10 Key Factors That Will Decide FIFA World Cup 2014 Group C
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is rapidly moving through the group-stage fixtures, with the coming days set to see each group in turn move into their final round of matches.
Group C has already seen Colombia qualify for the knockout rounds having won two from two so far, but one more place is up for grabs—and all three remaining teams are fighting for it. Colombia play Japan, and Greece face Ivory Coast on the last matchday, with the games taking place at the same time on Tuesday 24 June.
Colombia boss Jose Pekerman has voiced his pleasure at his side's progress at the finals, but he knows there is more to come, as per BBC Sport:
First of all, we are at the World Cup after such a long period of time, and then having enjoyed consecutive victories with players who are here for the first time, so they are all very positive situations for us. However, we cannot start thinking ahead of time or what might be coming later on.
Here are 10 key factors that could impact on which other nation moves through with Colombia and who claims top spot in the group.
Will Colombia Field a Full-Strength XI?
First and foremost is the question of how strong a side Colombia will field; they've been impressive in their group so far but are guaranteed a place in the last 16 already.
That might lead Pekerman to rotate his side, rest some of those who carry knocks or cards, and give a chance to the other members of his squad to stake their claim and get some match time at the finals.
Quite aside from the impact of not having star names in the team for Colombia themselves, it could be a boost to their rivals if the likes of James Rodriguez or Juan Cuadrado are missing.
Colombia Only Need a Point to Guarantee Top Spot
Changed XI or not, Colombia know they don't need to win the match to secure top place in the group and thereby avoid the top team in Group D in the knockouts.
They can sit in their shape and lower the tempo if they need to. And though defending isn't necessarily their biggest strength, they have a fine defensive lineup who are happy and capable of repelling attacks when deep on the edge of their own box, led by Mario Yepes.
Colombia have chased victory in their first two games, leaving them open at times to the counter; they won't need to do that against Japan.
Martinez Trying to Threaten Teo's Place as No. 9
Teofilo Gutierrez scored in Colombia's first game before being replaced by Jackson Martinez, while he missed a great chance in the second match but played the entire 90 minutes.
His work rate and linkup play has generally been good, while his movement off the ball usually gives his attacking midfielders a target to pass through to in an attempt to stretch the game.
If Pekerman wants a chance to see another forward like Adrian Ramos, then this is his best chance. Teo's replacement will have to really impress to win a spot in the side, and for forwards, impressing usually means scoring goals.
Japan's Attack Needs to Improve Significantly
Japan have managed only six shots on target in their two games so far, and just one goal.
They couldn't break down Greece enough in their 0-0 draw, spurning two great chances along the way, and have generally looked neat in the buildup—but blunted in the final third.
There is no choice left for Japan now: They must win. A draw gets them nothing in terms of qualification. They need goals and three points—and even then to hope for the best.
Japan boss Alberto Zaccheroni acknowledged his team did not get the result they needed against the Greeks, leaving them under pressure, as per Graham Chase of BBC Sport: "We played too slowly. This is not a positive result. We absolutely needed to win."
Greece Showing the Ambition to Do Anything Beyond Defend
Greece are not known for being overly adventurous, perhaps understandably given they have some terrific defenders and tasted success playing a defensive-minded system while winning Euro 2004.
They did nothing other than try to prevent Japan scoring in their second game, keeping a clean sheet in the process and picking up a point.
Like Japan now, though, they need to go for the win and hope Colombia don't lose to Japan by a bigger scoreline. Do the Greeks have it in them to take the initiative and attack Ivory Coast?
Fetfatzidis Getting Another Chance to Shine
Giannis Fetfatzidis is one of the few Greek squad members who has the capacity to attack at pace, show good movement and take on an opponent.
He featured for the last half-hour against Colombia and the first 40 minutes against Japan, but he hasn't really had the chance to show what he can do.
Greece haven't scored yet at the World Cup—they need Fetfatzidis on the pitch to have a reasonable amount of penetration and creativity to keep their participation going.
Bony or Drogba?
Ivory Coast have their own selection issues to contend with.
Wilfried Bony has started both games at centre-forward so far, with Didier Drogba appearing off the bench both times. Bony hasn't really impressed, looking cumbersome in the touch and wayward in the finish—but he did head in a priceless goal against Japan.
Can manager Sabri Lamouchi afford to go with him again and use Drogba as an impact player off the bench once more, or is the final group game the moment to go with the strength of mind and confidence that Drogba's name on the team sheet can bring?
Can he start with both, even?
Final-Third Delivery from Wide Areas for Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast's real strength has been in their delivery from the flanks. Creatively they have been found wanting at times, not capable of playing through the middle and not seeing much productivity from Yaya Toure.
The wide forwards, though, have shown good movement and ability to run at opponents, with Gervinho's goal a spectacular example of that.
Serge Aurier, too, has been a constant supplier of crosses from the right when breaking forward from full-back.
Ivory Coast's Habit of Defensive Slips
That's fine for a route to goal at one end—but Ivory Coast have been rather accommodating to their opponents at the other.
They gifted a number of chances to Colombia in their last match, including the second goal that sealed their defeat. It's a habit they'll need to kick pretty quickly to progress any further.
Ivory Coast can go through with a draw if the other game's result is kind to them, but is that a gamble they can afford to take?
Who Blinks First in Simultaneous Matches?
With the two games being played at the same time, there will doubtless be nobody inside the two stadiums who doesn't know how the other fixture is going.
Japan and Greece have no choice—they have to win, regardless. But of the other two, Colombia would be happy with a draw and Ivory Coast might be.
The first goal of the two games could shape much of what is to follow, and if they both stay goalless as the evening goes on, the first manager to press and push for victory could turn out to be the hero—or make a mistake that costs his nation progression.