If there is one group that the entire world is waiting for, it is Group G. Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast, and North Korea will all go to war in a group that could provide as many classic matches are the rest of the other groups put together.
Group G: Brazil, Korea DPR, Côte d'Ivoire, Portugal
The other "Group of Death" and the most intriguing of the early stages.
Brazil are the only ever-present team in World Cup history, and have been handed a real tough proposition in the Ivory Coast and Portugal if they wish to progress.
As favourites for the tournament, Brazil will be expected to advance from Group G. Having won South America's qualification group in the best possible fashion, the five-time winners will be looking to add an incredible sixth title.
In previous years, Brazil were always one of the favourites, but they either had bad managers or poor goalkeepers to hamper them. This time around, they boast one of the best 'keepers in the world in Julio Cesar, and have an extremely well-respected manager in Dunga, at least outside of Brazil...
Pressure has begun to mount on Dunga for his flat refusal to play football in a Brazilian style, favouring a western European style. That means anything less than a victory in the final, and he will be sacked.
He has also seemingly put all of his eggs in one Kaka-shaped basket. The Real Madrid player is coming off his worst season, and if his form does not improve or if he gets injured, Dunga has no plan B. The whole setup will have to change.
Saying that, Kaka and Luis Fabiano, on form, are good enough to win the title all by themselves.
Portugal and the Ivory Coast will be battling it out with Brazil to win the group but will in all probability finish second to the South American giants.
Didier Drogba is the most well known player from the Ivory Coast , and a decision on the Chelsea forward's broken elbow will be left to as late as possible.
Look past Kolo Toure, Yaya Toure, Didier Zokora, and Aruna Kone though, and you will severely underestimate them.
Sven Goran-Erikson's men coasted into the World Cup unbeaten from their group in Africa, however, Vahid Halidodzic was sacked as manager and the ex-English boss was installed in his place for greater experience.
They boast a brilliant team and are capable of beating any team in the tournament, and if they are lucky with injuries they could go far...
Portugal are one of the slickest passing teams in world football; their technical brilliance is matched perhaps only by Brazil.
Cristiano Ronaldo is easily their standout star, but all too often, he has to do everything himself. Seleccao Das Quinas are suspect to high balls at the back and lack a forward of any kind of quality.
So this group could expose them badly.
The presence of three Brazilian-born players—Deco, Pepe, and Liedson—in the Portuguese lineup is just one other story that is sure to make the fixture on June 25th one of the must-see matches of the tournament.
North Korea will be looking to make as big an impact as they did on their last foray in the World Cup. In 1966, they sent Italy home and ran Eusebio's brilliant Portugal to the wire, leading 2-0 before losing 5-2 in the quarterfinals.
That is not going to happen again...
Their three opponents are too experienced to allow such a catastrophe, and North Korea will have to be happy with participation.
Runners-Up: Ivory Coast
Fixtures in Group G:
Match (13) June 15: Ivory Coast vs. Portugal (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, 48,459)
Match (14) June 15: Brazil vs. North Korea (Ellis Park Stadium, 62,567)
Match (29) June 20: Brazil vs. Ivory Coast (Soccer City, 91,141)
Match (30) June 21: Portugal vs. North Korea (Cape Town Stadium, 69,070)
Match (45) June 25: Portugal vs. Brazil (Moses Mabhida Stadium, 70,000)
Match (46) June 25: North Korea vs. Ivory Coast (Mbombela Stadium, 43,589)
Players To Watch:
Cristiano Ronaldo (POR), Kaka (BRA), Romaric (I.C.), Jong Tae-Se (N.K.)
The Ivory Coast have played in, and won, the two highest-scoring penalty shoot-outs in international football. They beat Ghana 11-10 in 1992 before beating Cameroon 12-11 in 2006.
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This article was first published on Tiger Beer Football where Willie Gannon is the featured blogger.
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