On first glance, Group C may seem fairly uninspiring. South Americans Colombia, without star man Falcao, Japan, Greece and Ivory Coast have been drawn together. Even without Falcao, Colombia stand out as favourites to progress on their own continent. But whilst the group is uninspiring, it is certainly not lacking in competition.
Unlike the majority of groups, there are no teams that look like being whipping boys in Group C. Yes, Greece are the team many expect to struggle, and have never made it out of the group stage, but even the Euro 2004 winners have what it takes to cause a stir on their day.
Central defender Sokratis Papastaphopolous of Borussia Dortmund and forwards Giorgios Samaras and Kostas Mitroglou of Celtic and Fulham respectively all stand out in the Greek squad. All three have experience of playing top level football, and they are not alone in that respect. Greece may well be a dark horse in a group that is incredibly difficult to judge.
Colombia join Greece and are the highest ranked side in the group. Los Cafeteros finished second in qualifying, behind only Lionel Messi’s Argentina. They have surprisingly underperformed in World Cup tournaments and haven’t made it past the Last 16, but with this summer’s tournament practically on their doorstep, they will be hopeful of going further. Even though the likelihood is that they will have to face one of Italy, England or Uruguay if they make it through the group stage, Colombia will be buzzing with excitement.
And even without Monaco man Falcao there is plenty of quality in the Colombian squad. Falcao’s club teammate James Rodriguez will – along with Porto’s Jackson Martinez – provide the firepower for the efficient side. Tipped as a dark horse, Colombia will be hopeful of qualifying for the next round but may live to rue the absence of Falcao.
Japan are an interesting prospect and will be looking to make an impact this summer, just as they have done at several previous tournaments. They have never made it very far, with their best performance being the Round of 16 stage in 2002 and 2010, but their blend of attacking football and methodical tactics make them a dangerous side when they are on top of their game.
Manchester United star Shinji Kagawa will no doubt be their main man once more, and AC Milan forward Keisuke Honda will also provide a threat. The squad doesn’t lack experience with only five players going into the World Cup with less than ten caps. 34-year-old captain Yasuhito Endo already has a record breaking 143 international appearances to his name and will surely add to that this summer. Southampton’s Maya Yoshida is also in the squad, and is in with a huge chance to add to his 40 caps for the Samurai Blue.
However, the side everyone will be keeping an eye on in Group C is the Ivory Coast. This will be the Ivorians’ third World Cup appearance having first qualified in 2006. Despite being FIFA’s highest ranked African nation, they have failed to progress past the group stage at the last two World Cups. But they have a very good chance of bucking that trend in Brazil, with a squad packed full of explosive quality.
Premier League title winner Yaya Toure has been the center of vast media attention after admitting that he is considering his club future, but he travels to Brazil as his country’s main man. The Elephants have plenty of reason to be optimistic beyond Toure though. Record goalscorer Didier Drogba will travel with the squad once more, as will Wilfried Bony who has had a successful first season in the Premier League with Swansea City.
Former Arsenal man Gervinho is also in the side, having impressed in Italy with AS Roma. And their most capped player Didier Zokora will surely add to his total of 120 games at center-back this summer.
Group C is definitely one of the hardest to predict this summer, and whilst the global media may not be too focused on it, neutrals will have to look no further for excitement, twists and turns as all four teams play with no pressure on their shoulders. Either way, Group C will be intriguing and will provide the world with plenty of information about some of the lesser known nations in international football.