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WCup - Group Breakdown

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Confederation Breakdown

Now that we have laid out which teams are in this year’s competition & broken down which confederations have the most success let’s jump into group analysis. In this article we are going to examine each team and give some color behind their chances this year.

Group A
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
BRAZIL CONMEBOL QF QF WIN 2ND WIN 4
CROATIA UEFA - G G 3RD - 20
MEXICO CONCACAF 16 16 16 16 - 19
CAMEROON CAF G - G G G 50


Brazil heads into this year’s competition as the host nation & clearly the favorite to hoist the trophy – especially considering the pounding they put on Spain in Brazil last summer. Brazil has failed to meet expectations in each of the last two World Cups bowing out in the QF round each time – and will be a hungry nation this year – in a relatively weak group expect them to advance. The 2nd team to advance from this group could really be any of the other three, with Cameroon the least likely. Mexico has reached the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups and thus is likely the favorite to finish 2nd – however they certainly played a less than inspiring qualification having to compete vs. New Zealand in a playoff to earn the final spot. Croatia missed out on the last World Cup & has failed to reach the knockout stage since their 1998 team lost in the semifinals – but they are the only UEFA team in this group which could give them a small edge in chances of advancing. I expect that second spot to come down to the final game of group stage, June 23rd between Mexico & Croatia and give Croatia the edge.

Group B
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
SPAIN UEFA WIN 16 QF G QF 1
NETHERLANDS UEFA 2ND 16 - 4TH QF 15
CHILE CONMEBOL 16 - - 16 - 13
AUSTRALIA OFC G 16 - - - 59


In one of the stronger groups sans Australia Group B will be very competitive with Chile likely trying to bounce one of the two UEFA powerhouses to reach the knockout stage. Australia did shock the world by advancing to the knockout stage in 2006 Germany, but the deck is really stacked against them this time around. Defending World Cup & UEFA Champions Spain are currently ranked #1, and despite more failures than successes in the World Cup they finally broke through in South Africa to win the title – and thus with virtually the same team have to be considered one of the favorites again. Netherlands, who lost to Spain in the 2010 Championship game, are the 2nd UEFA team in this group but actually have a lower FIFA rank than Chile; these two figure to battle it out for the 2nd knockout stage bid from this group, and Chile may have the slight advantage with lots of home fans & what figures to be a weather edge playing in some hot & steamy conditions most likely.

Group C
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
COLOMBIA CONMEBOL - - - G G 5
GREECE UEFA G - - - G 10
IVORY COAST CAF G G - - - 21
JAPAN AFC 16 G 16 G - 47


Group C is clearly one of the weaker groups on paper with a team reaching the knockout stage in just 2 of 20 chances (going back five World Cups) – and one of those was the year the Cup was played in Japan & Japan advanced losing in the Round of 16. No team has reached the Quarterfinal round of the World Cup since at least 1990 – so we will have two very happy countries once this year’s group stage is played out. Colombia is the top ranked team according to FIFA checking in at #5 in the World, yet they have not played in a World Cup since 1998 France! Greece checks in at #10 in the World & has had some recent success reaching the group stage in 2010 South Africa & being the last team not named Spain to win Euro (2004). But let’s be honest – that success isn’t overbearing or too relevant considering that Euro title was 10 years ago! Ivory Coast has reached the group stage in each of the last two competitions, but has failed to advance. Japan is the only team that has advanced past a group stage, doing so last time in 2010 South Africa & in 2002 Japan – but they easily have the worst FIFA ranking checking in at #47. This group really is wide open but at this moment I would give the edges to advancing to Greece & Colombia considering CAF has only had one team advance in each of the last 5 World Cups (I believe Nigeria & Cameroon have better chances at advancing than Ivory Coast), and Japan seems to have overachieved in two of the last three World Cups meaning they may fall back some.

Group D
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
URUGUAY CONMEBOL 4TH - G - - 6
COSTA RICA CONCACAF - G G - 34
ENGLAND UEFA 16 QF QF 16 - 11
ITALY UEFA G WIN 16 QF 2ND 9


Group D is the 2nd strongest when taking a pure average of the FIFA rankings, but on paper they certainly have the most name recognition and dangerous squads – but are the teams as good as the names suggest this time around? I am not so sure. Uruguay figures to be a dangerous squad with how well Suarez is playing, their success in 2010 South Africa & the fact this year’s competition will take place in South America – but how come they struggled so mightily in qualification, needing to win a playoff to secure their spot? England & Italy are two powerhouse names from UEFA, but when taking a closer look outside Italy’s win in 2006 Germany neither has advanced past the Quarterfinal round since Italy’s 2nd place finish in 1994 USA. Italy has a lot of roster turnover of late, especially when comparing to their 2006 Championship team, and may be too young & inexperienced to battle for a championship this year. England also has a changed roster from recent competitions, but some of their key pieces are still in place – albeit aging. Costa Rica could be a dangerous team in this group, clearly perceived as the worst of the group having missed out on qualifying from the last World Cup & being eliminated in the group stage in the two Cups before that. This is another tough group to call, but right now I will give the edge to Uruguay to win the group, with Italy likely to secure the other bid to the knockout stage – but I frankly would not be shocked seeing any of these 4 teams advance to the next stage.

Group E
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
SWITZERLAND UEFA G 16 - - 16 8
ECUADOR CONMEBOL - 16 G - - 28
FRANCE UEFA G 2ND G WIN - 16
HONDURAS CONCACAF G - - - - 30


This is another group I would classify as relatively weak despite it rating mid-class when using FIFA rankings compared to other groups. Switzerland is rated tops in this group but hasn’t had any success in the World Cup to write home about – they have only made the competition three times of the last five (granted they have reached the last two), topping out in the Round of 16 at Germany in 2006. France, another UEFA squad, is certainly on the downswing of late, checking in the FIFA rankings at #16, failing to get out of the group stage in 2 of their last 3 appearances since winning it all at home in 1998. The group is rounded out with CONMEBOL country Ecuador, who has made the competition only twice of the last five including missing it last time, while Honduras is making its second appearance since 1994, going out in the group stage of 2010 South Africa. I could really see any of these four teams advancing here – and will likely be playing whoever has the best odds to advance (my next article, as mentioned above, will focus on odds and good bets). For this exercise I will project France & Switzerland to advance.

Group F
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
ARGENTINA CONMEBOL QF QF G QF 16 7
BOS & HERZ UEFA - - - - - 25
IRAN AFC - G - G - 37
NIGERIA CAF G - G 16 16 44


Group F is easily the weakest group when using the FIFA rankings as Argentina is the only team ranked in the Top 24 of the world, and also the only team that has advanced to the knockout stage since Nigeria reached the single elimination tournament in 1998 & 1994. There is no question to me Argentina has some demons to exercise in this year’s competition & will play well leading to an easy advance – perhaps the easiest of any team. The 2nd spot from this group is likely to come from the winner of the middle game on June 21 between Bosnia & Herzegovina vs. Nigeria; I would give the slight edge to Nigeria considering they are the more experienced team & have underachieved in the last few World Cups.

Group G
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
GERMANY UEFA 3RD 3RD 2ND QF QF 2
PORTUGAL UEFA 16 4TH G - - 3
GHANA CAF QF 16 - - - 38
USA CONCACAF 16 G QF G 16 14


In the toughest region if using average FIFA world rank as the metric Group G is this year’s “Group of Death” – frankly an overused term but I will join the rank & file by using it here. UEFA power Germany leads this group checking in at #2 in the world, having reached at least the QF round in each of the last 5 World Cups including playing in the SF round or Championship game in the last three years. With much of the same team I expect Germany to certainly advance to the knockout stage. The 2nd spot could arguably come from any of the remaining three teams with each reaching the knockout stage in the last World Cup, and each competing in the last two World Cups. Ghana has to be considered the longest shot considering the success of CAF teams recently, and a low FIFA ranking of #38. Portugal should be hungry after only reaching the Round of 16 last time out following a SF loss in 2006 Germany, while the Americans are seeking to at least reach the QF round for the first time since Japan 2002. I like this US team – I certainly feel this is the best team we have put forth perhaps ever, but the group will do us no favors. At least one CONCACAF team has advanced to the knockout stage in each of the last 5 World Cups, thus I will project USA to come in 2nd here (Mexico has been far too inconsistent for my liking).

Group H
Prior World Cup Finishes
World Cup Hosts S. AFRICA GERMANY JAPAN FRANCE USA FIFA
Country Region 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 Rank
BELGIUM UEFA - - 16 G 16 12
ALGERIA CAF G - - - - 25
RUSSIA UEFA - - G - G 18
SOUTH KOREA AFC 16 G 4TH G G 55
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In the 2nd easiest group (only to Group F) according to FIFA rankings – but perhaps the easiest considering how much Argentina is impacting the average ranking of Group F – Group H is wide open and ironically the lowest ranked team in the competition South Korea has enjoyed the most success by far of the four teams in this group! Over the last two World Cups outside the aforementioned South Korea only one of the other three teams Algeria has even played in a World Cup – and they were knocked out in the group stage in 2010 South Africa. Belgium is making its first appearance since 2002 Japan & they are led by Vincent Kompany – who led Manchester City to BPL titles in 2 of the last 3 years. Russia is also a dangerous team from UEFA checking in at #18 in the FIFA world rankings despite not making a World Cup appearance since Japan 2002 where it bowed out in the group stage. At the end of the day despite not having much recent success I feel both UEFA teams are the ones to beat here – and they will ultimately advance to the knockout stage with Belgium winning the group.

Based on those predictions here is what the knockout stage bracket would look like:

Round of 16:
Brazil vs. Chile
Greece vs. Italy
France vs Nigeria
Germany vs. Russia
Spain vs. Croatia
Uruguay vs. Colombia
Argentina vs. Switzerland
Belgium vs. USA

Quarterfinals:
Brazil vs. Italy
Nigeria vs. Germany
Spain vs. Uruguay
Argentina vs. Belgium

Semifinals:
Brazil vs. Germany
Uruguay vs. Argentina

Finals:
Brazil vs. Argentina (Winner - Brazil)

Not only did I lay out what the bracket would look like based on my projections for the group stage I also went ahead and predicted the outcome of each game in the knockout stage leading to the champion being Brazil. Nothing bold there certainly, but I really feel like this is the year Brazil breaks through and wins its first title since 2002. Here is the breakdown by region for my 2014 projections using the matrix I introduced in the beginning of this article:

2014 Predictions
Region 16 QF SF FINAL WINNER
CONCACAF 1 1 - - -
CONMEBOL 5 3 3 2 1
UEFA 9 3 1 - -
AFC - - - - -
CAF 1 1 - - -
OFC - - - - -


As you can see & compare to above it’s very similar to the breakdowns we have seen in the past – which is an important exercise to visually see making it “more likely” your projections have a chance at coming true. Sure many of the UEFA teams feel like favorites & they will be tough outs – but we will likely see about half the Round of 16 made of UEFA teams – the rest coming from other regions.

Weather could play a big part in this year’s Cup because it’s likely to be very hot & humid – something the European teams aren’t familiar with playing in often. That is likely to be an edge to CAF & CONMEBOL squads – meaning we could see a surprise or two from those two regions advancing deep into the knockout stage.

  
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