Will The Real Group of Death Please Stand Up?

May 14, 2014

Ever since the 2014 World Cup groups were decided back in December of 2013, fans were quick to label Group G (U.S.A., Ghana, Germany, Portugal) as the dreaded “Group of Death”. However, just the other day when talking about FIFA’s May rankings with a European friend, this particular friend was quick to say “Only Americans consider Group G the ‘Group of Death’”. It got me to thinking that maybe this friend was right?  Maybe as American fans we were too quick to jump on the “Group of Death” bandwagon when it fact our group wasn’t actually as deadly as some may lead you to believe.

I decided it was time to compile a couple simple stats just to see what I would come up with in hopes of providing more clarity as to which group the actual “Group of Death” is. Here is what I came up with.

Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon):

This group immediately stands out because the host country happens to be a part of it. Not to mention Mexico also found their way into the group surrounded by Croatia and Cameroon. The first stat I looked at was FIFA’s latest rankings (May 2014), although the list is bound to change a little in June, the May rankings provide us with a good idea of how teams are looking just before they make their final cuts. 

With Brazil ranked at #4, Croatia at #20, Mexico at #19 and Cameroon at #50, Group A’s Average Ranking lands at 23.35. A stat which easily points to Brazil as an overwhelming favorite to win the group.

The second stat I looked at was how many World Cups Trophies the group had accumulated between the four of them followed by their best results historically in the tournament. Group A in total has won Five World Cup Tournaments, all of them coming from Brazil. Croatia ads a 3rd place result to the group while Mexico and Cameroon both have quarterfinal experience under their belts, but haven’t managed to make it any further.

Although Brazil is definitely one of the favorites to win the 2014 World Cup, the group in general doesn’t even come close to being my official “Group of Death”.

 Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia):

At first glance this group is a very attractive one. The 2010 World Cup Final rematch between Spain and Netherlands will definitely be one of the most anticipated clashes of Round One and Chile has proven to be a fun team to watch over the past decade or so. 

Sadly though (although we love you Australia) the Aussies have to ruin this party with a #59 FIFA Ranking in May. Spain’s #1 rank, Netherland’s #15 and Chile’s #13 are only enough to give Group B an Average Ranking of 22, barely above Group A’s.

As for World Cup Tournaments won? Group B only has one world cup win, but the fact that the only team in the group to win the World Cup is Spain, we all know that it was a very recent win. Netherlands and Chile both have respectable finishes in the past with Netherlands getting as far as the final against Spain in 2010 and Chile winning their 3rd place match way back in 1962. Australia however has only gotten as far as the Round of 16.

Although I absolutely love this group, it is safe to say this group is not my official “Group of Death”

Group C (Columbia, Greece, Cote D’Ivoire, Japan):

This group doesn’t have a whole load of World Cup fame to toss around, but believe it or not, they actually have a higher average ranking than the group containing 2010’s winner and runner up! That alone makes me wonder about FIFA’s rankings a bit, but let’s just go with it.

Columbia’s #5 ranking, Greece’s #10, Cote D’Ivoire’s #21 and Japan’s #47 give Group C an average ranking of 20.75.

When it comes to World Cup wins, this group is one of only two groups this year who have a big fat zero championships between the four of them. In fact the furthest any of these teams have gone in the World Cup is the Round of 16 (Columbia and Japan), while Greece and Cote D’Ivoire have never made it past the first round.

Although Group C’s ranking is mildly respectable, all signs point to this group being considerably weak. Definitely not “Group of Death” material.

Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy):

Now we’re talking! 2006 Champions (Italy), one of the most legendary football nations in the world (England), one of South America’s All-Time Greats (Uruguay) and a CONCACAF Nation on the rise (Costa Rica)? There isn’t a match in this group that doesn’t look like fun!

With Uruguay landing at #6 for May’s FIFA rankings and Costa Rica at #36, England at #11, and Italy at #9, Group D comes to average ranking of 15. Pretty impressive right?

Perhaps not quite as impressive as the amount of World Cup Championships this group has tallied over the years though.  Besides Costa Rica, every team in this group has won a World Cup, in fact Uruguay and Italy have both won multiple championships (Uruguay with two and Italy with four) while England has one to its name.

Are these impressive numbers enough for me to make Group D my official “Group of Death” for 2014? Well I guess you’ll have to wait until the end of this blog entry to find out…

Group E (Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras):

After an abysmal 2010 Cup and a nail biting journey to the 2014 Tournament, France is looking to take some of their newfound offense and cruise through Group E. Although Honduras have proven to have their moments in CONCACAF and both Ecuador and Switzerland are hardly pushovers, France – in my opinion – is the favorite to come away with the group win here. How does this group rank though?

Although France is my personal favorite for this group, Switzerland is actually the highest ranked team in Group E at #8, Ecuador at #28, France at #16 and Honduras at #30 land the group with a respectable average ranking of 20.5.

As for Championships? There is only one to speak of in Group E and that would be France’s 1998 win. The Swiss made the quarterfinals in 1934, 1938 and 1954, but Ecuador has only managed a Round of 16 berth and Honduras has never made it out of Round One.

The match between France and Switzerland will be an interesting battle, but besides that, this group isn’t remotely close to a “Group of Death” contender.

Group F (Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria):

The biggest question out of Group F is “Will Lionel Messi finally be Lionel Messi in a World Cup Tournament?” The second biggest question appears to be “Who will advance with Argentina?”. Otherwise, besides Bosnia and Herzegovina’s feel good story, as it’s their first ever World Cup, this group is easily the weakest out of all the groups in my opinion.

Argentina is ranked #7 as of May, while Bosnia and Herzegovina sit at #25, Iran sits at #37 and Nigeria at #44. That all equates out to an average ranking of 28.25.

There are two championships to be spoken of in this group and it comes as no surprise they are both from Argentina. Although Nigeria had spirited runs at the Round of 16 twice in the 90’s, Bosnia is – like I said – playing in their first ever World Cup and Iran has never made it out of the first round.

Need I say more? This group is…..yeah you get it.

Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana, U.S.A.):

Now I arrive at the group who started me on this kick. The group which has been dubbed the “Group of Death” since it was drawn, but is it in fact the “Group of Death” in my opinion? U.S.A. is enjoying one of their more popular World Cup campaigns thanks to the sport’s rising popularity in the United States. Portugal is led by arguably the best footballer in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo), while Germany is stacked with names like Klose, Götze, Reus, Lahm and Schweinsteiger just to name a few. Ghana has also proven to be a worthy opponent in past tournaments with their never say die attitude.

With Germany ranked #2, Portugal #3, U.S.A. #14 and Ghana #38, Group G does in fact have this highest average ranking of 14.25 as of FIFA’s May rankings. However I already talked about my feelings on their rankings earlier, so is that enough to actually judge what makes a “Group of Death”?

Germany is the only team out of the group to have won the World Cup and they have done so three times. However, U.S.A.’s 3rd place finish in 1930 and Portugal’s 3rd place finish in 1966 do offer a little more prestige than many of the other groups who lack much experience at all after the Round of 16. Ghana’s 2010 Quarterfinal appearance wraps up what we already know is a tough group.

Is that enough to persuade me though? We’ll have to see after we get done talking about the final group.

Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea):

Group H is a group compiled of National Teams on the rise. None of these teams look to be any threat to even a place in the quarterfinals, but all four have shown promise through qualifying and stranger things have definitely happened before.

Belgium is the highest ranked team in the group at #12, Russia is close behind at #18, while Algeria sits at #25 and Korea finds themselves a ways down the list at #55. That all is enough for an average ranking of 27.5, just barely above my weakest group (Group F) at 28.25.

Group H is the only group along with Group C who has a total of zero championships between all four teams involved. Korea and Belgium have both enjoyed 4th place finishes in the past, but Algeria and Russia have never seen life after Round One.

Although I do believe these teams are a tad better than Group F, Group H is still a pretty weak group and it goes without saying they aren’t even the “Group of Malicious Intent”, let alone the “Group of Death”.

So who takes the Group of Death Title?

After reading this (and thanks for doing so by the way), you can probably do the math and realize that when it comes to the title “Group of Death”, it turns out to be a battle between Group D Vs. Group G for me.  Although Group G’s FIFA ranking is a tad bit higher, there just isn’t enough space between it and Group D (.75 difference) for me to base my decision solely off of that.  Not to mention, we know some of the numbers that go into FIFA’s rankings don’t pertain to the First Teams for each individual nation, therefore you have to take the rankings with a grain of salt.

I thought about it for quite some time and even consulted a Magic Eight Ball that quite shockingly predicted that all teams in Group G had a chance to win the World Cup, while all, but Italy did in Group D (hey I was desperate), but when it all comes down to it, I have to go with the group that has won seven World Cup Championships collectively and say that Group D is my official “Group of Death”. It’s hard to argue with a group that includes two teams that have won the cup more than once when winning it just once is a monumental feat.

As a longtime fan of US Soccer, I do realize the incredibly tough group we have to get through and obviously there is a case to be made for Group G being the actual “Group of Death”, but in my humble opinion, Group D is most daunting all together.

Thank you for reading….now let’s get this thing started!

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