Hey 2014 FIFA World Cup Group C, sup?
For whatever the reason, Group C feels like the most over-looked of the tournament so far — probably because most soccer fans would rather read Dan Shaughnessy’s latest column about why he hates the World Cup than watch Greece play. Even so, all four teams are technically still alive heading into the final group games this afternoon. Colombia, which has already clinched a spot in the knockout rounds plays Japan, while Ivory Coast takes on Greece.
If Colombia — arguably with France the team playing the most appealing soccer so far in the tournament — takes care of business and brushes aside Japan it’s fairly straightforward. Otherwise, it could get a little crazy with all the scenarios and goal differential at play.
The winner of the group gets Uruguay in the Round of 16; runner faces unlikely Group D winners Costa Rica (Bravo, Costa Rica, seriously). Colombia and Uruguay split their matches in South American qualifying, although the first — a 4-0 Colombia win — was played back in 2012.
Here’s how we stand in Group C:
- Colombia: 6 pts, +4 GD
- Ivory Coast: 3 pts, 0
- Japan: 1 pt, -1
- Greece: 1 pt, -3
Here’s your advancement scenarios:
- Colombia wins the Group C with either a win or draw. It would need to lose to Japan by multiple goals and Ivory Coast would have to beat Greece by a large score not to win the group.
- Ivory Coast advances with: a) a win vs. Greece b) draw vs. Greece and Japan draw or loss c) draw with Greece and Japan win, finishing with a better goal differential than Japan.
- Japan needs to beat Colombia no matter what and hope Ivory Coast loses to Greece. If Ivory Coast-Greece ends in a draw, Japan needs a better goal difference than Ivory Coast, meaning at least a two-goal win over Colombia. If Greece wins, Japans needs a better goal difference than Greece which is possible.
- Greece advances with a win over Ivory Coast and a Japan loss/draw. If both teams finish with four points, it comes down to goal difference between the two.
Got all that?
Ivory Coast can’t screw this up, can it? As previously documented, the Ivory Coast landed two brutal draws in 2006 and 2010, failing to advance. In 2006, Ivory Coast was eliminated before the final group game thanks to Argentina and the Netherlands. Four years later it was all but eliminated, rendering its 3-0 win over North Korea in the final group game meaningless as Portugal and Brazil played to a 0-0 draw which suited both sides. (Even if Brazil beat Portugal, Ivory Coast needed to make up a huge goal differential after Portugal beat North Korea 7-0.)
At 36-years-old Didier Drogba (who will start Tuesday) isn’t who he once was, at his peak for Chelsea and winning the Champions League, but surely he’s got enough left in his tank to get a goal or inspire his team to score vs. Greece, which is still benefiting from its all-time upset of Portugal in the 2004 Euro final. The way FIFA ranking and UEFA coefficients work, Greece milked the points from winning that title for much of the last ten years — qualifying for the last two Euros and World Cups. In 2014 World Cup qualification Greece was still rated in “Pot 1” alongside Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and … Norway?
In fairness, a lot of the anti-Greece sentiment feels like piling on. Greece now feels like a free target for social media quips for its boring, defensive-play. Greece, remember, did advance from its group at Euro 2012 but it has only produced two goals in its last five World Cup games. But yeah, let’s be honest, goal-less Greece is the one team that hasn’t gotten the memo that the 2014 World Cup is supposed to a thrilling goal-a-minute fun-fest.
Anyways, at this point we should all expect more from the reborn Gervinho than Drogba for the Ivory Coast. Perhaps Gervinho will serve as a cautionary tale when the World Cup is over about players taking the money and moving to the Premier League. The Ivorian winger was great at Lille, playing in a side that won Ligue 1 in 2010-11 but then made the ill-fated move to North London where he did next to nothing with Arsenal before moving to Roma last summer where he rediscovered his form.
This is worth mentioning since Colombia’s showpiece players like Juan Cuadrado will inevitably be linked to moves to the Premier League once the World Cup ends. Let’s, please, leave James Rodriguez out of the equation since he made a big-money move to nouveau-riche AS Monaco, which will play in the Champions League this coming season. Monaco will be buyers, not sellers. Either way, not every great player from the World Cup needs to play in the EPL — regardless of what the English media thinks — and those that move there don’t always settle.
And speaking of unsettled, what to make of this story circulating about Yaya Toure and his fractured relationship with Manchester City. Toure is quoted in France Football saying the club denied him a chance to spend time with his ailing brother, who died from cancer during the World Cup, instead making him celebrate the club’s Premier League title in Abu Dhabi. That’s a story to watch after the tournament.
Yes, there’s no such thing as rooting in the press box or blog couch, but Ivory Coast, do us all a favor — don’t lose to Greece, hell don’t even get dragged into a 0-0 slog either. Please.