Group C is the third of the World Cup groups, and it is contested by 4 success-hungry, thriving sides who no one expects to win the World Cup; Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. Let’s take a look at previews and predictions for the Group.
Colombia star striker Radamel Falcao is having trouble recovering from injury. The player will unfortunately miss the World Cup, so take that into consideration while reading the article.
Colombia seem to have gotten over the sad football history that plagues their country. Qualifying for the first time since the heartbreak of Andres Escobar’s murder, Colombia are looking to prove that their passion can be channeled into focus, and not violence. The cause will be helped by Radamel Falcao, who is viewed as one of the best strikers in the world, alongside Inter star Fredy Guarin and promising winger duo James Rodriguez and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. Although they are favourites in the group, there is a very small margin of advantage, and they will have to turn around to make sure they are running in the right direction.
Greece have a very promising team with a defence that is commonly referred to as “stingy” because of the difficulty of breaking it. Although they have a dismal World Cup record, defensive stars from the Bundesliga such as Sokratis and Papadopoulos can help Greece venture to the next round, even without any attacking threat.
Ivory Coast are reaching the final tournament that has their “golden generation” in their peak ages. World class players and prospects have gone through the system, such as Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou. Some Ivory Coast talents have only recently been discovered, such as explosive fullback/centre back/winger Serge Aurier, Swansea 2013-14 star Wilfried Bony and Russian Premier League goalscorer Seydou Doumbia. Although they have all these players, Ivory Coast have failed to produce anything major, the best example of this being in 2010 when they drew Brazil and Portugal in their group. After a fantastic qualifying run, Ivory Coast will seek to make the headlines, and even make a push for a quarter final spot.
Japan are the heart and soul of Asian football at the moment, and their desire and discipline is almost unmatched in the football world. Japan still manage to make the headlines with eye-catching displays of aggressive attacking, creating a style that, when it works, looks like a mix between Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola tactics. Expect risk taking and extreme playmaking from attacking midfield duo Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, in a side that is hard to dislike unless your country is a rival.
Strengths by Position:
Although there is a lack of world class Goalkeeping in the group, it would be hard to ignore an eye-catching display from David Ospina of Colombia.
Serge Aurier is a right-back with flair to spare at the Fullback position for Ivory Coast. With a move to Arsenal speculating, expect a clever showing from the 21-year-old that could pave the way for his early career. Yuto Nagatomo is solid for Inter Milan and Japan, and even though he is a wingback in a 5 man back, expect him to play as an attacking left-back, and win the plaudits he doesn’t usually get. Juan Camilo Zuniga is a fantastic attacking right-back, and you can expect him to have the same effect on Colombia as he does on Napoli.
1. Yuto Nagatomo, Japan
2. Serge Aurier, Ivory Coast
3. Juan Camilo Zuniga, Colombia
The Greek Centre Back duo is the best in the group by a mile, and you can expect Sokratis and Papadopoulos to make a huge impact on the final results on the table. Colombia centre back Cristian Zapata has gone through a tough season with AC Milan, but he is still a great centre back. Kolo Toure is past his prime, but if he plays even half as well as his brother Yaya Toure does for Manchester City, he will be one of the best centre backs in the group. Although they don’t make the list of the best in the Group, 38-year-old Mario Yepes deserves a shout as a great veteran for Colombia, and Maya Yoshida will be the best option for Japan, even when he is only half-fit.
1. Sokratis, Greece
2. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece
3. Kolo Toure, Ivory Coast
4. Cristian Zapata, Colombia
The Anchor Defensive Midfield position is reserved for players who know how to keep the team together. Composed players who are brave and take risks fit the bill for this position, and although none of the best players are in this position for the tournament, expect the great box-to-box midfielders to make an impact that makes up for the lack of these players.
The Box-to-Box midfielders are the relentless engines in the group. Yaya Toure has transformed to one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world after converting from his previous anchor role. Fredy Guarin can’t be forgotten either, and he is capable of playing the anchor role as well.
1. Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast
2. Fredy Guarin, Colombia
The “10” or attacking midfielder is the player that creates the most chances for the team. Although some formations don’t use this player, the 10 is vital to the success of the attack, unless countering styles are used. Shinji Kagawa has been amazing for Manchester United whenever deployed in this position, and Keisuke Honda is regarded as Japan’s best players, because of his performance level when he plays for country.
1. Shinji Kagawa, Japan
2. Keisuke Honda, Japan
Wingers provide pace and pressure from wide areas and are meant to be able to remove fullbacks from attacking. Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and James Rodriguez have world-class upside for Colombia, and Salomon Kalou is a good option for Ivory Coast.
1. Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, Colombia
2. James Rodriguez, Colombia
3. Salomon Kalou, Ivory Coast
Strikers are the gold of the game. Scoring goals is the main deal for them, and Ivory Coast is fantastic at producing them. Wilfried Bony/Seydou Doumbia will be great for Ivory Coast, regardless of who starts, and they will be alongside Didier Drogba. Colombia’s Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez have had recent breakthroughs in world football and will look to find the back of the net more than once in Brazil.
1. Radamel Falcao, Colombia
2. Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast
3. Wilfried Bony/Seydou Doumbia, Ivory Coast
4. Jackson Martinez, Colombia
Matchups and Predictions:
Colombia vs Greece:
In the Group where anybody can advance without a real surprise, all 4 teams will be looking for a head start. Colombia are the narrow favourites to advance, and they must try their hardest to slip this win. Greece’s stingy defence face the best attack in the Group, and Colombia’s attack will prove as good a challenge as most in the tournament would put up.
Colombia Attack: Colombia’s stars will need to break the Greek defence. If they can, Colombia should win the match without a doubt.
Colombia win on the rest of the field, and you can expect a great start from the South American Giants.
Prediction: Colombia 1-0 Greece; Goals, Jackson Martinez; MOTM Jackson Martinez
Colombia will break the Greek defence once, and their style will counter the Greeks perfectly.
Ivory Coast vs Japan:
Many people believe this group fixture will decide 2nd place. Ivory Coast’s stars and physical prowess may see them through, and Japan’s discipline may help soften the lack of real strength. Either way, a win here would see either team gunning for 1st.
Japan Attacking Midfield: Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda must try and beat the exploits of Yaya Toure. Yaya has more defensive credentials, but Honda and Kagawa provide a technical base that is unrivaled in the Ivory Coast side. This tactical battle will decide the match.
Japan Left-Back: This will be a toss up between Serge Aurier and Yuto Nagatomo. Whoever can force the other into defence, or pin them back, will win this battle. Because of wing support, Japan may have the edge here.
Expect a tough match, and one with many goals.
Prediction: Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan; Goals, Yaya Toure, Drogba, Honda; MOTM Yaya Toure
Both teams will silence doubters with solid performances that could convince some that they will both advance to the Round of 16. Japan will be a bit rusty.
Colombia vs Ivory Coast:
Colombia will need a win to try and secure Round of 16 qualification, and Ivory Coast will want to do just the same.
Colombia Defence: Colombia’s Cristian Zapata will do his best to stop Drogba. Expect Ivory Coast to slip a win here.
Ivory Coast Right-Back: James Rodriguez can expect to destroy the Ivory Coast left-flank, but whether or not Serge Aurier can stop Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. Cuadrado’s speed and direct play is matched by Aurier. In the tactical battle of the group, you can expect Colombia to be shut out here.
Both teams hold very attacking styles, so you can expect that attack to create a quick attacking and countering game. This will hinder Ivory Coast and their lack of discipline and technical prowess.
Prediction: Colombia 3-1 Ivory Coast; Goals; James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez, Muriel, Doumbia; MOTM James Rodriguez
Expect a youthful, speedy approach to the game from Colombia, and a spectacular performance from James Rodriguez.
Greece vs Japan:
Japan will look to make the most of this match, as their technical style works perfectly. Greece will look to frustrate Japan and counter.
Greece Defence: The Greek centre backs face the unenviable task of trying to frustrate the composed Japanese talent. If they can prevent Honda and Kagawa from creating, they will at least tie the match.
Japan will put up a technical showing that will see them outthink Greece.
Prediction: Greece 0-1 Japan; Goals, Kagawa; MOTM Kagawa
A brilliant goal from Kagawa will see the Japanese win the match in a very intimidating fixture.
Japan vs Colombia:
The Japanese will likely need a 4th point to stay in the Group, or a win to probably advance, and the Colombians need 1 point to get 1st for sure. This means both teams will play for the 3 points.
Japan Attacking Midfield: Japan’s dynamic duo will be matched by Freddy Guarin and most likely Quintero. If Honda and Kagawa make good chances, they will score at least 1 goal. Expect them to do just that.
Colombia’s left wing beats Japan’s right hands down. The other wing is close, but Japan get the nod there. Colombia win in attack, and in defence too. Japan’s AM beats the Colombian anchor.
Expect Colombia to put up the more convincing performance, but Japan will grab the draw.
Prediction: Japan 1-1 Colombia; Goals; Cuadrado, Okazaki; MOTM Freddy Guarin
Ivory Coast vs Greece:
Ivory Coast Attack: Once again, the Greek defence must be broken. Although Ivory Coast have a good attack, their technical level will mean they struggle here. Expect Greece to win the battle.
A frustrated Ivory Coast side will throw it all away.
Prediction: Ivory Coast 0-1 Greece; Goals, Mitroglou; MOTM Mitroglou
A great performance from Greece will come to nothing as Japan will draw with Colombia. Both sides will go home disappointed.
Final Prediction Table:
Colombia, 7 pts, +3 GD
Japan, 4 pts, 0 GD
Greece, 3pts, -1 GD
Ivory Coast, 3pts, -2 GD
Colombia will win 1st, and Japan will slide into 2nd, barely, thanks to a Greek goal.
Match Schedule for Group C (Eastern Time)
Colombia vs Greece: June 14 @ 12pm
Ivory Coast vs Japan: June 15 @ 9pm
Colombia vs Ivory Coast: June 19 @ 12pm
Japan vs Greece: June 19 @ 6pm
Japan vs Colombia: June 24 @ 4pm
Ivory Coast vs Greece: June 24 @ 4pm
Will Colombia and Japan advance? Tune in to all the games and read my articles to find out.