Expectations for the FIFA World Cup 2014 - part III
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Here is my third part:
Group C: Colombia
Strengths: Colombia probably has one of its most balanced and talented squads ever. From the 21-year-old defender Eder Alvarez Balanta (Club Atlético River Plate) to the 42-year-old goaltender Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), the squad comes around with international star players such as the experienced defender Mario Yepes (Atalanta B.C.), midfielder Fredy Guarin (Internazionale Milan) and of course the talented forward Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco FC). Especially the offensive side of the team has a lot of depth and includes other potential star players like the 2013-2014 UEFA Europa League winner Carlos Bacca (Sevilla FC), Jackson Martinez (F.C. Porto) and Adrian Ramos (Hertha BSC Berlin). The team is currently 5th in the FIFA World Ranking behind Spain, Germany, Portugal and Brazil. In 2013, Colombia won seven out of twelve matches.
Weak points: Colombia has gone through a depressing era over the last decade. The team didn't manage to qualify for the last three World Cups and they only survived the group stage once, back in 1990. This means that the current squad has no World Cup experience. In South America, the team only won one Copa America in 2001 and the squad never managed to win a CONCACAF Gold Cup. Expectations in Colombia are elevated as everybody is now speaking of a new golden generation and this is putting a lot of pressure on the team.
Expectaions: Colombia will survive the group stage and make it to the round of 16.
Colombian squad from March 5, 2014 against Tunisia (copyright: The Epoch Times)
Group C: Greece
Strengths: It's exactly ten years ago when the Greek national football team achieved its greatest success by winning the 2004 UEFA European Championship in and against Portugal. Nobody expected the team to win and many criticized German manager Otto Rehhagel for his conservative and defense-based style of play who said that he had to adapt the tactics to the characteristics of the available players. Ten years later, Greece can still count on the same strengths with successor Fernando Santos: a great team spirit without any big stars, a disciplined and robust defense, clear tactics and the fact that nobody really expects them to go far in the tournament. In additon to this, the squad improved its overall efficiency and attacking capabilities. In four years, Fernando Santos has won 57,1% of his matches including a national record of seventeen unbeaten games. During the qualification process, Greece has only lost one out of twelve games.
Weak points: As strong as their defense might be, their attack is rather weak. A good example is forward Georgios Samaras who regularly scored for all of his clubs in three different leagues but who was only scored eight goals in seventy-one caps for his national team. Out of their seven last victories, Greece only won with 1:0 in five of these games. In addition to this, the Greek national team might have a strong spirit but they don't have a player who really stands out and who might be able to make the difference against a bigger team.
Expectations: Greece won't survive the group stage of the tournament.
Greece' squad on March 5, 2014 against South Korea (copyright: Demotix)
Group C: Ivory Coast
Strengths: Ivory Coast's squad is filled with many gifted players who have excellent technical skills and who play an energizing offensive style of play. In their last sixteen games, the team scored a stunning number of thirty-nine goals. If one compiles the goals scored by all seven forwards of the preliminary squad in their national team career, one gets the number of 113 goals. Ivory Coast's squad includes many internationally experienced star players like the brothers Kolo and Yaya Touré (Liverpool F.C. and Manchester City F.C.), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray S.K.), Salomon Kalou (Lille OSC) and Gervinho (A.S. Roma) among others.
Weak points: While the attack is playful and strong, the defense lacks consistency and discipline and still needs to improve. In the last six games, Ivory Coast's opponents managed to score eleven goals. In addition to this, the humerous managerial changes surely don't help to add some stability to the squad. In the past six years, the team had six different managers from five different countries (France, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden and Ivory Coast).
Expectations: Ivory Coast might play its best World Cup to date. I definitely think they could make it to the quarter finals.
Ivory Coast's squad on March 5, 2014 against Belgium (copyright: Soccer Laduuuuuma!)
Group C: Japan
Strengths: The Japanese women won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany, the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 AFC Women's Asian Cup in Vietnam. As amazing as the female squad is, the male squad only won one important tournament: the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. This year could be Japan's breakthrough. The players know each other very well: eleven players are still playing in Japan while seven are working in the first and second division of the German Bundesliga. The Japanese squad looks balanced. Goaltender Kawashima Eiji (Standard Liège) could make the difference, defender Nagatomo Yuto (Internazionale Milan) adds a lot of tactical discipline, midfielder Kagawa Shinji (Manchester United F.C.) is often cited as one of the best Japanese players of all times and forward Okazaki Shinji (1. FSV Mainz 05) just had his breakthrough season by scoring fifteen goals in the German Bundesliga.
Weak points: Historically, the Japanese team never made it beyond the round of sixteen in any World Cup and often struggled to win in South American countries and against South American teams. Recently, Japan lost all of its games in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup against Brazil, Italy and Mexico. Especially the defense had a lot of struggles as Japan was very vulnerable to attacks from the wings and didn't manage to keep teams out of their penalty area.
Expectations: Japan won't survive the group stage this year.
Japan's squad on May 27, 2014 against Cyprus (copyright: Reuters / The Wall Street Journal Japan)