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Colombia, Greece, Japan and Ivory Coast will fight it out in Group C of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil this year. Japan (the Asian champions in 2011) and Ivory Coast are the favourites to proceed to the next round this year. Japan entered the knock out stages in the last World Cup before losing to Paraguay on penalties. Midfield is their strongest position, and partnerships including Honda, Endo and Kagawa might be the key for their success this year. Now, most of the players in the squad are playing in Europe including Nagamoto, Okazaki and Uchida, who are all at their prime ages and their experience in Europe may just bring them to the qualifying round. Ivory Coast were very unlucky to be drawn into the ‘Group of Death’ in the past two World Cups, but this might finally be their year to progress to the knock out stages. Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba are the key players in the squad and are undeniably two of the best players in the world in their respective positions. Toure, who scored 20 goals and won Manchester City the Premier League title this year, has to prove his worth by leading his country in Brazil.
The two remaining teams in the group may not be the favourites, but they are both capable of qualifying to the knock out stages. Every football fan in the world should remember Greece’s amazing run in Portugal back in 2004, where their lethal set-pieces and strong defence won them the European Championship trophy. Colombia’s top striker Radamel Falcao suffered a serious injury early this year and despite the fact that he has been training very hard recently, his form remains a big question going into the tournament. Colombia has one of the strongest attacking squads in the group, including strikers Jackson Martinez, Luis Muriel and midfielder James Rodríguez. They will be the key factor in determining the fate of Colombia in the World Cup.
Group D is the ‘Group of Death’ for this year’s World Cup and Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay will compete for the two qualifying seats in the group. Uruguay, the 2011 South American Champions, have three world class strikers in Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Each of them has been tearing defences apart and scoring important goals for their country in the past four years. More importantly, Fernando Muslera the Uruguayan keeper, could be the determining factor of the success of the team. His amazing performance in the 2011 Copa America was undeniably the primary reason behind Uruguay’s victory. If he can keep his form in Brazil this year, they may not only qualify to the knock out stages but could even win the trophy in Brazil. Italy are always amongst the favourites to win the World Cup, their steady and strong performances brought them to the Euro 2012 final before losing to Spain. A solid defence is the key element in Italian football and from Maldini to Cannavaro and now Giorgio Chiellini, the Italian defensive line is always led by a strong leader. In addition, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Gianluigi Buffon, who led them to World Cup glory in 2006.
This year’s England squad are the second youngest in history, with players including Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw who are both young and talented. Roy Hodgson’s defensive and counter-attacking play could bring England a decent run in the tournament, especially in such a fierce group. This England team should be less stressful than those in the past, with there being fewer expectations from both the press and the fans. Finally, Costa Rica may exploit the situation of this strong group by playing decent football and earn a place in the knock out stages, but very few expect them to spring a surprise. If Costa Rica want to get through this group, they may just have to repeat their performances of the 1990 World Cup to get a seat in the last 16.