Friday, December 04, 2009

Real Groups Of Death Have Four Good Teams, Not Three Very Good Teams

I just watched the World Cup draw on ESPN2. First of all, let me say that Charlize Theron is fine.

Second, I get very annoyed when I hear commentators and analysts instantly opine on which is the so-called Group of Death. Mainly because they're wrong. Before I explain, here's the draw:

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia

Group D: Germany, Australia, Ghana, Serbia

Group E: Holland, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark

Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal

Group H: Spain, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland

Looking at that, the analysts immediately said that Group G is the Group of Death, mainly because they've heard of Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba. This is stupid. Portugal simply aren't a very good team. They really struggled through qualifying -- even with Crystiano -- and unlike Argentina and France, who also struggled, there's no upside there. I don't see anyone other than Brazil and Cote d'Ivoire getting through there.

More generally, groups of death normally take place when you have absolutely no freebies. North Korea is patently a freebie. There are actually two groups of death for next year: Group B and Group D. None of the eight teams in those groups can really be thought of as the top favorites for the entire tournament, but not one of the twelve matches in those groups is easily predictable. Not one.

I will say this about Group G: it's hard enough getting through that group, but then when you consider that the first knock-out game for the teams getting through will be either Spain or If one of Brazil or Spain mess up in their groups, and somehow finish second, can you imagine a round of 16 knockout between those two? Yikes.

Oh, and Italy? Lucky buggers. Though it bears mentioning Paraguay are not an easy out.


AKS said...

That's a pretty nice draw, in fact its so nice that it almost seems to have been engineered by the suits at Fifa.

I don't agree with your analysis about Group D, Germany and Serbia are pretty much guaranteed to go through. I have a feeling that Serbia's going to do really well, they may even make the semis.

And if we're speaking of groups with teams that are guaranteed not to win the cup then Group A should also be in it. Surely France are as bad if not worse than Germany and Argentina? You could maybe even put Group F in there, I'm not sure if there'll be many people who will have Italy as their "top favorites for the the entire tournament". Then again who can tell with Italy, and along with Holland they have the easiest path to the Quarters.

You're right though about Protugal, too much expectation from a side that isn't that good and banks entirely on one player who is invariably going to choke in big games.

right side of the river said...

i think you guys are underestimating Portugal. as much as it pains me to say it, they have a pretty solid team, even without ronaldo.

also Group B has Nigeria, who have been good in the past but at present are the weakest team from Africa. so not quite Group of Death material there.

Holland and Italy have tricky groups because Cameroon, Denmark, Paraguay and Slovakia are all quality sides.

there's a few of these '3 good teams and 1 pushover' groups.

Asfandyar said...

If Portugal can tick they're a pretty good team. However, it's been quite a while since they've ticked, so on the form argument they don't have much to offer.

That said, Brazil stumbled through qualifying in 2002 and ended up winning it. Crap form in qualifying doesn't always translate to crap form in the finals themselves.

Holland have a potentially sweet passage in the knockout stages. Really hope the bastards stick together and don't end up going limp like they did against Russia in Euro '06.

Aside from Spain, are there really any out and out favourites? Can't really see anyone imo.

Umair Javed said...

seeding is an institutionalized method of rigging the least in the initial stages...but i'd say that in recent memory the argentina/netherlands/serbia/ivory coast group at the last world cup was the closest thing that we've ever had to a real group of death....

Ahsan said...


Yeah, I'm giving group A to Mexico and Uruguay. France have the Argentina problem -- great talent, crap coach.

Right side:

Come on dude. How does Portugal have a solid team? In comparison to the other European sides?


Um, Brazil maybe?


Yeah, we have nothing like that in this year's tournament, but almost every group (aside from the Italy and England groups) will be interesting.

Etienne Cabet said...

Good post. You're right in saying that G is perhaps not the group of Death in the traditional sense of the word. But I think there's a different way to see this. If you remove from each group the weakest team opening a space for another hypothetical member you are left with this:

A: France, Mexico, Uruguay
B: Argentina, Greece, Nigeria
C: England, USA, Slovenia
D: Germany, Serbia, Ghana
E: Holland, Denmark, Cameroon
F: Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia
G: Brazil, Portugal, Cote D'Ivoire
H: Spain, Chile and Switzerland

If you were the hypothetical fourth team, where would you like to land? and more importantly, where would you NOT want to land? Group G, grouping teams currently ranked at 2, 5, and 16, is definitely the answer to the second question. It is in this sense that G can be called the Group of Death.

lala pathan said...

first time ever ARGENTINA didn't get to be in the GROUP OF DEATH :) ARGEES all the way as always !!