Group C is one of the most interesting groups as it features teams from four different continents that have no prior experience against each other. Colombia has the group’s highest FIFA ranking at eight, followed by Greece at 12, Ivory Coast at 22 and Japan inside the top 50 at number 46.
Unfortunately for Colombia, they head to Brazil without their best striker Radamel Falcao. Falcao has yet to fully recover from a knee injury he picked up while playing for Monaco back in January. Even without him, Colombia possess a very strong side.
This is Colombia’s first appearance in the World Cup since 1998. While their South American neighbors Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay get most of the headlines, this Colombian side has the potential to make it far in the tournament.
Former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman was named manager of Colombia in 2012. He has instilled an attacking philosophy which led to Colombia finishing just two points behind Argentina in the South American qualifying rounds.
Without the presence of Falcao, much will be expected of his Monaco teammate James Rodriguez. The midfielder creates chances while also scoring goals.
The Greek squad is a hard one to figure out. There are no real stand out stars, but collectively the group has competed well at a high level. It’s been ten years since Greece stunned everyone by winning the 2004 European Championship in Lisbon versus the home country Portugal.
It’s apparent that the odds makers are not expecting much from the Greeks. Despite a current FIFA ranking of 12, Greece are currently 200/1 long shots to win the World Cup.
Head coach Fernando Santos has had a long managerial career at the club level in both Portugal and Greece. He was appointed the Greek national coach in 2010.
Forward Konstantinos Mitroglou has a lot to prove in Brazil. He was a major threat while with Olympiacos but proved a disappointment after Fulham brought him to London earlier this year.
This is the third consecutive World Cup appearance for the Ivorians and the team’s initial goal is to make it out of the group stages for the first time. In previous tournaments they were in extremely tough groups and found themselves up against power houses such as Brazil, Portugal, Argentina and Holland. This time the Ivory Coast was given a more favorable draw and now have a good chance to move on to the knockout stages.
The team is managed by former France international Sabri Lamouchi. This is his first managerial position and he got off to a rough start with the national team’s fans when he dropped team captain and all time leading goal scorer Didier Drogba in 2013.
Drogba is back with the squad and will be a major threat up front. Other strikers include Gervinho of Roma, Wilfried Bony of Swansea and Salomon Kalou of Lille.
Adding to the Ivory Coast’s potent attack will be the presence of African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Toure. The powerful midfielder was a major part of Manchester City’s English Premier League title winning side.
The current Asian champions, Japan is making its fifth straight appearance in the World Cup. The national team made a name for itself on the world stage when they co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea and won their group.
The Japanese are adept at passing the ball around and retaining possession but they often don’t have anything to show for it. When up against more powerful teams, the Japanese often get exposed.
Alberto Zaccheroni has been Japan’s head coach since 2010. The Italian came to Japan after a successful managing career with some of the biggest clubs in Italy.
Japan will rely heavily on midfielders Keisuke Honda of AC Milan and Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United.
Most experts are predicting that Colombia will top Group C. The second spot, however, is not so certain and could be any of the three other teams.
Next time we’ll take a look at the countries of Group D: Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay.