Japan Team 2014

Samurai Blue to fight their way into last 16

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil kicks off next week so it is time to examine the eight groups and highlight the best bets in the tournament’s first round.

There are several 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group plays that are appealing but the pick of them is Japan to make the round of 16. Japan is in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C alongside Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire and Greece, making it a section that has not attracted a great deal of media interest since the draw was made seven months ago.

FIFA’s world rankings put Japan as the AFC’s number two side but, frankly, that is absurd and the Samurai Blue are better than Iran. Japan is the reigning AFC Asian Cup champion and it reached the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil easily, finishing four points ahead of Australia at the top of its group. A lot has been made of Japan’s three losses in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil but it scored four goals in those games, including three versus Italy, and it almost matched the home team in shots and shots on target when losing 0-3 to the Selecao. Belgium is every pundit’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil dark horse but Japan beat it 3-2 in Brussels in November and the Samurai Blue’s goal power means that they have a realistic chance of defeating any side on their day.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C does not contain a great team. Colombia fell out of that category once Radamel Falcao was ruled out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil as a result of the knee injury that he sustained playing for his club side, Monaco. Falcao scored one-third of Colombia’s 27 goals as it finished second behind Argentina in the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Without Falcao, Colombia’s chances of making a significant impact in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil are fairly slim. Cote d’Ivoire’s time has come and gone, with most of its golden generation past their prime. Without wishing to be unkind, most of Cote d’Ivoire’s stars are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and one thinks that the hunger that they once had has vanished. Greece scored just 16 goals in its 12 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifying matches against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia and now it goes up in class sharply.

Self-belief may not be one of Japan’s strong points but it has nothing to fear in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C and it is overpriced at odds of 2.25 with Ladbrokes to be one of the section’s top two sides. It does not hurt that Japan does not play 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C’s supposed strongest team, Colombia, until the final round.

Unfortunately for Croatia, it has the unenviable task of playing the host nation in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A opener and that is one of the many reasons why one is keen on backing Niko Kovac’s uninspiring side not to reach the round of 16 at odds of 2.20 with Ladbrokes.

Since the 1998 FIFA World Cup France, just four of the 45 teams that have lost their first game have qualified for the knockout stage – Italy in 2002, Ghana and Ukraine in 2006 and Spain in 2010. Something extraordinary will have to happen for Croatia not to lose to Brazil and, given the manner in which Kovac’s side has played in recent times, one thinks that it is unlikely to bounce back from that.

Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil contains the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa finalists, the Netherlands and Spain, but only one of them may get through to the knockout stage because Chile is a live contender and the draw for the section plays into the hands of the South American team. For the Netherlands and Spain are likely to play their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil opener an hour or so after Chile puts a big score on Australia, arguably the tournament’s weakest side, and applies enormous pressure to the pool’s favourites.

With Australia nailed on to finish bottom of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B and Spain’s incredible record of avoiding defeat over a number of years making it hard to see falling at the first hurdle, the Spain-Chile dual forecast at odds of 3.00 with several bookmakers, including BetVictor, Winner and Youwin, makes much more appeal than Chile at odds on to make the round of 16. Qualification from 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C could come down to goal difference and Chile has the goal power to beat Australia by a wider margin than the Netherlands, whose free-scoring qualifying form is a thing of the past and whose recent results versus the Socceroos include two draws and one loss since 2006.

One fancies France, Argentina, Germany and Belgium to win 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Groups E to H respectively. One thinks that 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D is the most difficult but, if one had to suggest a bet, it would be on England not to qualify at odds of 2.25 with Youwin.

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