World Cup Fantasy Preview: Group C

This is certainly going to be an interesting group to watch with four good teams who are all capable of producing good football and getting a result on their day. So without further adieu lets get started with the World Cup Group C Preview.

 

Colombia

Columbia

Colombia breezed through the qualifying period taking full advantage of Brazil’s absence to finish second in a really competitive field and that has earned them the right to be considered dark horses in this world cup. They are a real free flowing side who can attack with pace using a variety of formations making them a real threat to any side they come up against in Brazil. Their defence showed in qualifying that there is some real talent there but they do have concerns and the key to them going deep in the tournament relies heavily on the defence as well as a certain injury concern.

Key Players:

  • Falcao: This is the injury I was referring too. Falcao missed most of this season with a knee injury and is struggling to be fit for the tournament but the hopes are he will be and if he is Colombia have a really good chance of making an impact in this tournament. Falcao is considered one of the most deadly strikers in the world right now and most teams would give anything to get him in there team.
  • Rodriguez: A team mate of Falcao at Monaco and their understanding means that if Falcao does play then Rodriguez could be an absolute beast. That is not to say he won’t be important if Falcao isn’t there, in fact he may be even more important because they will rely on his superb creative and technical ability
  • Yepes: He is the captain and if they are to go deep in this tournament then they will need him to marshall his troops and be at his best at the back especially in the knock outs.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Independiente Santa Fe).

Defenders: Mario Yepes (AC Milan), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Pablo Armero (West Ham, on loan from Napoli), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Aquivaldo Mosquera (Club America), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Luis Amaranto Perea (Cruz Azul), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo).

Midfielders: Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Victor Ibarbo (Cagliari), James Rodriguez (Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto), Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Macnelly Torres (Al Shabab), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia), Edwin Valencia (Fluminense), Alexander Mejia (Atletico Nacional), Elkin Soto (Mainz).

Forwards: Radamel Falcao (Monaco), Luis Fernando Muriel (Udinese), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrian Ramos (Hertha Berlin), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate).

 

Fantasy Advice:

  • If Falcao plays then Falcao will score. You can count on that
  • Gutierrez and Martinez will be vying for that second spot upfront and if Falcao is out they could both be huge for Colombia
  • Rodriguez is their main man in the midfield and should provide plenty of assists and could chip in the odd goal
  • Speedster Cuadrado could be a sneaky late round pick who may provide some goals
  • The two most commonly used midfielders aside from those two were Aguilar and Sanchez
  • Defensively it is likely Yepes, Perea, Zuniga and Armero will feature but there are other options so beware
  • Ospina will be first choice keeper and if their defence can be as solid as it was in qualifying he could be a real gem for fantasy players.
  • Real shot they could make it to the knockouts and a potential quarter final is possible.

 

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Is there a more on form side in the world of international football? Having lost only once since the last world cup they will come into the tournament with even more hype than usual. For many years they have been considered Africa’s best chance of winning the world cup but with their ‘golden generation’ starting to age a little now it really is becoming a case of now or never for many of them. They have a quality core throughout the team and really good strength in depth but the fact they have yet to win any major competitions suggest they should be considered among the world of footballs biggest chokers. However, a deep run in 2014 could change all that this group is certainly one they can get out of.

Key Players

  • Didier Drogba: The ‘drog’ will be desperate to show that he isn’t past it and his power and strength could wreak havoc in a group that is there for the taking. If he gets the service he can be a beast but he is also capable of turning games on their head all by himself
  • Yaya Touré: Another man fighting injury concerns but if Yaya is fit he could be in with a shout of player of the tournament. He tore the premier league apart this year and was untouchable most of the time and if he can repeat that for his country they could prove a major upset in this tournament
  • Saloman Kalou: As a Chelsea fan I cannot believe I am saying this but Kalou could well be the difference for Ivory Coast in Brazil. He top scored in qualifying and while he was hit and miss for Chelsea he has always looked superb when I have seen him play for his country. Whether that is a measure of his ability against stronger defenders like he faced in the premier league I am not sure, but if Kalou fires the Ivory Coast could be unstoppable.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Ali Sangare Badra (Asec Mimosas), Sayouba Sande (Stabaek).

Defenders: Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart), Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes), Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor), Constant Djakpa (Frankfurt), Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille), Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (Toulouse).

Midfielders: Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle), Serey Die (Basel), Max Gradel (Saint Etienne), Diomande Ismael (Saint Etienne), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover), Mathis Bolly (Dusseldorf).

Forwards: Gervinho (Roma), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Wilfried Bony (Swansea), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), Lacina Traore (Everton, on loan from Monaco), Giovanni Sio (Basel)

 

Fantasy Advice:

  • Drogba will wreak havoc on most defenses.
  • Bony will most likely be utilised off the bench and if Drogba shows any signs of slipping he will be ready to step in
  • Gerviniho and Kalou will be the wide players and will use their pace and experience to drag opposing full backs all over the place
  • If fit, Yaya Toure will play the front man of the triangle in the three and that is a position I cannot wait to see him in. A must have if you trust his fitness
  • Zokora and Tiote will play the holding positions but won’t offer much going forward
  • They should be solid defensively with a wealthy of holding midfielders but there are weaknesses that could be exploited by top teams so don’t invest too heavily in Barry or the defence

 

Greece

Greece

The Euro 2004 champions built their qualifying campaign on stout defense, only conceding four goals, but still had to go through the playoff system to make it to Brazil. And in that one sentence I have effectively summed the strengths and weaknesses of this Greek side. They are considered by many to be the weakest European side in the competition but if they can be stout in defence then who knows what can happen in a group like this one. In the world cup they have yet to get out of the group stages and have only won one solitary game so they will desperate to improve on both of those statistics but they need to score a goal or two to make either of those things happen.

Key Player:

  • Konstantinos Mitroglou: He was one of the most in form players in Europe leading up to Christmas for both club and country but a torrid six months at Fulham means he is unfit and out of form. To win games they will need to score goals as well as defend well and if Mitroglou is on form there is a real chance they could escape this group.
  • Sokratis Papastathopoulos: They won’t score many goals so they will need to keep a clean sheet as often as possible and as there rock in defence he will need to set the example and make sure the rest follow!

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos).

Defenders: Kostas Manolas, Giannis Maniatis, Jose Holebas (all Olympiakos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Giorgios Tzavellas (PAOK), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (Roma), Vangelis Moras (Verona).

Midfielders: Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Andreas Samaris (Olympiakos), Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino), Ioannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Bologna), Panagiotis Kone (Bologna).

Forwards: Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK), Giorgios Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor).

Fantasy Advice:

  • If Mitroglou is fit then he could grab a couple of goals
  • Samaras and Salpingidis should both play and could help contribute a couple of goals between then
  • Kostas Katsouranis is the main midfielder but not sure he will provide you with enough to warrant a selection
  • Defence wise the expected starting four of Papastathopoulos, Maniatis, Holebas and Torosidis could be great value because there is a fair chance they could leave the tournament on the back of three 0-0 draws
  • The solid defence means Karnezis could be a sneaky good keeping option.

 

Japan

Japan

A really talented team with a number of gifted players especially going forward. If they can get them all on one page then they could really spring a surprise not only within their group but on one of the big boys in the second round. They have been waiting for the tournament for almost exactly a year having been the first team to qualify (obviously not including Brazil) back in June 2013 and they will be looking to try and improve on their last outing on Brazilian soil where they lost three times and were dumped out of the confederations cup. Their big issue is their defence but they can overcome this if Honda and Kagawa can start firing as well as one of their young strikers stepping up to the plate. Do not be surprised to see them in the second round, but then again I can see all four of the teams in this group progressing so it will be tough.

Key Players:

  • Keisuke Honda: The most talented player on this team and at 27 is primed to take the world by storm. They will be relying on his creativity and goals if they are to get out of the groups.
  • Shinji Kagawa: Has had another tough season in England but if he can bounce back then himself and Honda could carry this team out of the groups and potentially spring a surprise in the knockouts
  • Yuya Okazaki: There defence is worse than shaky and while Honda and Kagawa are good they will need someone to make the most of their creative ability. Okazaki’s performances could determine whether they crash out in the group or they can make it to the knockouts.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege), Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo).

Defenders: Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96), Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart).

Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Makoto Hasebe (FC Nuremberg), Hiroshi Kiyotake (FC Nuremberg), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Manabu Saito (Yokohama F. Marinos).

Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka), Yuya Osako (TSV Munich 1860), Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale).

Fantasy Advice:

  • Defensively and Goalkeeper wise I am leaving Japan well alone because frankly they are as leaky as a bucket with holes in it
  • Midfield wise Honda and Kagawa will be the main goal scoring threats but Endo could easily pop up with a goal or two
  • Their captain Hasebe will be the other no brain midfield pick but he won’t provide much offensively so probably isn’t worth consideration for fantasy
  • Okazaki scored 6 in 13 games and he could chip in a goal or two for some late value.

Overview

While it was fairly straight forward to pick a winner and loser of group A, this group is a real tough one to call. If Falcao plays then Colombia win the group. In my opinion, there is a fair chance Greece will come out of the group with two or three draws but I don’t see that being enough to qualify. As for the other two teams it kind of depends which version them shows up, but enough avoiding it here is my prediction for the World Cup Group C:

PREDICTION: 1st Colombia, 2nd Ivory Coast, 3rd Japan, 4th Greece

 

 

World Cup posters courtesy of Christiano Siqueria and ESPN

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