Group C: Anybody can win, move on

Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan

Conventional Wisdom

Good luck trying to predict Group C. It features a quartet of evenly matched teams that all have a good shot of reaching the last 16.

Colombia might be viewed as marginal favourites to win the group, and their comfort of playing in South American conditions should help their cause, but serious doubts over the fitness of star striker Radamel Falcao mean they are heading into Brazil 2014 under a huge shadow.

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- 32 Team in 32 Days: Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan

That should inspire Didier Drogba and his Ivory Coast players to believe this could be the World Cup in which they come to the fore, while Japan's lack of consistency in the buildup to their Brazilian adventure means they have questions aplenty to answer.

The wild card in this group are Fernando Santos' Greece, who head into this World Cup with limited expectations externally but high hopes of success within their own ranks.

Must Watch

The opening match of Group C between Greece and Colombia in Belo Horizonte has the potential to set the tone for what follows.

If Falcao is fit enough to make an impact and can unlock the dogged and determined Greek defence, Colombia will quickly establish themselves as the team to beat in a pool that Greece coach Santos believes will be decided by fine margins.

"Maybe you can say Colombia has a 55 percent chance to go through, but this first game for us against them could change everything," said the experienced Portuguese tactician who will mastermind the Greek challenge at Brazil 2014. "It is a perfectly balanced group where anything can happen."

Greece's improbable success in the Euro 2004 tournament was based on a solid defence and a counterattacking game plan, and a decade later they are pretty much adopting a similar pattern. They won't score too many and shouldn't let too many in, but one goal is enough to win any game.

Main Men

Jackson Martinez (Colombia): Falcao's injury worries mean Martinez might get the chance to take centre stage for his nation this summer, and this Porto scoring machine is more than capable of kick-starting a hitherto less-than-inspiring international career.

Kostas Mitroglou (Greece): This bustling centre-forward was a key figure in Greece's progress through the World Cup playoffs against Romania, and while he failed to shine after joining Fulham last January, he will carry much of the Greek threat.

Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast): Doubts hover over his future at Manchester City, but they can be put to one side for this powerful, free-scoring midfielder in this World Cup. Didier Drogba might be Ivory Coast's most celebrated player, but Toure could rank alongside him as a Hall of Famer.

Shinji Kagawa (Japan): The career of one of the most recognizable faces in Japanese sport has flat-lined at Manchester United this season. Maybe the World Cup can be a launchpad for a revival for the energetic Kagawa.

What Matters Most

Colombia cannot allow themselves to be sidetracked by an obsession to get Falcao onto the field at this World Cup.

Coach Jose Peckerman has enough firepower in his squad to use the hero-in-chief of the Colombian football nation as a cameo performer, given that the alternatives at his disposal have proven good enough to take his side through the group phase.

Jackson Martinez is highly rated after his stunning scoring displays for FC Porto, while Carlos Bacca has been hugely impressive in helping Sevilla win the Europa League trophy in his first season at the club. River Plate striker Teofilo Gutierrez is another striking option for Colombia, so if Falcao is only fit to offer up fleeting moments of brilliance, all is not lost for Peckerman's side.

Make no mistake: The presence of their "main man" on the pitch in Brazil would lift a nation, but this Colombian team are not just about one leader.

Key Stat

Group C is one of three at the 2014 World Cup to feature teams from four different continents. Three of the four countries were at the 2010 World Cup, with seeded Colombia the exception. The group looks wide open, as none of the teams have ever won a World Cup knockout game.

- Five Aside's Group C preview


1. Ivory Coast
2. Colombia
3. Japan
4. Greece

Group A | Group B | Group D
Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H