FIFA World Cup

World Cup Group of Death 2014: Biggest Nations Likely to Fall Early in Brazil

FILE - In this Thursday, May 15, 2014 file photo, Louis Can Gaal, coach of the Dutch national soccer team walks towards the mixed zone after a team training in Hoenderloo, eastern Netherlands. Manchester United has hired Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal as the club’s new manager it was announced on Monday, May 19, 2014. Van Gaal, who will leave his position with the Dutch after the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, replaces David Moyes following his firing last month after just 10 months in charge.  (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
Peter Dejong/Associated Press
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

It's a misfortune that all sides look to avoid in order to get the best start possible in any World Cup endeavours, but with a healthy assortment of national talent participating, the Group of Death is a known inevitability.

As is the case every four years, 2014 has thrown up a selection of groups that look far tighter than others, with three and even four teams with a very viable chance of qualifying from some.

Here, it's the bigger absences we're going to concentrate on, identifying which substantial talents may not make it to the round of 16 thanks to the quality of their first-phase foes.

 

Croatia

Darko Bandic/Associated Press

Niko Kovac is still relatively new in his role as Croatia coach, and with hosts Brazil likely to emerge as Group A victors, it seems probable that they, along with Mexico and Cameroon, will be vying for second spot.

Injuries have been a slight obstacle in the side's path in recent months, but the suspension of Mario Mandzukic, as ESPN's Gabriele Marcotti points out, will be a big blow for the Croats when they take on Brazil in their group opener:

It may be a blessing in disguise that the Selecao are Croatia's first fixture, however, considering they may not be able to beat Brazil with or without the Bayern Munich striker, leaving him free to have a bigger impact on the more winnable matches.

That being said, Croatia, a side being billed by some as one of Europe's "ones to watch," will struggle in the heat that Mexico and Cameroon will be more comfortable with, and any key injuries could see a lack of depth in certain positions stunt their progress.

 

Netherlands

Louis van Gaal will be determined to avoid another disappointment on par with the Netherlands' pointless Euro 2012 campaign, but the Oranje enter this summer's World Cup with a similarly frail look to their back line.

Their Group B tests against Chile and Spain won't be any small challenge, either, although the promise of playing Australia this time around gives Netherlands good reason to believe they'll at least not finish bottom of the pool.

The European giants will still be looked upon as major contenders to perhaps even top the quartet. However, Sky Sports' South American correspondent Paulo Freitas supposes that the competition could benefit Chile in the end, while Argentina-based Dan Colasimone thinks the climate sees things run in favour of Jorge Sampaoli's men:

Having never won a World Cup, the Netherlands will be as eager as ever to succeed in Brazil, but the side could have used an easier beginning, and an early exit is far from impossible.

 

England

At the last World Cup, England just about managed to claim a spot in the round of 16, finishing level on points with the United States, second in their group overall, with Algeria and Slovenia the two teams exiting.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

The Three Lions have progressed under Roy Hodgson, one would argue, but the competition is rife in Group D with Italy and Uruguay waiting in the wings; Costa Rica sit as an outfit with far lower expectations.

This England squad is largely inexperienced as the manager looks to bring through a new generation of stars, but beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri is of the impression that they could very well come first of the bunch:

Both the Azzurri and the Celeste will be extremely difficult examinations to overcome—particularly the latter in the South American heat—and it's plausible that another Three Lions tournament ends with a premature whimper.

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