There has been a lot of discussion about our group and whether or not it is the dreaded Group of Death. Since there is no official title nor does it mean anything, who really cares? It is a crazy hard group and whoever the two teams are that advance will breath sighs of relief. The two who don’t will leave disappointed.
It is this last reason that I would say this is the Group of Death, all four sides expect to advance. Only two can thus each match will be a dogfight. Are there groups that I am glad we did not get drawn into? Yes. We could have been drawn into Group B, in Australia’s place. Had that happened there would be no debating the Group of Death. In this case, poor Australia, they really have no chance. Consider they are in a group with the two finalists from the last Cup, Holland and Spain. Even should one of those giants slip up, there is still Chile. So why is this not the Group of Death? Simply because Australia is not near the level of the other three. I’m not saying any team can take a day off, but when Spain and Holland play Australia, it is a step down in class. While any side will be disappointed when they are eliminated, Australia cannot expect to make it out. There is no way I would want to be in this group.
How about Group D? We could have been put there rather than Costa Rica. Our opponents would be Italy, England, and Uruguay. Certainly a daunting task, though perhaps not as horrible as at first glance as none of these three would consider them self at the top of their game. That is not to say one of them won’t go far, they all have wonderful pedigree, it is just that each would admit to not having their finest side. That said, this is a wonderfully entertaining group. At the end, I see Costa Rica, while not advancing, having something to say about who advances–I believe they will take points.
One of the great things about this Cup is that no real powers failed to qualify. There are still a few weak sides, Iran, Algeria, and Honduras all come to mind–however we have certainly had our problems with each of them over the years. This year, Sweden, Turkey, Denmark and the Ukraine are probably the top sides to not join the party, solid sides, all, but not marquee names (Zlatan aside, who will be missed.)
So, at the end of the day, yes, we are in the Group of Death.
Speaking of this group, and the piece I wrote yesterday, about the horrible commute out team will face, the longest of any team including 5 flights of 3 1/2 hours or more before the final group match. Looking at the three other teams in our group and where they play, Germany has it the easiest. They play in Salvador, Fortaleza, and then Recife–all in that northeast area. Ghana play in Natal, Fortaleza, then Brasilia–similar in total travel to us, but with their long trip their final match. Portugal probably have the worst travel to match as they are in Salvador, Manaus, and Brasilia. However what really will make the difference is where their base is.
Germany has really done it right, they built their own place and it’s close to their matches in the northeast: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2619742/Germans-logical-solution-address-World-Cup-security-fears-build-luxury-new-25-million-base.html
Portugal are also located in the city of Campinas, which is in the state of Sao Paulo, however: 1. They are much closer to the airport and 2. Their schedule is much further south than ours. Their location is not ideal but it is not remotely as bad as ours. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/832810.shtml
Ghana is also up north, as they should be: http://myjoyonline.com/sports/2014/February-3rd/-brazil-2014-ghana-picks-maceio-as-2014-fifa-world-cup-camp-baseghana-who-will-be-participating-in-her-third.php
Germany has about the perfect set-up, their matches are all relatively close and they are well situated. They will go into that final match with us much fresher.