Power Ranking World Cup Groups of Death from Past Tournaments

Richard Morgan@Richiereds1976Contributor INovember 26, 2013

Power Ranking World Cup Groups of Death from Past Tournaments

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    Cup of joy: but not if you are drawn in the Group of Death though
    Cup of joy: but not if you are drawn in the Group of Death thoughHarold Cunningham/Getty Images

    Every four years, the much-loved phrase "the Group of Death" is heard to describe one of the sections following the draw for the FIFA World Cup finals, and you can be sure the same will happen again in Bahia come Dec 6.

    However, what has been the deadliest of all the Groups of Death at past World Cups? Well, that is what we will ascertain here by power ranking the various Grupos de la Muerte from over the years.

10: 1958 (Sweden)

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    GROUP D (final standings)

    Country—PlayedPoints (goal difference)
    Brazil 3-5 (5-0)
    England 3-3 (4-4)
    Soviet Union 3-3 (4-4)
    Austria 3-1 (2-7)

    The first-ever World Cup Group of Death, or as the local journalists dubbed them, "Giganternas Kamp" (the Battle of the Giants) according to Wikipedia.

    However, with the top three nations all qualifying for the quarter-finals, there was at least some leeway afforded for this quartet of heavyweights from planet football at the time.

9: 1990 (Italy)

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    England 3-4 (2-1)
    Republic of Ireland 3-3 (2-2)
    Netherlands 3-3 (2-2)
    Egypt 3-2 (1-2)

    On some occasions, as with Group F at Italia 90 when, incredibly, five of the six contests all ended in draws, the section can be so tight come the final standings that the contestants are virtually inseparable.

8: 1998 (France)

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    Nigeria 3-6 (5-5)
    Paraguay 3-5 (3-1)
    Spain 3-4 (8-4)
    Bulgaria 3-1 (1-7)

    Following the draw for France 98, the then Spain coach Javier Clemente remarked wryly of the section which La Roja had been placed in that: "This is not the group of death, as some people have said. It is the group of heart attacks" according to SportsIllustrated.CNN.com.

    Boy was the Spaniard right, as his hugely talented outfit made a shock early exit from the tournament after being on the wrong end of a five-goal thriller with eventual group winners Nigeria, and this despite winning their final contest against whipping boys Bulgaria 6-1.

7: 1966 (England)

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    Portugal 3-6 (9-2)
    Hungary 3-4 (7-5)
    Brazil 3-2 (4-6)
    Bulgaria 3-0 (1-8)

    A real horror section here from 47 years ago, with the winners from the previous two World Cups being drawn alongside Eusebio’s eye-catching Portuguese outfit, the always dangerous Hungarians and not to be underestimated Bulgaria.

6: 1970 (Mexico)

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    Brazil 3-6 (8-3)
    England 3-4 (2-1)
    Romania 3-2 (4-5)
    Czechoslovakia 3-0 (2-7)

    The section from which the phrase first originated from after Mexican journalists described Group C at the 1970 World Cup as being "El Grupo de la Muerte" according to John Motson and Nick Brownlee in Motson's World Cup Extravaganza.

    With good reason too, with holders England being joined by pre-tournament favourites Brazil, the 1962 runners-up Czechoslovakia and Romania.

5: 2010 (South Africa)

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    Brazil 3-7 (5-2)
    Portugal 3-5 (7-0)
    Ivory Coast 3-4 (4-3)
    North Korea 3-0 (1-12)

    Sports Illustrated had no doubts whatsoever that this section was the obvious Group of Death at the World Cup three years ago as it contained two of the world’s top five ranked teams at the time according to FIFA, as well as Africa’s second-strongest nation and "unenviable underdog" North Korea too.

4: 1986 (Mexico)

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    Denmark 3-6 (9-1)
    West Germany 3-3 (3-4)
    Uruguay 3-2 (2-7)
    Scotland 3-1 (1-3)

    Uruguay boss Omar Borras dubbed the section that his team were pitted in at Mexico 86 as the "Group of Death," according to the Guardian's David Lacey, and he had a point too as this was the only group which contained four sides from just Europe and South America.

    Alongside the talented Uruguayans were the two-time winners and runners-up from the previous tournament, West Germany, one of Europe’s most talented and skilful outfits in Denmark and a tenacious and hard to beat Scotland too.

3: 1982 (Spain)

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    Italy 2-4 (5-3)
    Brazil 2-2 (5-4)
    Argentina 2-0 (2-5)

    Again the phrase was coined to describe Group C in the second round at Spain 82, and especially as at that time only the first-placed team qualified for what was then the semi-finals.

    So you can imagine that a section containing the likes of holders Argentina, eventual winners Italy and a Brazilian side that has generally been regarded as one of the greatest ever assembled by the five-time world champions, is fully deserving of the phrase.

2: 2006 (Germany)

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    Argentina 3-7 (8-1)
    Netherlands 3-7 (3-1)
    Ivory Coast 3-3 (5-6)
    Serbia and Montenegro 3-0 (2-10)

    An absolutely filthy section for all four nations to contend with as two of Europe’s strongest countries were pitted alongside one of Africa’s most feared outfits and an Argentina side that many experts had tipped pre-tournament as being dark horses for the World Cup.

    Following the South Americans breathtaking 6-0 demolition of Serbia and Montenegro, BBC pundit and former England captain Gary Lineker cheekily observed that: "The group of death has become the group of life," courtesy of BBC Sport.

1: 2002 (Japan/South Korea)

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    Sweden 3-5 (4-3)
    England 3-5 (2-1)
    Argentina 3-4 (2-2)
    Nigeria 3-1 (1-3)

    As the Guardian's highly respected Football Correspondent David Lacey wrote of Group F at Japan/South Korea 2002: "Draws may nominate a group of death but results decide its real mortality rating."

    That is ultimately how things panned out 11 years ago for Marcelo Bielsa’s much-fancied Argentina side after they found themselves drawn alongside arch-enemy England, the No. 1 ranked nation from Africa in Nigeria and the always competitive Swedes as the two European outfits made it through to the knockout rounds.


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