Teams: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Liverpool Players: Kolo Toure
Everyone is talking about how tough groups D and G will be, but group C could turn out to be the most interesting of the bunch. This group may lack the star power of most groups, especially with an injured Radamel Falcao being left off of Colombia's roster, but make no mistake, this group should be very hotly contested, and it's easy to make a case for any of these teams advancing to the Round of 16. Colombia, currently 4th in the FIFA Rankings, were the obvious favorites to win this group at one point, but now that Falcao has been officially ruled out, the likelihood of them having an easy route to the knockout stage is somewhat diminished. Due to Greece's ability to slow games to a near standstill, they are always a good counter attack away from stealing points. Ivory Coast have a pretty strong roster, but a history of underwhelming performances in international tournaments leaves many questioning their chances. Japan come in with a solid team that has many people picking them as the dark horse for the tournament. All of this makes for a very strong chance of Group C being the most competitive group in this World Cup.
Although Colombia had likely accepted Falcao would not be playing in Brazil after his ACL injury, it's a tough blow for them to go without him when it looked like he was on the verge of recovery. Does his absence put their advancement to the knockout round in question?
In another group, maybe not. However, this group has three other teams with a legitimate shot to move on. A striker like Falcao is the type of player that can make the difference between cruising to the next round and falling just short in a group like this where one slip up could mean going home early. I still think they'll advance, but I think its much more likely to be by the skin of their teeth now. (blunatic)
This group is a difficult one to call, and the absence of Falcao makes things even more murky. I still believe that Columbia are a step above the rest in Group C, but the gap between teams is definitely smaller. (Dan)
Ivory Coast are the front runners to win this group, in my opinion. Colombia seemed to ride on Falcao, and they'll have trouble getting through, I think. (JAceKopite16)
Japan are a very trendy pick as most underrated team in this tournament. Are they a legitimate threat to make a deep run, or will the Japan bandwagon be stopped before the knockout round?
For a while I wasn't really buying into the Japan hype, but looking at their roster right now, I'm starting to come around. Japan played in a tough group in 2010, and only lost to the final bound Netherlands team 1-0. They were the clear second best team in that group, and only a loss in penalty kicks kept them out of the quarterfinals. They have a much stronger team than they did four years ago, and I think they could make a run at the quarters or semis if they get the right match-ups after the group stage. (blunatic)
Japan impressed me last time around, but before we talk about deep runs for them I'd like to see them escape this tough group. And there's a good chance that even if they do get through, they'll be playing Italy in the first knockout round which is a very difficult matchup. So I'm not on the bandwagon yet, but I can see why some are saying that they are strong dark horse candidates. (Dan)
There's always one dark horse. Japan play decent football, so I can see why they could be seen as that this time. With Colombia losing Falcao, that gives them a better chance of getting to the group. As far as getting deep into the competition? I don't think so. Unless they were to come up against one of the "weaker" sides who advance, which, with Ivory Coast probably taking top spot, they'd come 2nd, meaning they'd take on a top side in the 2nd round. It's hard to see them beating the likes of Spain, France, or Germany. (JAceKopite16)
Which players performance will have the biggest influence on the outcome of this group?
Keisuke Honda. He scored 2 goals, including a beautiful 30 yard strike from a free kick against Denmark, and assisted another in 4 games for Japan in South Africa. He's a great playmaker, and is very effective from set pieces. He's scored 20 goals in just 53 games for Japan, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him put in another stellar performance in Brazil. If he's on form, Japan will be very tough to beat, and I could even see them coming out on top of this group. (blunatic)
Jackson Martinez must fill Falcao's shoes as prolific striker for Colombia, and while he might not be able to match Falcao in terms of raw production, Martinez is a pretty good player in his own right. At only 27 years old, he's already scored 155 club goals, 60 of which were for Porto in two seasons. (Dan)
Jackson Martinez seems to be the big thing here. After Falcao's injury, like Dan said, he'll have a big role to play. If he can do well, Colombia's chances get stronger. (JAceKopite16)
Which Group C match-up excites you the most?
It's Japan v. Colombia without question for me. These are the two teams I expect to make it out of this group, and I fully expect this one to be a great match to watch. This may be the one I'm looking forward to most, but this group is sure to be chock full of great games. (blunatic)
Japan v. Ivory Coast as two teams who are unfamiliar with each other fight it out for a place in the next round. (Dan)
All the teams are relatively unfamiliar with each other, and all are pretty decent. It's hard to say, for me. (JAceKopite16)
Reveal your bias! Which team in this group are you pulling for?
Japan is definitely the team I'm pulling for the most. I think they have big upset potential if they make the knockout round, and who doesn't love an upset? As for the other teams, no matter how much I hate that he played for Chelsea, Didier Drogba is a hard man to dislike so I wouldn't mind seeing him and Ivory Coast advance. Greece are the perpetual underdogs, and you have to like the underdogs. Colombia overcoming the loss of Falcao and making a run would be a pretty cool thing to see. I won't be upset to see any of the 4 Group C teams advance. (blunatic)
Greece may be perpetual underdogs but they are also perpetual trolls. I have no desire to see more of their matches than I need to. (Dan)
Greece make me laugh. They're a decent team, and fight, and punch above their weight sometimes, (2004 *ehem*) but so do Japan, and Japan play better football than they do. I find it hard to not like Kolo Toure, but will he play much in this Cup at all? Those are 3 I could go for, but I'm not sure. (JAceKopite16)