Despite Group C containing three of the world’s top 20 teams, it is not considered one of the strongest groups out of the eight.
What’s the reason? A single ACL tear.
There aren’t many players in the world that can take an entire group’s reputation down with them, but in the case of Group C, that’s what we are seeing.
During a French Cup match for his club Monaco nearly two weeks ago, a game which many have questioned the decision to play him, Radamel Falcao went down in what was the worst timed injury of his now superstar career.
With less than five months before the World Cup begins, his home country Colombia will have to move on without him.
This is obviously a devastating blow for a team which many consider the greatest Colombian national teams of all time, having risen to No. 4 in the world rankings. Despite Falcao’s injury though, his country is not done just yet.
The Colombians will have to rely on the new faces which have helped them rise to the new heights they find themselves in. Perhaps their most important weapon on offense now is Falcao’s teammate in club and country in winger James Rodriguez. At 22 years old, he is just another one of the many new young faces that will surely shape this World Cup.
Filling in at striker for Falcao are Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez. While they are light years away from bringing the same kind of world class impact that their team will be missing, these two strikers have been impressive in their time playing for their national team.
Between the two, they have accumulated 19 goals in 52 caps – not far off from Falcao’s career 20 goals in 50 caps for Colombia. With this solid supporting cast in mind, the current No. 4 should still be challenging for a spot in the knockout round.
Perhaps the most surprising top 20 team in the current world rankings is Greece. A country not known for any sort of reputation as a world power in football, the Greeks have dominated their region and could be one of the tournament’s top underdogs to challenge for the Cup, a la Uruguay in 2010.
Leading this quiet nation as he has for so many years is the captain, 36 year old midfielder Giorgos Karagounis. Still getting play time for Fulham in the English Premier League, Karagounis has an impressive 131 caps under his belt. His partner in the midfield, Kostas Katsouranis, who has 108 caps of his own is still going strong as well at the age of 34.
Offensively, Greece is led by Theofanis Gekas who plays for the Chinese club Konyaspor. At 33, he rounds out this veteran crew of Greek nationals probably making their final run at the world stardom.
Coming in with a No. 17 World Ranking, the Ivory Coast is back to try and prove themselves once more. After being the odd man out in South Africa’s “Group of Death”, in which they were placed against Brazil and Portugal, they’re back with Didier Drogba leading the charge for what may be the last time.
At 35 years of age, the storied career of Didier Drogba has nearly come to an end. Currently playing for Galatasaray, he may have lost a step but he is still going strong. With 62 goals in 98 caps for his national team, he has one of the most impressive goal-scoring resumes for any striker in the world.
Salomon Kalou and Gervinho back Drogba up on the offensive side as they have proven their capabilities as goal scorers with their club teams.
Filling the middle is the outstanding Yaya Toure of Manchester City. Once a Barcelona star, Toure has had one of his best years in the Premier League this season, tallying an EPL career-high seven goals. At the age of 30, he is still finding new ways to attack defenses and keep the pressure on the opposition.
Rounding out Group C is Japan. Pound for pound, this underdog may be the most underrated in the World Cup. They impressed in South Africa, and although they didn’t make it far in the tournament, they have only gotten better these past four years.
The Japanese come in with a surprisingly low No. 48 World Ranking, but they have definite star-power in Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa. The 27 year old Honda is the clear leader of this team, and his recent transfer to AC Milan has given him a chance to strut his stuff on a bigger scale than Asia can provide for him.
Although Honda leads the way, Kagawa may be as important a player as any. He has had his differences with David Moyes at his club Manchester United, but in only his first year in the Premier League at the age of 23 he showed what he was capable of.
Kagawa became the first Asian player to record a hat trick in the Premier League and he won first place in just his first season in the world’s most competitive football league.
This is a group that knows it can throw world rankings out the second the first whistle of the tournament is blown. Group C will be defined as a group of underdogs and possible Cinderella stories, and there is no telling which way this one is going to go.