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by Michael Cree
Does Brazil have a shot at extending its World Cup record to six trophies? And could the Ivory Coast be the first African team to win a title, fittingly in the first tournament hosted on African soil? Guest blogger Michael Cree offers his predictions for the most competitive group in the field. For more coverage of the World Cup, go to BBC.com/sport. – KW
Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, and Portugal
By far the most difficult group in this year’s tournament, it is also the most compelling. Brazil, five time World Cup winners, is back with another incredibly talented and youthful team, spearheaded by the brilliant Kaka. Any team that contains goalkeeper Julio Cesar, defenders Maicon and Lucio, midfielders Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva, and forwards Robinho and Luis Fabiano has a strong chance. They are definite contenders for the title.
Portugal also possesses excellent quality. Deco still runs the midfield, while the Chelsea duo of Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferrera joins Real Madrid’s Pepe in a formidable defense. And then there’s the small matter of Cristiano Ronaldo. The world’s most skillful player is mesmerizing with the ball and devastating from every area of the pitch.
Much like the Portuguese, the Ivory Coast also possesses a very strong team. The Toure brothers, Yaya and Kolo, provide the backbone of a team that works hard for each other and fights for everything. Salomon Kalou can be relied upon to chip in with some goals, but it is captain Didier Drogba who is the team’s figurehead. Perhaps the best striker in the world, Drogba is an African icon and posterboy for the first African World Cup. The only problem? He recently broke his elbow in a warm up game and is a huge doubt for the tournament. With him, the Ivorians have the best chance among all the African teams of progressing far beyond the group stages. Without him, they might struggle to progress.
And as for North Korea, well, they don’t have a prayer. Scoring a goal would be an achievement. Conceding less than 5 a game would be an even bigger one.
3. Ivory Coast
4. North Korea