In what’s being billed as the toughest and deepest World Cup ever, 12 nations in particular could lay claim to their group being the despised “Group of Death.” Whether you want to substitute another awful word for death or not, there’s no debating industrious bouts of group play in the following paths.
GROUP OF DEATH: Group B (Netherlands, Chile, Spain, Australia)
Combined FIFA ranking: 84
Chile’s the wild card here. They’re a nation that’s rarely kept off the scoresheet and add a certain scare factor for even clubs as talented as Spain and the Netherlands. The Dutch went 9-1 in qualifying while Spain’s only qualification hiccups were draws versus Finland and France. Australia has to be feeling a great deal of hard luck. The Socceroos recently suffered twin 6-0 defeats versus Brazil and France and their “signature wins” of 2013 are Jordan and Costa Rica.
Those who love to claim rigged groups have a lot to chortle about when it comes to a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final. So who’s the favorite between Netherlands and Spain to win the group? Well, Spain went on to win the 2012 Euro while the Dutch lost all three matches in group play and did not advance.
GROUP OF DEADLY DEATH: Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy)
Combined FIFA ranking: 57
We covered the long, storied rivalry between Italy and England in a different post, but that’s just the appetizer. Group D will find Luis Suarez going against the nation who hosts his domestic team. La Celeste boast World Cup titles from long ago (1930, 1950) and South American teams certainly have an advantage on European competition. They may have just squeaked into the World Cup, but Uruguay came within penalty kicks of a Confederations Cup win over the Italians last summer. England and Uruguay have twice played in the World Cup, each winning while Uruguay holds a 4-2 goals advantage. That was long ago, however.
Costa Rica is UNCAF’s strongest nation and boasts victories over both the United States and Mexico in qualifying, the latter coming when El Tri needed it most. A January friendly against Chile will be a good pre-test for Costa Rican fortunes.
GROUP OF DEADLIEST DEATHLY DEATH: Group G (United States, Germany, Portugal, Ghana)
Combined FIFA ranking: 45
Wow. Just plain wow. If you’re an American fan, you’re looking at the “worst” team in your group as a team that’s defeated you in consecutive World Cups (though admittedly the States are much stronger ahead of 2014). Portugal may not be the feared monster of other World Cups, but they have perhaps the world’s top attacking weapon, Cristiano Ronaldo to attack the Americans most glaring uncertainly — defending.
The silver-lining in this dark, dark cloud for all three teams is what awaits those who emerge from the group (see here). And to up the ante on courting controversy, FIFA surely would’ve planned a Jurgen Klinsmann versus his home nation (photo above) if they were drawing up the perfect World Cup group.
The group’s Opening Day projects to be its most important, as Portugal and Germany get the highest profile match out of the way while Ghana and the U.S. work for three points they’ll absolutely need if they want to advance. One thing’s for sure: All four of these teams made it out of their groups in 2010, but only two can advance to the knockout round in 2014.