The latest of our World Cup previews at Fred Stanley Sport focuses on Group C, which contains four country’s from four different continents. Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece all have a chance to progress to the knock out stages in Brazil, so keep reading to find out which players to keep an eye out for and where and when each game in Group C takes place.
Best Finish – Last 16 (199o)
Odds – 33/1
The Colombians will fancy their chances of winning Group C, thanks to a combination of quality players and their familiarity with the conditions in Brazil. Radamel Falcao has cemented his reputation as one of the top strikers in world football over the past few seasons, first by scoring at will for Athletico Madrid in Spain before taking his talents to moneybags Monaco in France. Falcao leads a strong contingent of European based players in the Colombia squad, including centre back Cristian Zapata, who plies his trade in Italy for Milan. With Group C featuring no stand out nations the smart money would appear to be on Colombia coming out on top and securing a tie against a group runner up in the second round.
Best Finish – Group Stage (1994, 2010)
Odds – 350/1
Greece famously won Euro 2004 thanks to their stingy defense and opportunistic attack, but the chances are slim that they’ll be able hoodwink the footballing world once more a decade later. Greece were forced to qualify for the tournament in Brazil via a playoff victory over Romania, although they were unfortunate to miss out on automatic qualification on goal difference to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos is the rock at the heart of the Greek defense, while at the other end of the pitch Celtic striker Giorgos Samaras will be relied upon to score the goals that could see Greece upset the odds at a major tournament once more.
Best Finish – Group Stage (2006,2010)
Odds – 150/1
By most observers reckoning the most talented African squad heading to South America next month, the Ivory Coast possess a number of accomplished Premier League players (Yaya and Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba) and one not so accomplished player (Emmanuel Eboue). Yaya enjoyed his best season yet in England this past campaign with Manchester City, leading the Citizens to their second title in three years. His powerful runs from midfield and ability to conjure a goal from almost nowhere make the Ivory Coast a threatening proposition for any team, and if Drogba can rediscover his form from his Chelsea days then the Africans could well be the surprise package of the tournament – though their back four and goalkeeper remain a weakness.
Best Finish – Last 16 (2002, 2010)
Odds – 250/1
Japan enjoyed a run to the last 16 in South Africa four years ago, and with Group C likely to be very competitive they’ll fancy their chances of repeating the trick in Brazil this summer. Shinji Kagawa may have struggled for minutes at Manchester United this season but the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder is still the key man for his country, where he’ll be counted on to get on the ball and dictate play for the joint hosts of the 2002 World Cup. Japan possess the least pedigree of the four teams in Group C but that won’t phase them as they embark on another World Cup mission.
Colombia v Greece – 14th June, Belo Horizonte (17.00 GMT)
Ivory Coast v Japan – 14th June, Recife (02.00 GMT)
Colombia v Ivory Coast – 19th June, Brasilia (17.00 GMT)
Japan v Greece – 19th June, Natal (23.00 GMT)
Japan v Colombia – 24th June, Cuiaba (20.00 GMT)
Greece v Ivory Coast – 24th June, Fortaleza (21.00 GMT)
Who do you think will win Group C? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley