2014 World Cup Group of Death
by Trevor Whenham - 12/10/2013
As soon as the World Cup draw is revealed every four years, the debate intensifies over which group gets to be called the Group of Death. The unofficial designation is applied to the group that seems almost impossibly hard to win. It has such a strong collection of teams in it that no matter what happens at least one legitimate contender is going to be left out of the second round.
Some years the Group of Death is clear and obvious. Thanks to a bizarre draw this year, though, we aren’t so lucky. There are some extremely weak groups, and there are three which, depending upon your perspective, could qualify as the Group of Death this year. What’s interesting is that, depending upon where the news reports you are originating from, the fans of different teams are certain that their squad was placed in the toughest group. The three candidates:
Group B: the Spaniards are the defending champions. Chile is a red-hot team on the rise and will benefit from playing close to home here. The Netherlands always finds a way to be tough in major tournaments — at least up to the point that they underwhelm significantly. The outlier here is Australia. They just aren’t a very good team, and they only qualify because of geography. In any other region they wouldn’t stand a chance, and they are totally outclassed.
The biggest challenge to Group B’s claim of Group of Death status is The Netherlands. The Dutch team is going through some struggles right now as they transition to a new generation of players, and it’s hard to expect them to be at their best. They are clearly the third-best team here, and the gap between them and the top two is not insignificant. The Dutch advancing would be a mild upset, and that means they aren’t the Group of Death in my eyes.
Group D: In Western European eyes this is the clear Group of Death. There is some justification to that. In fact, they are my pick. Costa Rica seems to be the weak link. They are the least of the four squads, but they are very feisty, very creative in their game planning, have surprising depth, and will catch unsuspecting teams off guard. Uruguay is a very strong team led by the outstanding Liverpool star Luis Suarez, and they will have strong crowd support since they are close to home. England is England, and while they always seem to disappoint, they have no shortage of talent and potential. Italy is improving as they adapt to changes and is one of the most dangerous teams in World Cup history. While none of these teams are among the very top tier of contenders, you can make a solid argument for any of them to advance, and at least three of them have the potential to make some real progress in the elimination round if things go their way. These are well-matched, tough teams, and it would be a shame for any of them not to advance. In other words, this is a Group of Death.
Group G: In North America this is clearly seen as the Group of Death. Though it would be my second choice, I can’t argue with it too much. Germany is an elite contender ready to go very deep. Portugal has some issues, but they also have perhaps the best player in the world on their side. That never hurts. The U.S. has been stronger heading into past tournaments, but the Americans easily won their region in qualifying and are certainly capable of advancing and winning a game or two when they do. Ghana is young and improving and has already been good enough to knock the Americans out of the last two World Cups. Any of the four teams can advance. The main reason I don’t think that this group deserves the nod over Group D, though, is the relevant dominance of Germany. The Germans are by far the best team in the group, and it would be a significant upset if they didn’t win it. That means that the other three teams are playing for one spot. In Group D, four teams are playing for two spots. That means twice the opportunity and twice the drama. Still, if this isn’t the Group of Death it is, at the very least, the Group of Permanently Disfiguring Injury. Not as catchy, but still dramatic.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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