Group C at the 2014 World Cup is being called the Group of Life, as it’s expected to be the most wide-open group in the tournament, with all four teams having a realistic chance to advance to the Knockout Stage. The group also has four teams with varying styles of play, including the contrasting styles of the Ivory Coast and Japan, who will meet Saturday night in each team’s opening match.
Both the Ivory Coast and Japan have strong offensive sides, but they go about attacking in different ways. The Ivory Coast boasts a strong contingent of strikers, including Gervinho, Wilfried Bony, Salomon Kalou, and veteran Didier Drogba. The straw that stirs the drink coming out of the midfield is Yaya Toure, who could be a dominating force in the middle of the field against the smaller Japanese team. If Toure can control the run of play in the midfield, it could lead to a lot of scoring chances for the Ivory Coast strikers.
However, the Ivory Coast has some questions along the back line, which could get exposed against a quick and technical Japanese team if they’re unable to keep possession in the midfield. The tandem of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda could be deadly if they’re given opportunities on the counter attack. Another area of concern is Honda’s abilities on free kicks, which could prove to be the difference in the game if the Ivory Coast commits fouls in the final third.
Like all opening matches, this game is of the utmost importance — in a group that’s this wide open, three points in the opening match could be huge, especially if the match earlier in the day between Greece and Colombia ends in a draw. Both teams should be playing for the win, and that could lead to a wide-open game with plenty of scoring opportunities and plenty of goals, especially considering the talented offensive players that both teams possess.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.