Ranking the Difficulty of Each World Cup Group
Well, that's it. The World Cup draw has finally been completed for the tournament in Brazil next year and, as expected, it has thrown up some tasty group stage encounters.
There is the predictable "group of death" for four teams to try and navigate their way out of, and there are also some rather tasty-looking groups that will see some lesser-ranked teams progress to the knockout stages.
However, which groups look the most difficult on paper if you were to pick one? And which are by far the easiest in terms of overall weakness of the group?
Let's take a look at the difficulty of each group for the World Cup in Brazil next year. The eight groups have been ranked on the strength of the teams of the group and how hard it would be to qualify from a group containing these teams.
8: Group E
Group: Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras and France
I think it's fair to say the French will be chuckling to themselves after this draw. Switzerland were by far the weakest top seed in the draw, and every single side in Pot Four will have been desperate to get their hands on the Swiss at the World Cup.
Not just that, but they were also boosted by being drawn with Ecuador and Honduras. There will be issues if the French do not navigate their way out of a group of that stature, but their recent record at major tournaments does leave something to be desired.
Without a doubt, Group E is the least challenging in the entire tournament.
7: Group C
Group: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan
Greece are another team from Pot Four that will not be smashing any plates at the thought of their World Cup group next year.
Granted, with the likes of Radamel Falcao in their ranks, Colombia could cause a few problems for most teams. And the Ivory Coast, with players such as Yaya Toure, will indeed be a tricky outfit.
However, Group C is not a group that strikes fear into the hearts of many of the top teams at the World Cup.
One would fancy that the qualifiers from that group will not worry England. If England get out of their group, they face a side from Group C in the second round.
6: Group F
Group: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria
A triumvirate of debutantes, Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria will not worry Argentina one bit. Nor will it worry the team that finishes top of Group E, as they will face the team that finishes behind the Argentinians in second place.
Of course, you would largely anticipate that Lionel Messi and company will storm through this group with ease, picking up maximum points. It is not, however, a draw that many will be concerning themselves with when looking for opponents to avoid in the next round.
5: Group H
Group: Belgium, Algeria, Russia and South Korea
Although they got to the semi-finals on home soil in 2002, South Korea will not be giving one of the most fancied nations in the entire tournament sleepless nights.
In many ways, this group is similar to Group F, which features Argentina. You would fancy the top seed—in this case Belgium—to blitz their way through the group, leaving three teams battling it out for one spot to qualify in second.
With a largely tricky Group G awaiting the two qualifiers from this group, this is a group that you would not expect to see much of beyond the first knockout round—unless the Belgians can indeed surprise a few people.
4: Group A
Group: Brazil, Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon
This is where things start getting interesting. The host nation have not been handed the most difficult group in the world, but they have a trio of opponents who will at least ask them some questions.
We all know of Cameroon's credentials—and finest hour—at the World Cup. They still possess some excellent players, and will be in the mix to qualify from the group, as will the other two sides.
This looks like a group where all four teams genuinely have a chance of qualification—and there are few of those in the draw.
3: Group D
Group: Uruguay, England, Costa Rica and Italy
Calm down, England fans. Whilst this is a tough group, it certainly isn't the most daunting across the tournament.
Of course, Costa Rica will be largely fancied to be the whipping boys of the group—leaving England, Uruguay and Italy fighting it out for two spots to qualify for the first knockout round.
It is a group that many people will look at with intrigue and interest, given the fact there are three former winners of the tournament in the group, which is a pretty impressive statistic in itself.
Difficulty rating for Group D? 7/10.
2: Group B
Group: Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia
It was very, very hard to split this group and the eventual quartet that topped this list. There is, after all, a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final in the opening game of the group.
It also features a Chile outfit that recently beat England so convincingly at Wembley—which makes them a side that must be taken seriously at the tournament.
Australia are also a side with enough World Cup experience—and enough decent players—to not be taken lightly, making for a tricky group.
Despite that, you would still be mightily surprised if the Dutch and the defending champions did not progress.
1: Group G
Group: Germany, Portugal, Ghana and USA
For my money, Group G at the 2014 World Cup ranks as the toughest at the tournament.
Lets start by looking outside the top teams who will be favourites to progress through Group G. Ghana have plenty of World Cup experience without a doubt, and the USA have plenty of talent—enough to ensure they must be respected at the tournament.
And then there is Portugal. A Portugal side led to the finals by Cristiano Ronaldo—surely the finest player in the world at this moment in time. With a fit and firing Ronaldo, do not write Portugal out when it comes to mixing it with the big boys.
The reason Group G gets the nod as the toughest? It features the toughest side. Although altitude, humidity and location no doubt play into the hands of the likes of Brazil and Argentina, Germany are a superb outfit all across the park. In fact, they are absolutely mesmerizing at their best.
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