4. COSTA RICA
Group E (France, Ecuador, Switzerland, Honduras)
After their comeback qualification match against Ukraine, France’s good fortune continues. Their ER of 1872 is worse than the top three teams in Group D. In an unspectacular group, France leads with 71% chance of advancement, followed by Ecuador at 57%. Switzerland, at 55%, will be in a battle for second place. Honduras has a 1 in 5 chance of making a surprise run into the elimination rounds. For the neutral fan, this will likely be an entertaining group that is decided on the final day of group matches. In a further sign that France has a wonderful draw, their first round elimination match is likely against either Bosnia, Nigeria, or Iran.
Group F (Argentina, Bosnia, Nigeria, Iran)
Argentina (94%). There, it has been stated. Now that we know the winner of this group let’s examine who will get second place. The second worst group in the tournament has quite the scramble for runner-up. Bosnia has a 41% chance of advancing, Nigeria at 34%, and Iran at 31%. However, on current form, Iran is playing best, followed by Nigeria. If you are a believer in momentum then this group is a complete three way coin flip for runner-up. Rock, paper, scissors anyone? Expect a tiebreaker.
Group G (Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana)
The second strongest group, with all four teams improving over the last year, does not have much suspense. In a testament to their quality, Germany has a 92% chance of advancing from this difficult group. Portugal should be comfortable with a 64% chance. The USA has a difficult draw. In Group E they would have a 58% chance of advancing. In Group H they would be favorites to win the group, with a 76% chance of advancing. In Group G, however, they will likely go out, with a 35% chance of making the elimination rounds. Ghana has a less than 10% chance of advancing and they, along with Chile, will likely end up most frustrated in the tournament.
Group H (Russia, Belgium, South Korea, Algeria)
Belgium. The team many people believe will be the dark horse of the tournament. Can a team so many believe to be the dark horse still be considered an underdog? Perhaps their rating is misleading but this is a team that is currently behind Switzerland in ER. Switzerland has improved more year over year than Belgium. Belgium, in by far the weakest group of the tournament, has only a 72% chance of advancing to the elimination round. Then, if they get to the elimination round, they run smack into the Group G winners. The statistics don’t see them as a dark horse team. Russia, in fact, is the favorite to win the group, with a 76% chance of advancing and a 45% chance of finishing first in Group H. South Korea has a decent chance of advancing, 36%. In other words, South Korea, 22 places below the USA in ER ranked order, has a better chance to advance than the USA. This group is so poor that Algeria, the weakest team in the competition by some margin, has a 15% chance to advance.