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The Clean Sheets: Discussing Group C

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird is the Senior Soccer Editor for RotoWire, as well as a fantasy football and college basketball contributor.

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 5, 2014 5:55pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: Cleaning the Sheets - Group C


Looking at Group C, the pool features four teams from four different continents.

South America's own, Colombia is probably the favorite. That standing would be less contentious if the scoring machine known as Falcao hadn't torn his ACL in January, but fortunately, the Colombians are still loaded at forward.

The experienced Teofilo Gutierrez's six goals in qualifying figure to earn him a starting position, where numerous viable candidates could partner him up front. A huge aerial presence, Adrian Ramos' 16 goals for Hertha Berlin earned him a transfer to Borussia Dortmund to help replace Robert Lewandowski next season. Elsewhere, Carlos Bacca scored 18 goals for Sevilla and Jackson Martinez (an incredibly cool name) tallied 23 goals for FC Porto.

Along with great strikers, Colombia boasts a trio of midfielders capable of producing their own offensive fireworks. While Inter Milan's Fredy Guarin works in the middle of the park, two speedsters will provide service from the wings. On one side, 22-year-old James Rodriguez is a future star that bagged nine goals and led France's Ligue 1 with 12 assists during his debut season at Monaco this term. Then, opposite Rodriguez will be Juan Cuadrado, who was arguably a top-five player in Serie A and supplied 13 goals and eight assists for Fiorentina.

Colombia is also strong in defense, where center-back Cristian Zapata and goalkeeper David Ospina will be tough to beat. In short, Colombia touts class all over the pitch and should be feared playing so close to home.

Speaking of which, I fear this could be the last chance at glory for the Ivory Coast's "Golden Generation," but you would think the Elephants still have enough to see off Greece and Japan in Group C.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 5, 2014 8:11pm
To: Nicholas Pitner
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets - Group C


Colombia are clearly the class of this group for all the reasons you mentioned. It's really too bad that Falcao wasn't able to go. Not only would the world get a better look at his incredible skills, but we would have gotten plenty of "imagine if Atletico still had him" talk.

I am really intrigued by Ivory Coast, who are definitely in their last go with this group of players. I don't think Greece will be a major threat, but Japan could give them a run for that second spot. The Ivorians have plenty of scoring talent with Didier Drogba, Wilfried Bony and Salomon Kalou, not to mention a completely reborn Gervinho, who had an excellent season at Roma. And of course we can't forget about Yaya Toure, who is arguably the best midfielder playing in England right now (though there are rumors he could be headed to PSG in the near future).

However, Japan has made it out of the group stage in two of the last three World Cups. They rely pretty heavily on Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki to score, but they are certainly strong enough to at least draw or beat Ivory Coast. Could a win over Greece, a draw against Ivory Coast and a close loss to Colombia get them through?

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 6, 2014 12:13pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets - Group C


I wonder how the Ivory Coast defense will hold up. At age 33, Kolo Toure anchors the unit, but his game has regressed significantly over recent seasons. In fact, the Elephants' best defender may well be the youngest of the group, 21-year-old Serge Aurier. Built like a running back, Aurier was an absolute revelation at Toulouse this season and his six goals and six assists earned him the right-back position on Ligue 1's Team of the Season.

As for Japan, I believe they have a decent chance of advancing. Keisuke Honda has been their engine in recent tournaments and his 20 goals in 53 national team caps presents a threat outside of Kagawa and Okazaki. Also, in Yuto Nagamoto and Atsuto Uchida, Japan has two stellar defenders that can contribute in the final third as well. The result of Japan versus Ivory Coast could go a long way in determining second-place in Group C, assuming Colombia finishes first.


While Greece lacks a bit of quality, they have the coolest roster on paper. Names like Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos exemplify this; however with a large Greek contingent known to flaunt long hair and beards, the Brazilian climate might smother Greece's quest for a top-two finish. In any event, I really hope Georgios Samaras visits his doppelganger at Rio's famous Cristo Redentor statue.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 6, 2014 2:07pm
To: Nicholas Pitner
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets - Group C


I agree, the Japan vs. Ivory Coast match will decide the group after Colombia.

I feel like Greece has an upset in them, but I can't decide where it is yet.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 6, 2014 3:24pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: Cleaning the Sheets - Group C


I think the Greeks sort of resemble Stoke City of the Premier League in that they are well-trained defensively and grit out results. By posting eight clean sheets in 12 qualifying games, Greece is definitely a team that could frustrate opponents and earn some points along the way.