A for Abidance

So, we are all set to embrace the mother of all tournaments, the World Cup 2014, to be held in its spiritual home, Brazil. Goalden Times is bringing you group wise preview, analysis and prediction. Starting off with Group A is Riddhi Roy Chaudhuri.

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Brazil

The Holy Grail returns to Brazil for the first time since 1950. Generally anything less than a final appearance in World Cup is considered a failure for the Selecao by the football crazy nation. One can understand how much expectation from the national team will be there this time as World Cup is held in Brazil itself. After the embarrassing second half capitulation against the Dutch in quarter-final in 2010, manager Dunga had to face the axe. Mano Menezes replaced him and he tried to make a radical change to the national team setup. Menezes envisaged a free-flowing football with more technical, skillful and particularly young players. He brought in the likes of Neymar, Lucas Moura, Alexandre Pato and tried to build the team around them. However, Menezes never succeeded to fully achieve what he tried. The team showed glimpses of brilliance in going forward but they lacked the killer instinct. Another hindrance for Menezes was the lack of competitive games. Friendlies never provided a true measure of the progress made under him. Then came the Copa America in 2011 where Menezes and his team bowed out in the quarters.

In November 2012, Menezes left with mutual consent and Luiz Felipe Scolari returned after 10 years of winning the World Cup. Felipao set out to mend the things and preferred substance over style. Initially things did not work properly and in his first five games, Brazil failed to secure any win. However in the Confederation Cup 2013, Brazil found their rhythm and went on to win the tournament. Throughout the tournament, Brazil was ruthless and clinical which was highlighted by the 3-0 demolition of world champion Spain. Thereby Felipao succeeded in installing a proper system for the team that can perform well at the World Cup.

As Scolari has mentioned before, his roster for the World Cup consists of majority of the players who won the Confederation Cup for him. This time around Brazil will be based on solid defence and a functional midfield. Thiago Silva, Dante and David Luiz will be at the helm of the central defence while Dani Alves and Marcelo will be providing width as full-backs. The Luiz Gustavo-Paulinho combination has worked wonders for Scolari and they will form the midfield lynch pin. However, after a fantastic season at Manchester City, Fernandinho has forced himself into Scolari’s plan and do not be surprised if you see his name in the first XI. Neymar will be the talisman for Brazill going forward supported by Oscar, Fred and Hulk. Ironically, this time the centre-forward is the position where Brazil is devoid of quality names. Scolari will try to overcome it by setting up his strategy to get goals from all across the team.

Brazil has always been the box office nation at the World Cup and as the host nation, expectation to win the tournament on them will be sky high. If things work out properly, progress to knockout stage should not be a big problem. But there awaits the bigger test for Scolari and his Selecao. Whether a sixth World Cup glory or an anti-climax in the form of early elimination from the tournament awaits them – time can only tell that.

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Cameroon will be participating for the seventh time in the World Cup in Brazil. Cameroon is still remembered for their exploits in the 1990 World Cup held in Italy.  They never reached the same height and have been a story of more misses than hits in the following editions of the showpiece tournament. Brazil 2014 will present them a chance to change that but it will be a tough job to say the least.

Cameroon’s performance in the last few international tournaments have been below par. Their endeavour in both the World Cup 2010 and African Cup of Nations in 2010 fell below expectations. Failure to qualify for the 2013 African Cup of Nations saw sacking of manager Denis Lavagne. Jean-Paul Akono was in charge temporarily and later he was replaced by the German Volkar Finke. Qualification campaign for 2014 World Cup was comparatively easy sailing for Cameroon. They topped Group I in the second round ahead of Libya, Congo and Togo. Cameroon  rode their luck in the match away to Togo where they were awarded a 3-0 victory inspite of losing the match 2-0 as Togo fielded an ineligible player. In the play-off round they met Tunisia. A resounding 4-1 victory at home after a stalemate in first leg ensured their qualification. Although their performance was nothing spectacular but effective nonetheless and also helped by the fact that they didn’t have to face tougher opponents.

Finke is known as one of the architects of the present free-flowing style that has swept across the entire footballing strata in Germany. He is best remembered for his 16-year spell at SC Freiburg. However with Cameroon, Finke has a different task at his disposal. A pragmatic approach rather than style is probably what Finke will try to look into for Cameroon. The national team is not particularly blessed with plethora of creative talents. They boast good defenders like Joel Matip, Nicolas Nkoulou, Aurélien Chedjou, Benoit Assou-Ekotto who are known faces in the top European leagues. Similarly Alexandre Song, Jean II Makoun, Stephane Mbia can provide a combative midfield. But lack of proper creative outlets may come to affect them. Samuel Eto’o, the skipper, in spite of being in and out of the team, still remains the potent source of goal but his performance with Chelsea has shown he has past his prime.

It won’t be correct to write off the ‘Indomitable Lions’ for this World Cup. In Group A, Brazil is probably too strong opposition for them but against Mexico and Croatia, they will get their chances. However to achieve anything significant, Cameroon players have to overcome their cynical nature that has hurt them in the previous tournaments. Finke needs to get the best out of his players otherwise another group stage exit might be in store for them.

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After their stunning World Cup debut in 1998, Croatia has never enjoyed same fortune in the next tournaments. Their last appearance in World Cup was in 2006 when they went out in the group stage.In Euro 2012, they again went out of the group stage after being paired with heavyweights and eventual finalists Spain and Italy. This was followed by resignation of Slaven Bilic, the longest standing Croatian manager till date. With Davor Suker coming in as the new Croatian Federation(HNS) president, they chose former defender Igor Stimac as the new manager. His first task was to gain qualification for World Cup 2014.

Croatia was placed in Group A with Belgium, Serbia, Scotland, Wales and Macedonia. Croatia started their journey in 2014 World Cup qualifiers with a narrow 1-0 win against Macedonia. Croatia was undefeated in the first six games of the campaign and won five of them to top the table at that stage. But the next four games saw a slump in form and they could only manage a point. As a result, Croatia finished second behind Belgium and had to face a play-off against Iceland. Under pressure coach Stimac was removed and charges were given to former captain from their golden generation and then U-21 national team manager Niko Kovac. Kovac guided Croatia successfully against Iceland in the second round of the qualifiers thus securing a berth in the summer showdown.

Under Kovac, Croatia are yet to find their footing. To be fair, he has not been able to spend sufficient time with his team to stamp his mark. He managed to navigate the immediate job of qualifying for the World Cup overcoming Iceland although they had to fight hard. Croatia could not break stubborn Iceland in the first leg despite having a man advantage for most of the first half. This Croatian team doesn’t have an abundance of talent to pick from. Without doubt, they boast one of the most in-form and talented midfielder of the present time in Luka Modric. He will be ably supported by Ivan Rakitic who is enjoying a fine season with Sevilla. In Mateo Kovacic, they have a potential superstar who will be valuable to Kovac’s plan. Midfield can be the source of inspiration for Croatia but Kovachave to design a strategy that can harness the best out his talented midfeld. Southampton’s Dejan Lovren will be the leader at the back alongside Vedran Corluka. Ever-present and captain Dario Srna will take up his position as the right-back. It is the forward line where Croatia lacks real quality and they will be further affected by absence of Mario Mandzukic in the opening game against Brazil due to a one-game ban. In his absence, either of Eduardo Silva or Nikica Jelavic will step in but how much threat they can be remains a doubt.  Ivan Perisic and veteran IvicaOlic will be playing supporting roles as wide forwards. Beyond the first XI, lack of suitable quality will be another bit of concern for the manager.  So all in all, it is the midfield where lies the key to success for Croatia.

The pint sized Balkan nation with a population of four million will be at the centre of global audience come 12th June. They will lock horn with the host and favourites Brazil.  Niko Kovac has made it clear that his team won’t be there in Brazil just as tourists. He stated: “You only get a shot at the World Cup every four years, so we want to leave behind a lasting impression.”  Qualifying for the knockout stage remains the primary agenda for Kovac and his team. They need to back themselves and produce their best to get results especially against the likes of Mexico and Cameroon. Following their absence in 2010 World Cup, the Vatreni will look to arouse the spirit of 1998 to make this World Cup special.

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Oribe Peralta

Mexico has been the powerhouse nation in the CONCACAF group of North and Central America region over the years. They have not been spectacular but steady in the last five editions. Generally due to lack of competition, Mexico’s status has never been threatened in the region.

Courtesy of winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2011, Mexico got the chance to participate in last year’s Confederation Cup in Brazil. However, being paired with Brazil and Italy in the same group, they faced a difficult job to advance in the tournament. As expected, they lost both the games and were eliminated. Defeating Japan in the other group match was the only positive thing for them. Their next assignment was the Gold Cup 2013 hosted by USA. Things started to go downhill from this tournament. In the group stage, Mexico went down to minnows Panama and managed to qualify for quarter-final stage as runners-up. However, they again faced Panama in the semi-final and suffered the same fate. This was the first time Panama has defeated Mexico in Gold Cup and that too twice.

Mexico started their qualification journey for World Cup 2014 in the third round of CONCACAF qualifiers. They were clubbed with Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guyana. Under the guidance of Jose Manuel ‘Chepo’ de la Torre Menchacha, they breezed through the group by winning all the six matches. Next, came the fourth round, also known as the Hexagonal, consisting of six teams, the group champions and runners-ups, from third round. Mexico had to struggle from the beginning this time. They embarked on a poor run of seven games where they drew 5 games and winning just one. The lowest point came on 6th September, 2013 when Honduras defeated Mexico at their own Estadio Azteca. It was only the second defeat for the ‘EL Tri’ at their home, previous one was in 2001. Subsequently, Mexican Football Federation (FMF) sacked the under fire manager Chepo and gave the reins to Luis Fernando Tena Garduno. Tena, who guided Mexico U-23 to 2012 London Olympics gold medal, had a complex and difficult task in his hand. Mexico was lying fourth among the six teams. But Tena could not stem the rot and Mexico lost the following game against USA. FMF pressed the panic button and brought Victor Manuel Vucetich Rojas in charge for the last two games. Amongst this chaos, Mexico managed to hold on the fourth spot by winning their penultimate match and despite losing the final game, Panama’s loss to USA in the last round by conceding two goals in the injury time saved Mexico from suffering the ignominy of missing out the trip to World Cup finals. Again FMF changed the manager by bringing in interim manager Miguel Herrera – the fourth manager in less than a month – and Mexico defeated New Zealand in the intercontinental play-off on 9-3 aggregate to finally get their ticket as one of the last two nations.

After successfully negotiating the play-off hurdle, FMF decided to move forward with Miguel Herrera in charge of ‘El Tri’ for the Brazil showpiece tournament. The 46-year-old manager have his task cut out as he will be having very little time to shape up the Mexico squad. El Piojo has already mentioned that he will prefer to bring in players whom he has worked with beside the regular candidates. Generally deploying a 3-5-2 formation, veteran Rafael Marquez will be the leader at the back. Upfront Giovanidos Santos and Javier Hernandez will be vital for Mexico’s system. Jose Juan Vazquez and Juan Carlos Medina are Herrera’s choice in the midfield. Herrera will also be encouraged by the young guns like Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez, Carlos Pena who helped Mexico to win gold in 2012 London Olympics.

Miguel Herrera said a few days back that ’We are going to reach the final’. But it is easier said than done. Probably Herrera said the words to express his positive attitude which he wants his team to show on the field. But realistically it will be difficult for Mexico to move beyond the group stage overcoming Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon.

Predictions

Brazil remains the outright favourites to win the Group A. But it ends there as it is only prediction based on the Brazil’s pedigree.  Make no mistake Brazil will have to give their all to move to the next round. All the remaining three sides Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon have the capability to hurt Brazil on an odd occasion. For example, in recent games against Mexico, Brazil have found it tougher to get to overcome them(in last eight games between them, Mexico and Brazil have seen an equal share of spoils). Between Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon, it is very difficult to select the strongest candidate as they all have their fair share of strengths as well as weaknesses.  The two teams that will manage to advance to the next round will probably face one of the finalists from 2010 World Cup, either Spain or Netherlands, which itself will be a daunting task indeed.

Passing Shot

Brazil and Mexico have faced each other 38 times so far, one of the most common fixtures in the region.

EURO 2012 – Group Preview

 Group Preview

The draw for the Euro championships for the Henri Delaunay trophy was held at the Ukraine Palace of Arts, in Kiev on 2nd December 2011. The draw was important as there were two host nations of Poland and Ukraine who were seeded with the top two teams in the continent based on FIFA rankings. This meant that a lot of powerful teams like Germany, Italy, France, Portugal and England would not be seeded. There were four pots used in to draw. The first pot had the seeded teams and the other pots had teams based on their FIFA ranking and recent performances.

The rankings were based on:

40% of the average ranking points per game earned in the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying stage.

40% of the average ranking points per game earned in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying stage and final tournament.

20% of the average ranking points per game earned in the UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying stage and final tournament.

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Incidentally both the hosts were the lowest ranked teams amongst the 16 qualifiers. A similar situation had occurred during Euro 2008 as well when the hosts were Austria and Switzerland. It was decided that Poland and Ukraine would be placed as team A1 and D1 in groups A and D respectively.

The draw featured four former Euro Champions drawing from the different pots – Horst Hrubesch of Germany, Marco Van Basten of Netherlands, Peter Schmeichel of Denmark and Zinadine Zidane.

The Final Groups After the Draw

Following the draw, we find some very interesting groups a lot of matches in group stages which could have been the final of the tournament. We, at Goalden Times, in the build-up to the tournament shall preview each group in detail in the following months. The preview begins with Group A.

Group A

This group has been termed by the media as the easiest group. It has none of the so-called superpowers of European football. This does not imply that qualifying to the quarter finals will be easy. In fact, with the absence of a single big team all four teams will harbour ambitions of progression from this group. Even in this not-so-strong group, we have three former European champions in Greece who won in 2004; Russia who were champions in the inaugural tournament in 1960 as Soviet Union and Czech Republic champions of 1976 as Czechoslovakia.  Greece and Russia have been drawn in the same group for the third Euro in succession. In fact they played out a 1-1 draw in a friendly match last month.

     Russia    

Resume: Champions 1960. Runners Up – 1964, 1972 and 1988. Semi Finals – 1968 and 2008.

Road to the finals: Qualifying Group B Winner. P-10 W-7 D-2 L-1 GF-17 GA-4 GD-+13

The highest ranked team in the group, Russia will be pleased with the draw. Coached by the Dutchman Dick Advocaat, Russians will be a difficult opponent. They had a good qualifying campaign topping their group ahead of Republic of Ireland. They had a shock loss to Slovakia early in qualifying at home and struggled to score goals early in the campaign. The away match against Republic of Ireland at Dublin was the turning point as the Russians won 3-2 in a very difficult match. After that, the campaign was smooth and they qualified with an emphatic 6-0 victory against Andorra at home. Russians are playing all matches in Poland; they would have preferred to have played in Ukraine with a large Russian population for support. The first match against Czech Republic will be crucial. The Czechs will have more support as Wroclaw is nearer to their country. The last time the two sides met in a similar stage was in Euro 1996 in a memorable match where the Czechs came back from 1-3 down to force a dramatic tie 3-3 with a late goal from Vladimir Smicer, to oust Italy from the tournament.

The Russian team under Advocaat plays mainly with two formations 4-3-3 against weaker opposition or at home and 4-4-1-1 when playing stronger teams or away from home. The team has also used the 4-1-4-1 formation at times. They have a solid look to their side in all departments. Vyacheslav Malafeev, the first choice goalkeeper has been in good form playing in the Champions League for his club, Zenit. There is adequate backup in Igor Akinfeev of CSKA Moscow. In centre of defence they have the experienced CSKA Moscow pairing of Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutskiy. Aleksandr Anyukov of Zenit is the first choice left-back. Yuri Zhirkov, the former Chelsea man now at Anzhi has been used as right-back and also a right sided midfielder by Advocaat. When playing 4-4-3, Zhirkov plays in defence.  Against stronger teams, Aleksei Berezutskiy, the twin brother of the defender Vasili comes in the right-back position for his defensive capabilities. Zhirkov plays as a right winger in such matches. In the centre of midfield they have the Zenit duo of Konstantin Zyryanov and Roman Shirokov who have shown good form in the Champions league. Igor Denisov is generally the defensive midfielder playing in front of the back four as he does at his club Zenit. Experienced Igor Semsov of Dynamo Moscow is used on the left wing for his pace. Andrei Arshavin was the star of the Russian team in the last Euro. This time, the player to watch out is Alan Dzagoev of CSKA Moscow. Just 21 years of age, he is an exciting attacking midfielder who is comfortable playing on the left wing as well as behind the front striker. He has the potential to be a star in this tournament. In the forward line there is Arshavin who has question marks over his fitness and lack of first team football at Arsenal. The main striker position is a toss-up between Aleksandr Kerzhakov of Zenit and Roman Pavlyuchenko of Spurs. The former may get the nod for regular first team football for his club. As a back-up they have Pavel Pogrebnyak of Stuttgart.

The Russians play very well as a counter-attack unit with the pace of their players. The problem is when they have to chase the game, they seem to lack a bit of the finesse and cutting edge. They are an enigmatic team who have qualified very well in recent international tournaments to flounder in the finals. Euro 2008 was an exception where they showed their real potential. Dick Advocaat has to prove that 2008 was not an exception but an accurate reflection of their capabilities.

 

 

 

 

Head To Head

           Czech Republic

Resume: Champions 1976. Runners Up – 1996. Semi Finals – 1960, 1980 and 2004.

Road to the finals: Qualifying Group I Runner Up. P-8 W-4 D-1 L-3 GF-12 GA-8 GD-+4

Playoff vs Macedonia 3-0 aggregate (2-0,1-0)

Czech Republic had a stuttering campaign to the Euro 2012 finals. They lost their first match to Lithuania and two other matches to Spain; managed a last minute penalty equaliser against Scotland to stay in the hunt for qualification; went into the last match against Lithuania hoping that Spain would beat Scotland to allow them to sneak into a play-off spot. In the play-off, they were much better winning 2-0 at home and 1-0 away against Montenegro. Czech Republic has always performed well in the Euro, winning as Czechoslovakia in 1976 and losing to an Olivier Bierhoff golden goal in 1996. They were arguably the best team in 2004 tournament before losing to a defensive and tactically astute Greek side in the semi finals. Managed by Michal Bilek, they will aspire to play well in their group matches.

Bilek favours a 4-2-3-1 formation. In Petr Cech they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Although after his injury and subsequent donning of protective headgear, he has been less confident than before. The defence is led by the Bayer Leverkusen centre back, Michal Kadlec. Tomas Sivok of Besiktas is his partner in centre of defence. The left-back, Theodor Gebre Selassie of Slovan Liberec,   the first player of African origin to play for Czech Republic, was very impressive during the playoffs. Daniel Pudil of Genk will be the first choice right-back having made it to the team with some good performances in Champions League. The defence has a tendency of lacking pace in the centre which was exposed by Spain in both the qualifying matches. The midfield has a lot of experience with Tomas Rosicky having a re-emergence of form for Arsenal and the national team. Jaroslav Plasil of Bordeaux will anchor the midfield with Jan Polak of Wolfsburg. Vaclav Pilar of Viktoria Plzen will be the left sided midfielder who will push forward. The right side of midfield has seen Jan Rezek of the Cypriot club, Famagusta. This team generally plays with a lone striker with Tomas Pekhart of Nuremberg being the first choice. Pekhart is a huge talent and has all the makings of a star but has not lived up to his potential for the national team. There is the former Liverpool and Euro 2004 hero, Milan Baros now plying his trade at Galatasaray of Turkey, who is the back-up.

Playing all their matches in Wroclaw will help them as the town is close to their country and they will be backed by partisan support with the exception of the match against the hosts, Poland.  The Czech Republic team seems competent and good in their defence and midfield areas. The problem is that with the system they play, they need sharp finishing skills of a player like Jan Koller who they miss after his retirement. They create chances but struggle to score goals. It will be difficult for them to get beyond the group stages. However, they have a lot of big tournament pedigree and always lift their game for this tournament. They can always be the big surprise of the tournament.

Head To Head

 

 

          Greece

Resume: Champions 2004.

Road to the finals: Qualifying Group F Winner. P-10 W-7 D-3 L-0 GF-14 GA-5 GD-+9

Greece was always considered one of the weaker footballing nations in Europe. All that changed in 2004 when under the astute German manager Otto Rehhagel, they pulled off the greatest upset win ever in a national tournament. After this grand success, the Greek national team failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2006. They qualified for Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010. The team failed to perform in the finals of both tournaments, not progressing beyond the group stages. This Euro qualifying campaign was very impressive with Greece being unbeaten and defeating Croatia, a higher ranked team to win the group. The manager of the Greek team, Fernando Santos is a Portuguese national who has a lot of experience managing Greek club sides. Greeks who are known for their very defensive style of play have been refreshingly attack minded under Santos. Generally the Greeks play with the 4-3-3 system. This attacking system is built on the belief that their defence is very strong.

In goal, they have Kostas Chalkias of PAOK, the last club managed by Santos who has immense faith in him. The centre of defence is marshalled by Avram Papadopoulos of Olympiakos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Werder Bremen. Both have been in good form in both their respective clubs. In the left-back position there are two players who are vying for a position in the starting line-up – Vasilis Torosidis of Olympiakos and Loukas Vyntra of Panathanaikos. In the right-back position again there are two possible candidates in Nikos Spiropoulos of Olympiakos and Giannis Zaradoukas of Panathanaikos. The three man midfield has a lot of experience in the Panathanaikos duo of Giorgos Karagounis on the left and Kostas Katsouranis on the right. The centre of midfield will be marshalled by Alexandros Tziolis of Racing Santander. The forward line has Theofanis Gekas of Eintracht Frankfurt through the centre, Dimitris Salpigidis of PAOK on the right and Giorgos Samaras of Celtic on the right. Angelos Charisteas, the star of Euro 2004 presently playing at Panetelikos is used as an effective substitute in the frontline.

The main advantage of Greece is that a lot of their players play together for the same teams in defence and midfield ensuring good understanding and organisation. In current form they should be one of the teams to qualify for the quarter-finals. The Greeks however do not have a good record in the finals of international tournaments. If they can overcome this jinx, they can very well mount a serious challenge akin to Euro 2004. The first match against the hosts, however, will be crucial and a draw or win will set them on their way.

Head To Head

         Poland

Resume: Group Stage 2008

Road to the finals:  Automatic qualifier as co-host.

Poland has never been successful in the Euro championships. Even in their hey-days of the 70s and 80s when they finished third twice in the World Cup and won an Olympic gold, they failed to qualify for the Euro tournaments. They managed to qualify for the first time in 2008. They did not progress beyond the group stages following defeats to Germany and Croatia. Being the co-hosts, they qualified automatically for the finals. Poland will start the tournament as the lowest ranked team in the competition. They have not had a competitive match since October 2009. This can be an advantage as the team will be fresher, or a disadvantage as the team will not be really match fit, as friendly matches are not the same thing as competitive. Franciszek Smuda, the head coach has the difficult job of meeting the expectations of the home fans.

Poland in the majority of their friendly matches has used the 4-2-3-1 formation. They have Wojciech Szczęsny of Arsenal as first choice keeper. Interestingly,             Łukasz Fabiański, the number two goalkeeper of Arsenal is also the second choice in the national team. The defence has a solid look in Marcin Wasilewski of Anderlecht and Kamil Glik of Torino. Dariusz Dudka of Auxerre should start as rightback and Łukasz Piszczek of Borussia Dortmund as left-back. Rafał Murawski of Lech Poznan and Eugen Polański of Mainz will anchor the midfield. Ludovic Obraniak of Lille will add the creative spark in the centre of midfield. Jakub Błaszczykowski of Dortmund will play on the right wing. Sławomir Peszko of FC Koln will be on the left side of midfield. In the forward line, Robert Lewandowski of Dortmund is the first choice striker. Paweł Brożek of Trabzonspor will be used as a substitute.

The Polish team should give a good account of themselves at home. They will have huge support to back their team which should help their morale. The problem is that they don’t have the quality throughout the team to mount a sustained challenge for the other teams. If they ride on the wave of home support and manage to qualify for the quarter finals, they will be deemed as a huge success.

Head To Head

Final Verdict

The final verdict has four categories of teams:

1) Sure-shot – means that the team is the favourite to progress from the group.

2) Likely – the team is not the total favourite but is the second favourite to qualify.

3) Dark Horse – a team which can reach the quarter finals but has to overcome similar teams or favourites to do so.

4) Upset – means that the team reaching the quarterfinals will be a major surprise. In groups there maybe more than a single team in each category or there may not be a single team in particular category also.

Sure-shot: Russia

Likely:

Dark Horse: Czech Republic and Greece

Upset: Poland



[i]The co-efficient is a value arrived at by FIFA, by dividing a particular number of points awarded for a tournament (that includes  qualifying for participating, winning, drawings and scoring goals) by the number of matches played

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Kinshuk Biswas is an architect by education, a consultant by profession, a quizzer, writer and an absolute football fanatic by choice. Follow him at http://confessionsofastonedmind.blogspot.com