World Cup Preview: Group C

We’ve been going a series of previews of each group from the 2014 World Cup. Today’s group is Group C.

 

Teams: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

 

Colombia

How They Got Here: By finishing second in the CONMEBOL Qualifying standings, Colombia earned its first berth in the World Cup since 1998.

Schedule (all times local):

Greece, Sat. June 14, 1 p.m., Belo Horizonte

Ivory Coast, Thurs. June 19, 1 p.m., Brasilia

Japan, Tues. June 24, 4 p.m., Cuiaba

Players to Watch: We all thought the player to watch was going to be Radamel Falcao, but unfortunately for Colombia and for the entire world, an ACL injury will keep him out of the competition. Without Falcao, Colombia’s best player going forward has to be Jackson Martinez. His pace is top class, and he and Carlos Bacca will always be looking for passing in the middle of the park, which are likely to come from James Rodriguez. Between his speed and power, he is a difficult match for any defender, not to mention his dribbling skill and cannon of a left foot. He is their best midfield player and will no doubt create plenty of chances for Los Cafeteros.

James Rodriguez.

What to Expect: Colombia is back. It has been since 1994 that they have had any real expectations in a World Cup. In 1994, they were dark house favorites to win the whole thing, but ended up bounced in the group stage. This time, they will be looking to right the wrongs from 20 years ago. Even without Falcao, this team will be exciting going forward. There are some questions about the back line, but this team truly is one of the best in the world.

 

Greece

How They Got Here: Greece finished second in Group G of the UEFA Qualifying and qualified for the playoff round. In that round they defeated Romania 4-2 on aggregate to punch their ticket to Brazil.

Schedule (all times local):

Colombia, Sat. June 14, 1 p.m., Belo Horizonte

Japan, Thurs. June 19, 7 p.m., Natal

Ivory Coast, Thurs. June 24, 5 p.m., Fortaleza

Players to Watch: Kostas Mitroglou must create an attack and score goals if Greece is going to have a shot at making it out of this group.

Kostas Mitroglou.

Greece is known for playing very defensively. When a team plays such a style, it is necessary for the striker or strikers to be efficient, otherwise they’ll never score and never win. Due to injuries and form, he hasn’t scored a goal for any team since November 19, 2013 and there are questions surrounding the functionality of his knee. He has to have a brilliant tournament or else it will not be a fun tournament for the Greeks.

What to Expect: Defense, defense and more defense. The Greeks are one of the most defensive teams in the world and have been for years. They don’t have many technical players on the squad and rely on holding off their opponent and seizing on their mistakes to go forward. They have shown the ability to pull off major upsets before; it was ten years ago that they were about to miraculously win the European Championship. They will need another bout of magic in order to even make the knockout stage of this tournament, though.

 

Ivory Coast

How They Got Here: Ivory Coast won Group C in the second round of CAF World Cup Qualifying and then defeated Senegal 4-2 on aggregate in the third round to earn a spot in the tournament.

Schedule (all times local):

Japan, Sat. June 14, 10 p.m., Recife

Colombia, Thurs. June 19, 1 p.m., Brasilia

Greece, Tues. June 24, 5 p.m., Fortaleza

The 2014 Ivory Coast First XI.

Players to Watch: Didier Drogba is a name that many people who don’t even follow soccer know. This is probably his final World Cup, and he is the face of soccer for not only his home country but much of East Africa as well. But he is no longer the best player on his country’s national side. Yaya Toure has become not only Ivory Coast’s best player, but one of the top players in the entire world. He is known to be able to do anything: shoot, tackle, pass, dribble, lead, you name it, he can do it. Not to mention he will be showcasing himself to potential suitors as he has asked for a transfer out of Manchester City this summer, so his motivation will be even stronger.

Yaya Toure shows his range in a match against Sunderland with his current club, Manchester City.

He will be lined up in as the attacking midfielder in Ivory Coast’s 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 hybrid. Drogba, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Wilfred Bony will interchange as the three in front of him, and some other recognizable names, such as Yaya’s older brother Kolo Toure will play behind him.

What to Expect: Ivory Coast made its debut in the World Cup in 2006. In both 2006 and 2010, the Les Elephants have drawn the group of death. By no means is this group easy, but it is easier than what they’ve drawn in the past. They failed to make it out of the group stage in two tries so far, but this year is this best chance to get to the Round of 16. This group of soccer players were labeled The Greatest Generation heading into the 2006 tournament and have not accomplished much despite the flattering title. They’ve been called overrated and choke artists for eight years now. This is The Greatest Generation’s final chance to change the stigma, and you should expect them to do everything they can to make it happen.

 

Japan

How They Got Here: In the third round of AFC Qualifying, Japan finished second in Group C with 10 points behind group-winner Uzbekistan, but it was enough to get them to the fourth round of qualifying where they corrected their mistakes and won Group B with a 5-1-2 record, sending them to Brazil.

Schedule (all times local):

Ivory Coast, Sat. June 14, 10 p.m., Recife

Greece, Thurs. June 19, 9 p.m., Natal

Colombia, Tues. June 24, 4 p.m., Cuiaba

Players to Watch: Keisuke Honda is a force. His shots are ridiculous, his free-kick taking skills are off the charts and he has only gotten better since he showed his stuff on the world stage in 2010. He made some beautiful plays in 2010 and we should expect much of the same in 2014. Shinji Kagawa is the other very recognizable name on the team. While he has been horribly underused at Manchester United, his national team gives him the spotlight he deserves. He and Honda sort of shift in between the wide-right and central attacking areas which make keeping track of both of them a nightmare for defenses. In addition, Kagawa could be playing to get himself out of Manchester this summer, which is only another incentive for a big tournament from him.

Here are some of their highlights from the last World Cup as a teaser of what’s to come this summer:

And I can’t help but to share a GIF of Honda’s unreal free kick from that Denmark game so you can watch it over and over again. It only gets better every time.

What to Expect: Japan plays a very simple game. Four defenders who look to get the ball up field, with two holding midfielders who look to play the ball up to their attacking midfielders. They play a very basic game, but they’re wonderful at it. Also, you might want to pay close attention to their free kicks. They’ve been known to capitalize on such opportunities.

 

Game-by-Game Prediction:

  Colombia Greece Ivory Coast Japan
Colombia Colombia Colombia Draw
Greece Colombia Ivory Coast Japan
Ivory Coast Colombia Ivory Coast Draw
Japan Draw Japan Draw

 

Final Table Prediction:

Team Wins Losses Draws Points
Colombia 2 0 1 7
Japan 1 0 2 5
Ivory Coast 1 1 1 4
Greece 0 3 0 0
Justin Meyer
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Justin Meyer

Editor-In-Chief at The Left Bench
Justin co-founded The Left Bench in 2013, and ever since nothing was the same. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio, who has transplanted to the University of Maryland for college. He watches more college basketball than any one person should and is admittedly a 20-year-old curmudgeon.
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About Justin Meyer 209 Articles
Justin co-founded The Left Bench in 2013, and ever since nothing was the same. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio, who has transplanted to the University of Maryland for college. He watches more college basketball than any one person should and is admittedly a 20-year-old curmudgeon.