With the 2014 World Cup kicking off in Brazil on Thursday, the second of HotspurHQ’s articles seeks your views on which teams will qualify from the World Cup Groups C and D?
Columbia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are competing in this group for the two places in the last 16. Group C would appear to be a very open group and possibly one of the more difficult groups to predict.
Columbia qualified as the second team in the South American group, finishing 2 points behind Argentina. Their best result was a 4 – 0 home win over Uruguay but with injury to Radamel Falcao depriving them of their star player it will be a great deal more difficult for Columbia. They will still pose a threat to all of the teams. This is their first appearance in the World Cup Finals since 1998 when they failed to progress beyond the group stage. In 4 appearances in the Finals, Columbia have only reached the last 16 on one occasion, in 1990 in Italy.
Greece reached the Finals in Brazil through the play-offs. They finished behind Bosnia and Herzegovina on goal difference in Group G. Both teams had 25 points from their 10 matches but Bosnia and Herzegovina had the vastly superior goal difference. While they had scored 30 goals, Greece managed only 12 goals in 10 games. In conceding only 4 goals they are obviously a very hard working team who are extremely difficult to beat but are not the most entertaining. As the top-ranked team among the 8 European runners-up, Greece defeated Romania in the play-offs. A 3 – 1 win in the home leg was followed by a 1 – 1 draw in Romania to secure qualification. This is the third time Greece have reached the Finals but in 1994 and 2010 they went out in the group stages.
Ivory Coast first reached the Finals in 2006 and that year as well as in 2010 failed to get out of their group. It is a vastly experienced, if ageing team, that with the quality of their top players will, on their day, be a difficult team to beat. They topped their African qualifying group and then defeated Senegal in the final play-off round, winning 4 – 2 on aggregate. For a number of their senior players, like Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and Yaya Toure, this will be their last chance at the World Cup finals.
Japan are appearing in their 5th successive Finals having reached the last 16 in South Africa. They also got out of their group in 2002 when they shared the Finals with South Korea. In qualifying, Japan finished second to Uzbekistan at the first qualification stage but topped their group ahead of Australia at the next stage to secure their place in Brazil.