The 2014 World Cup Group of Death

By Blaidd Drwg

Much has been written about the U.S. being in the “group of death” in the upcoming World Cup, but I happened to be reading a WC preview and realized that it isn’t so much a group of death as the U.S is in a group with two good teams and two middle of the road teams and they are not one of the good ones.  Sure Germany is pretty much going through to the knockout round, but is Portugal, give their history of fading in international competitions, really a shoe it, leaving the U.S. out of the knockout stage? Is this group any more the “group of death” than Group B with Spain, Chile (who are better than you think), The Netherlands and Australia.

It got me thinking, which group is actually the group you don’t want to be playing in?

Let’s take a look at the groups. The SPI ranking is the ESPN ranking and the odds are the percentage of times a team advanced in their simulation.

Group A

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Brasil 4 1 99%
Mexico 19 25 44%
Croatia 20 30 34%
Cameroon 50 38 23%
Average Rank 23.25 23.5  

 

Obviously, Brasil is making it to the knockout stage and if they don’t the entire country is going to burn, so you really won’t have to worry about the rest of the tournament. The other spot is really between Mexico and Croatia, and that one could go either way. Cameroon has a chance, albeit a small one to sneak in. A tough group with 1 powerhouse and 2 middle of the road teams and 1 team happy to be there. Hardly a group of death, well, unless you are Cameroon or the team that finishes third.

Group B

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Spain 1 3 85%
Chile 13 5 71%
Netherlands 15 10 38%
Australia 59 40 7%
Average Rank 22 14.5  

 

Spain should have no problem going through and Australia is happy to be there. It is going to be a tough battle between Netherlands and Chile for that second spot. ESPN likes Chile, I like Netherlands here, but don’t be surprised if it comes down to the Chile-Netherlands game on 6/23 and the final is something like 4-3. This group as a whole is going to light up the scoreboard. A candidate, just not a strong one for the group of death moniker.

Group C

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Colombia 5 6 85%
Ivory Coast 21 16 48%
Greece 10 27 46%
Japan 47 36 22%
Average Rank 20.75 21.25  

 

Here is a group that there is really no clear favorite. Colombia is good, but is by no means a team that I think is a shoe-in for a spot. Japan is not as bad as people think and they could give the other teams in this group a run for their money. Ivory Coast is inconsistent and Greece is old, so who knows how they will hold up in the Brasilan sun. If you want to know who is going to advance in this group, you might as well pick names out of a hat.

Group D

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Uruguay 6 8 60%
England 11 9 56%
Italy 9 12 46%
Costa Rica 34 24 38%
Average Rank 15 13.25  

 

This is far and away the most balanced group in the tournament. Any two teams have a legitimate shot at advancing, especially given the complete inconsistency of both England and Italy on the international stage in recent years. Any one of these 4 teams could conceivably get through to the knockout round and don’t be surprised if it ends up being Uruguay and Costa Rica. I could probably make an argument that this qualifies for a group of death if this was 20 years ago, but England and Italy are playing more on reputation right now than actual skill.

Group E

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
France 17 7 77%
Ecuador 26 11 62%
Switzerland 6 22 38%
Honduras 33 33 23%
Average Rank 20.5 18.25  

 

Another balanced group due to the horribly overrated France who are going to be missing their 2 best players for the World Cup. Again, any of these 4 teams could make it through and the Swiss are young and aggressive and, if they beat France, will probably advance with Ecuador. Probably the toughest group to be in.

Group F

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Argentina 5 2 93%
Bosnia 21 15 48%
Nigeria 44 28 37%
Iran 43 39 22%
Average Rank 28.25 18.25  

 

ESPN likes the teams more than the FIFA rankings do in this group. Argentina is arguably the best team in the world, so it would take an act of God for them not to make it through. Iran is just happy to be there. Bosnia and Nigeria, in just about any group would probably be a good bet to move through to the knockout stage, but they are going to be competing against each other to survive this group. Both of those teams are better than you think and whoever makes it through has a good chance to possibly win a game or two in the knockout round. You definitely have 3 teams who would be close to locks to make it if you could have that.

Group G

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Germany 2 4 87%
Portugal 4 14 47%
USA 13 21 35%
Ghana 37 26 31%
Average Rank 14 16.25  

 

What you have here is Germany who just needs to show up to advance. Portugal doesn’t seem like they ever show up for these international tournaments – they are almost as talented as Germany but play so inconsistently that they aren’t a great bet to even make it out of the group stage. The other two teams, USA and Ghana are both plagued by inconsistency also, so who knows. It is a case where any one of the non-German teams can make a case to get through, but I don’t think that in most of these groups, any of those teams would be the second best team there. A tough group if you are not Germany, but not quite a group of death.

Group H

Team FIFA Rank SPI Rank SPI Odds
Belgium 11 13 73%
Russia 19 17 68%
South Korea 57 31 43%
Algeria 22 69 16%
Average Rank 27.25 32.25  

 

This group is probably the worst in the tournament. Belgium probably finishes at best second in any other group and I don’t think that any of the other teams would get through in any other group. This is where you probably would want to play if you were a team like the US – getting through wouldn’t be much of an issue.

For what it is worth, I think Group E is really the group of death in this tournament and I think that Brasil beats Argentina 4-2 in an insane final.

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