Group C is seen as the easiest or weakest at the 2014 World Cup. The seeded team has no real World Cup pedigree. There is no stand out second team. The European side is one of the weakest that could have made it. One can imagine teams like the United States glancing enviously across wishing the draw had been kinder.
That is not to say that the quality will be poor. The upside to a competitive group means viewers will have a feast of contrasting players, experience, and styles. Furthermore, with three shaky defenses in the group, goals are almost certain. Here are the teams fighting it out in Group C and what they offer the World Cup.
Colombia: The South Americans will be expected to qualify with ease, even without injured Monaco striker Radamel Falcao. The cafeteros will still have too much for the opposition, with James Rodríguez and Teófilo Gutiérrez going forward. Fredy Guarin will provide class in the middle. The defense can be fragile at times, but a team can get away with it in this group.
Greece: The 2004 European Champions will stick to tradition. Tight at the back with heavy reliance on counter-attacks, mistakes, and set pieces. It may not sound ambitions, but it worked in the Euro 2102 group stages.
Cote d’Ivoire: While the forward line is mouthwatering, the defense is a huge worry. Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Wilfried Bony, and Didier Drogba will be no strangers to fans of the English Premier League and they will ask serious questions of any defense they come up against. However, Yaya Touré and his fellow midfielders will have their work cut out protecting a very leaky back line.
Japan: The Japanese are quick, technical, and brave. Yet a generally blunt attack combined with a suspect defense means Japan’s very talented midfield will have to be on top of its game. Much will also depend on the form of Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa.
Who will go through? : It is difficult to look beyond Colombia and Japan, although Cote d’Ivoire could push the Asians close. However, Japan’s possession may prove too much when the two sides meet.
Who will go home? : Greece and probably Cote d’Ivoire, but they are both equally capable of going through – that is the beauty of the easiest group. The Greeks will get chances, purely because the other defenses are so poor, but whether they can capitalize on them is a different matter.
Key game: the Japan-Cote d’Ivoire encounter on June 14 should decide which of the two goes through to the knockout stages of the World Cup. It also means the winner of that game can play for draws against the other two.
Although Group C is the easiest on paper, it is arguably the most intriguing. One team is better than the others, but still with plenty of questions marks. Two sides will push for the other qualifying place, while the whipping boys of the group boast the best defense. Not one of the sides will be expected to progress beyond the knockout stages and that will work in their favor. Instead, they can enjoy the freedom trying to win all their games – something quite rare at the World Cup in any era.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd