his sparkling best ‘in the hole’, a position he’s been unable to nail down for Manchester United. For Japan, he and Honda drift between wide-right and central attacking midfield areas, making both players notoriously difficult to pick up. Japan have it all to do to progress from this group.

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