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Is Group G The "Group Of Death?" Let the Numbers Decide

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 04:  Group G is displayed during the Final Draw for the FIFA World Cup 2010 December 4, 2009 at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
John HoumesSenior Analyst IDecember 4, 2009

The draw is over. The analysts are spinning their wheels. Which is in the easiest group? Which is the group of death?

Some have declared Group G as the group of death. Certainly a group that has the #2 FiFA ranked team in the world (Brazil), the second ranked team on the African continent (Ivory Coast at #16), and the top ranked non-seeded team (Portugal at #5) is without a doubt a strong group.

But is it the group of death?

I would define the group of death as the group where anything can happen. It is the group where the most teams are at risk for elimination. Is this the case with Group G?

Out of all the groups, it certainly has the strongest set of top three teams. But it also has a weak one...a very weak one:

North Korea.

South Africa (#86) is the only team ranked lower than North Korea (#84), but South Africa is stronger since they are playing at home. North Korea is the weakest team in the weakest position in the tournament.

Does one powerhouse and two strong teams added to the weakest team in the tournament constitute the group of death?

It does for North Korea, but probably not for Brazil or Portugal.

And concerning Ivory Coast, would you be surprised if they were playing in another group and they were eliminated in the beginning stage? Probably not. They are a good team, but there are many that are stronger.

So does one powerhouse, one strong team, one good team that you wouldn't be surprised to see get eliminated, and a very weak team constitute the group of death?

Probably not.

It is much easier to conceive that three good/above average teams and one powerhouse constitute the group of death, because no one is really sure who of the four will be eliminated.

How does one look objectively at the subjective "group of death" designation? By crunching the numbers.

Things become much more clear when the FIFA rankings and the ESPN Power rankings are analyzed.

If the team's rankings from each group are averaged, which group has the average highest ranking?

GroupFIFA AvgESPN AvgTotal Avg
H18.516.517.5
E20.7518.519.625
D2119.2520.125
C2125.523.25
B23.528.526
G26.752726.875
A31.7526.2529
F36.2542.7539.5

 

Group H (FIFA rank/ESPN rank; Spain 1/2, Switzerland 18/31, Honduras 38/25, Chile 17/8) has the highest average ranking per team, followed by Group E (Netherlands 3/4, Denmark 26/20, Japan 43/35, Cameroon 11/15) and Group D (Germany 6/6, Australia 21/22, Serbia 20/13, Ghana 37/36).

With North Korea dragging the average down, Group G falls to sixth out of the eight groups.

I know, I know. How can I say that Group H has stronger teams than Group G? Well, I'm not. Group G absolutely has stronger teams that Group H, but Group H will be more competitive among all four teams.

Sure, Spain will probably win Group H. But who knows what will happen between Switzerland, Honduras, and Chile? Anything can happen.

Remember the definition? The group of death is the one where the most teams are at risk. It is the group where anything can happen.

With Brazil almost a shoo-in to advance and no one being surprised if Portugal goes through but Ivory Coast does not, Group G is not the group of death.

The numbers don't lie, but there is some subjectivity to it. There is a poll at the top for you to cast your vote.

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