It should come as little surprise that the World Cup groups are unbalanced. As I mentioned in a previous article, the lack of balance in place of geographical parity has led to groups that will either excite or bore depending on the country you most want to watch. What follows is a quick calculation to illustrate the lack of group parity, to evaluate group strength and to determine the true Group(s) of Death, plus to provide some insight on what to expect next summer.
Group A – Average Ranking of 24.25
Group A is a dream draw for Brazil. Following the unbelievable decision to draw a random European side into Pot 2, Brazil faced the possibility of being stuck with a top 10 European side. As it turned out, Brazil avoided the European side drawn into Pot 2, Italy, and further benefited from drawing a disoriented Mexican side and the weakest African nation, Cameroon. The group is weak and Brazil should easily progress into the Knockout Rounds. Do not be surprised if Mexico progress as well given the favorable schedule of playing Cameroon first and getting Croatia last – in a potential knockout match.
Group B – Average Ranking of 21
While it is understandable that the average ranking (21) does not reflect this group’s strength, it does reflect the parity problem. This group should be renamed the “Beat Australia or Go Home Group.” Any one of the top 3 sides who does not take 3 points from Australia will find themselves on a plane back home earlier than desired. Additionally, what an irony to see the World Cup 2010 Final replayed in the first tie of the group stage. Spain will be irate at the draw, and Chile may find themselves sneaking through if the Netherlands are unable to stay healthy leading up to the World Cup. While Spain and the Netherland should move on, the result of the Spain – Netherlands tie could cause the group to turn in Chile’s favor.
Group C – Average Ranking of 20.25
Ivory Coast (17th)
Like Group B, Group C appears to be a group in which the top 3 should get 3 points from the weakest side. However, Japan is far better than Australia even if their ranking does not show it. Having a decently respectable display at the Confederations Cup should warn Colombia, Greece and the Ivory Coast of the dangers Japan pose. Additionally, looking at these four teams, one thing is lacking in all of them – consistency. There are moments when Colombia look a real power (like drawing the Dutch and whipping Belgium last month), but at other times they struggle (getting dominated by Uruguay in September and Chile in the first half of their game in October). The Ivory Coast always seems to underachieve at World Cups of late and Greece never looks a real attacking threat against quality opponents. This should be one of the more interesting groups to watch as it is hard to really say what will happen.