World Cup Preview: Group C

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Côte d'Ivoire, Greece and Japan will all race to claim the second place in the knockout stage.

It’s a pretty tight-knit group here in Group C, but only two teams will advance and it should be fun to watch.

How they got to Brazil

Columbia – Currently ranked #5 in the FIFA rankings while finishing 2nd place in the CONMEBOL Qualifying. The Colombians are 3-8-2 all-time at the FIFA World Cup Finals.

Greece – Another top 10 in the world as they claim the #10 FIFA Ranking spot and qualified by finishing 2nd in EUFA Group G and beating Romania 4-2 in a 2-leg playoff. Greece is 1-5-0 in the World Cup Finals and has never advanced past the group stage.

Côte d'Ivoire - The "Ivory Coast" could be the sleeper in this group as they qualified by defeating Sengal 4-2 over 2 legs in the CAF Playoff. This African side sits in at a respectable 21 in the FIFA rankings. They have also never advanced in the World Cup Finals, posting a 2-3-1 all-time record.

Japan - Unlike any other team in this group, Japan actually won its group by finishing top in AFC Group B and have a low FIFA ranking by only sitting at #47. Japan has gone 4-7-3 in past World Cup Final Tournaments.

Schedule of Games

Date/Time (ET) Home Away Venue
June 14 | 12 PM Colombia Greece Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
June 14 | 9 PM Ivory Coast Japan Arena Pernambuco, Recife
June 19 | 12 PM Colombia Ivory Coast Estádio Mané Garrincha, Brasília
June 19 | 6 PM Japan Greece Arena das Dunas, Natal
June 24 | 4 PM Japan Colombia Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
June 24 | 4 PM Greece Ivory Coast Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza

Key Players in the Group

James Rodriguez, Colombia - With Radamael Falcao unable to overcome his injury in time to make the squad, it is left to Rodriguez to pick up the slack for Columbia and propel them into the knockout stages. He will likely play as a Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM), although versatile in the attack, and be the key figure in the attack for Columbia. Their fate rests in his young hands.

Yaya Touré, Ivory Costa - although an obvious choice, will be key in Côte d'Ivoire’s success entering this campaign. His ability to dictate the pace of the game against the likes of Columbia and Greece will be necessary if Côte d'Ivoire dream of advancing.

Shinji Kagawa, Japan - The Manchester United player will be hoping for a better showing in the World Cup than he saw with his club side the past season. They will rely on his creative passing in the midfield for their best opportunities and if he fails to find his form, Japan will have no chance at seeing the knockout stage.

Game of the Group

Côte d'Ivoire and Japan is the match of the group for me. I believe both of these teams will have a strong chance of advancing in one of the more even groups in this World Cup. This will be both teams first game of the group and I believe if either team can get 3 points early it will give them the confidence they need to move past Greece and get 6 points and promotion into the knockout stage.

Final thoughts and Predictions

Even without Falcao I think we can all agree Columbia is odds-on favorites to win the group, but the rest is up for debate. Personally, I think Drogba, Toure and Côte d'Ivoire will get 6 points (wins over Japan and Greece) and advance in 2nd place. Japan will finish 3rd in my mind, as I have never seen anything too great from Greece that makes me think otherwise.

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