C is for control

Being the Casual Hooligans we are we’re more interested in providing the fan’s perspective of football and bringing our fellow football aficionados information that is pertinent, insightful, and most importantly – interesting. Instead of providing you previews of the groups and teams involved in the World Cup we are proud to present our best information on all 32 teams.

Group C is a group dubbed the ‘group of opportunity’ as any of the four teams could come out of the group stages on to the knockout stages. Each of these teams have the skill and the opportunity to control their own destiny in this World Cup if they can play their style of football well. With plenty of offense coupled with disciplined defense these teams make up an exciting group sí… I mean..

Group C

Group C

Greece

Greece

“Greek-Greek-Greek-Defense!” might be a chant we would hear if the Greeks chanted in English because they put so much emphasis of their game on it. A side that only conceded four goals. With eight clean sheets in ten matches the rock solid Oresti Karnezis could be considered the driver of the bus Greece may park in Brazil.

With six out of eight victories won by a one goal margin the Greeks can certainly show their grit no matter how boring it may be to watch. They’ll be looking for their defense to keep that form going against other teams with resilient defenses like Japan and Cote d’Ivoire. Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was a rock in the heart of the Greek defense in qualification just like he is on German Borussia Dortmund.

The problem with this team making it into the later stages of this tournament is they find it difficult to capitalize in front of goal. This saw them finish second in their group behind Bosnia and Herzegovina with only 12 goals for but only allowed four goals against in ten games.

They’ll be looking for their defense to keep that form going against other teams with resilient defenses like Japan and Cote d’Ivoire. Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos was a rock in the heart of the Greek defense in qualification just like he is on German Borussia Dortmund.

Up front Kostas Mitroglou was an efficient striker in qualifying scoring five goals in ten appearances – three of those in vital playoff matches against Romania. In England with his newly relegated Fulham he battled injury problems but if he can find his normal form he averages about a goal every two games which might prove to be enough. Greece also provide a danger in set pieces with their big strikeforce. Mitroglou is also a tall striker 6’2” along with Georgios Samaras as a formidable 6’ 4” so they can grind out a game and score one from set piece. When and if Greece need a strong voice Giorgos Karagounis will be there to step up as a 37 year old veteran. He is old for a midfielder but brings power to the game along with tons of experience. When the team needs someone to whip them into shape defensively or burden the pressure of moving forward to get a last-gasp goal he can do it.

Defense has won championships before as Greece provided one of the greatest shocks of any tournament when they went to Portugal in the 2004 Euros. Greece has certainly been an important country in terms of philosophy and have built little on the footballing end of business… but just imagine if they brought that kind of ingenuity to the beautiful game. I wonder what it would look like?

 

Japan

Japan

Japan has been seeing a rise in their stock for World football. For a country that only started their professional football league in 1990 they have made it a long way in the past 25 years. In 2002 when they co-hosted the World Cup with South Korea they only had four players playing football overseas but in the Confederations Cup they had fourteen playing overseas. Many countries would love to see that kind of progress in their domestic talent.

However, in that Confederations Cup last year the Blue Samurai bowed out of the tournament with three losses out of three. It was surely a setback for the Japanese team but it was more of a wake-up call.. after their third Asian Cup title in four tournaments the Japanese began to realize they had plenty still to work on. Even under heavy pressure after the Confederations Cup losses Italian manager Alberto Zaccheroni comes into the World Cup with confidence in his team and the style of play they offer.

They, like other teams in this tournament, play an offensive game that sometimes leaves the back line exposed. They play a 4-2-3-1 formation which the Italian coach claims to have invented one day ‘by accident’. With the likes of AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda, Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa, and Mainz 05 striker Shinji Okazaki on the field the Japanese are going to capitalize on all the pressure they create. This style of high-offensive play saw them score 16 goals in eight matches in the final round of qualification. As Zaccheroni says, “I’d like to make our team active on offense, rather than just playing defensively.” – certainly keeping true to his word.

Though their defense was exposed during the Confederations Cup they held their back line fairly well in qualifiers only allowing five goals in those eight matches and the offense let them off the hook most of the time. They’ll also need to defend better on set pieces which has seen this team give up some easy goals in the past – something to be particularly cautious of against the opportunistic Greeks.

If the midfield can’t get their momentum in a game it will be difficult win games against the physical Ivorians, the ultra defensive Greeks, and the talented Colombians but Japan is definitely a team that isn’t afraid to play with anyone. They play fearlessly and have great confidence in their pass and move style of play which has seen them get great results in the past and they’ll look to keep is up in Brazil.

 

Cote d’Ivoire

Ivory Coast

The Ivory Coast brings a light burden to this tournament. It’s constantly been labelled as the greatest hope an African nation has at the World Cup though in years past it has been unfairly labelled as such. The quality of the players has never been in doubt as Cote d’Ivoire regularly has many skilled footballers but it was the experience they brought to the World stage that made the expectations unfair. Here is a nation qualifying for the World Cup for only the third time in it’s history and people expect to see stampeding Elephants – to their disappointment. The team never made it out of the group stages, although they’ve been incredibly unlucky to get drawn into the much feared group of death.

What the Ivory Coast did gain from those tournaments, however is experience – experience at the World’s most difficult cup in the most difficult teams. This time the Ivory Coast got lucky enough to be seeded in a much more balanced group and finally the Ivory Coast’s golden generation can show the World what it can really do. With an incredibly talented squad, many of which will be recognized by European club soccer fans (Eboue, Drogba, Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Kalou, Tiote, Bony, Traore) the Elephants have the skill and the sense of brotherhood to make an impact in the group stages.

Their coach hasn’t done the best of jobs in terms of making the team into a consistent and cohesive unit. “Coach Sabri Lamouchi has failed to establish a clear directive for the team. When you have as many stars as he does,you’re tempted to just let these guys play their games. As a result you have roller-coaster shows of form.” Still, they did very well in qualifications to make it this far. They didn’t lose a single match and scored 15 goals while only giving up five.

Their biggest asset on the field is is twofold: the experience and depth they have up top and the man-machine that is Yaya Toure at midfield. Didier Drogba has been terrorizing defenses for years and after 99 games and 63 goals he is as experienced a forward as Africa has ever had to offer. The talisman has made an incredible impact on and off the field as he influenced a ceasefire in the Ivorian Civil War after making an emotional plea in the wake of an intense match. He has inspired and donated to his country and I’m confident when I say he and many of his teammates won’t be playing to win but rather to make their country proud.

Yaya Toure. There is a name that can strike fear into the hearts of any midfielders who know what’s good for them. I remember a commentator once saying he can be as wide as a truck or as nimble as a housefly when he has to be and I couldn’t agree more. He is a helluva midfielder and he is in prolific form coming into this World Cup after winning the EPL with Manchester City.

The main issues I see with this Ivorian team is being consistent and being able to close out games. The defense gave up only a handful of goals in qualifying but they tend to lose concentration towards the end of games and as a result more goals are scored near the end of games. With a fast-paced and physical play style the Elephants could become demoralized if they let in a late goal – but in a situation like that we’ll all see what this team can truly accomplish. Looking at the teams they’re up against I’m really excited to watch this team this World Cup and I hope I see an African team make it past the quarterfinals for the first time ever.

 

Colombia

Colombia

The Cafeteros are, for many people, a dark horse to go far in this year’s World Cup and for good reason. As a nation which hasn’t made it to the finals since 1998, Colombia has brought an incredibly exciting team this year which saw it regain the identity it hasn’t had since the golden generation in the 1990s. With only four of the 16 qualification having one of less goals in CONMEBOL I would argue this team will be the most entertaining to watch in Brazil.

Their Argentinian coach José Pékerman has managed the team since 2012 and has brought back an exciting and attack-minded style of football. It’s one of the few teams which play a traditional 4-4-2 formation (occasionally in 4-4-1-1) which allows a partnership of two strikers to develop a combination in the offensive third. Pékerman coached the 2006 Argentinian national team to the quarterfinals that saw them lose a heartbreaking penalty shootout to hosts Germany. On top of that he led the Argentenian U20 team to three U20 World Cup titles. With the experience under his belt the gaffer can make things happen in Brazil as much as his incredibly talented team can. Says big-haired Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama, “Pékerman is a football man who can play the game and who, in his own way, has given Colombian football its identity back.”


Rediscovered Colombian football saw them finish only two points behind a blistering Argentina side and Colombia kept a tight defense with allowing only 13 goals in 16 games – the least in South American qualification. The back line seemed to have done a helluva job in qualification which has been a staple in Colombian football over the years. When looking at their defensive players it’s a double-edged sword because it’s a roster which brings a ton of experience but also old age. With an average number of international caps at 47 and an average age of 30 (for players who have more than four caps) their defensive line has been through 90 minutes of plenty of games and, if their pace isn’t an issue and they get things right defensively, it could give the whole team some peace of mind.


On the offensive end of business the Colombians have as deep a roster as any coach would want to bring to the big stage. Falcao’s post-op recovery has been (very) well documented as of late but the Colombian side can cope well without him. They have the likes of Jackson Martínez, Carlos Becca, Teófilo Gutiérrez, and Adrián Ramos they can combine well with each other or the midfielders. Their midfielders include the likes of assist-machine and wunderkid James Rodríguez – who had a CONMEBOL high 43 chances created – and deadly winger Juan Cuadrado who have made big impacts in European club football.


Another glaring issue the Colombians are faced with is their lack of World Cup experience. The players aren’t inexperienced in club football and many have seen success in domestic play but we have yet to see what they can do in the World Cup. Not having qualified since 1998 they have yet to be tested in such a big stage but with an incredibly open group and confidence under their belt, Colombia will make this World Cup that much more exciting.

 

 

So there it is – a group where any of the four teams could wiggle their way out of the stage. No doubt one of the more entertaining four teams to play each other the first games will do wonders for each team if it goes their way but even a loss doesn’t necessarily spell failure. I’ll be following these games more closely than most other groups.. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Tell us what you make of this group! Do you think I overlooked something for any teams? How will the talented offenses of the Ivory Coast, Colombia, and Japan go up against the defensively organized teams in this group? Tell us what you think! 😀

2 responses to “C is for control

  1. I predict Colombia and Cote d’Ivoire to advance….and both lose in the next round, this is a pretty weak group.

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