2014 World Cup: Breaking down Group C

The Sports NetworkJune 7, 2014 

(SportsNetwork.com) - Group C is one of the weaker groups in the World Cup, but the fact that every country has a realistic chance to advance makes it an intriguing one.

Colombia enters the competition as the group favorite, but the South American side has been brought down slightly by the absence of star striker Radamel Falcao, who was ruled out of the tournament due to an ACL injury.

Still, the Colombians boast a quality roster full of accomplished international players like James Rodriguez and Fredy Guarin, and competing on their home continent should provide a nice atmosphere in most matches.

The Ivory Coast has had extremely difficult draws in its past two World Cup campaigns, so the African nation is fortunate to have a realistic chance of advancing to the knockout round for the first time ever.

The Elephants were sent home in 2006 by Argentina and the Netherlands, while Portugal and Brazil ousted them in 2010. With no such powers in Group C this time around, they stand a good chance of making it through.

Greece is by no means an entertaining side to watch, but the team plays a brand of football that is quite effective in major tournaments.

Following a quarterfinal appearance in Euro 2012, the Greeks will be hoping to channel the spirit of their 2004 team on the 10-year anniversary of their only major trophy, a European title.

Japan, always a tough out, rounds out the group.

Shinji Okazaki played a starring role for Japan as his eight goals put him atop the scoring chart for Asian qualifiers. If he can find his scoring boots, Japan has a realistic chance of getting to the knockout round for the third time in four World Cup tournaments.

Game of the Group: Colombia vs. Ivory Coast (June 19)

As the two prime favorites to advance, the meeting between Colombia and Ivory Coast could go a long way toward deciding which nation finishes first and which nation finishes second in Group C.

It is difficult to project Group C's knockout round opponents given the wide- open nature of Group D, but maximum points through two games would allow the group leader to rest a few players during the last match of the group stage.

Player to Watch: Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast)

Yaya Toure is arguably the best midfield player in the world, occupying space from box to box and everywhere between.

The Manchester City star has a resume that speaks for itself, but the one glaring omission is success in the World Cup.

And with the Ivory Coast poised for a spot in the knockout round for the first time ever, Toure will be eager to lead his side as far as it can go.

Breakout Player: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Colombia)

Colombia is a strong side from top to bottom, but in the wake of Falcao's injury, the nation will look to some midfield players to chip in with the scoring.

That makes Juan Guillermo Cuadrado poised for a big tournament.

The winger has been coveted by a few major European club teams, and if he can create and finish scoring opportunities in Brazil this summer, Fiorentina may command a high price for the 26-year-old.

Predictions:

Group Winner: Ivory Coast

The Ivory Coast nearly emerged from its difficult groups in the past two World Cups, so with an easier draw this time around, the Elephants will finally make it through. With plenty of veteran players, the African nation was already a favorite to advance, but the injury to Falcao makes them the favorite to win the group outright.

Second Place: Colombia

The Colombians have plenty of quality to get out of the group, but Falcao's absence will mean that they finish second to the Ivory Coast. Jose Peckerman will just be hoping that losing Falcao won't hurt the Colombians too much in the knockout round.

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