Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia)
This is the strongest group in the tournament, in aggregate. You have to feel sorry for Chile. They are the tenth best team in the tournament, with the third best improvement year over year, and they have a worse chance of advancing than Croatia. Perhaps Chile can take comfort that Spain and Netherlands have both declined slightly in ER over the previous year. But not much. Spain has an 89% chance of advancing, with a 64% chance of finishing first. Since they have a 25% chance of finishing second, there is a 1 in 4 chance we will see Brazil and Spain play each other in the round of 16. There is a 2 in 5 chance of Brazil against Netherlands in the round of 16. Netherlands have a 64% and Chile a respectable 40% chance of advancing. Sorry Australia. Not this time! 6% chance of advancing. If there will be a shock group exit for a favorite, this is the group.
Group C (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan)
Contrary to common belief, this is not the weakest group in the tournament. However, it easily wins as the least predictable group. Colombia is favorite, with a 76% chance of qualification. Then things get murky. Greece edges ahead into second place, via rounding difference, at 45%. Ivory Coast is fractionally behind at 45%. Japan is at 34%. Since Greece has improved over the last year and Japan and Ivory Coast have both declined slightly, Greece strikes me as somewhat underrated. I’ve seen betting odds with Greece as a strong contender for last in the group but the statistics disagree.
3. IVORY COAST
Group D (England, Uruguay, Italy, Costa Rica)
This is the third strongest group. Costa Rica will not advance (14% chance). A complete brawl awaits the other three teams. England is most likely at 66%, Uruguay at 62%, and Italy at 59%. Tiebreakers were a frequent occurrence in this group as well, with draws and clustering of point totals more common than not. Uruguay is the wild card from this bunch. Not only is Luis Suarez’s injury a complicating factor, but Uruguay has improved more in the last year than any other team in the cup. England and Italy have both declined slightly but the amount is small. Whoever survives this mess and finishes first in the group has some good news, as the pairing with the Group C runner-up is likely to be a much weaker team.