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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group C Picks (June 14-24)

On paper, Group C may look like one of the weaker sections at the World Cup, but there could be some surprisingly entertaining matches in the offing as Colombia join Ivory Coast, Japan and Euro 2004 Winners Greece in the same Group.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group B picks will be made here

Group D picks will be made here

Group E picks will be made here

Group F picks will be made here

Group G picks will be made here

Group H picks will be made here

Saturday 14th June
Colombia v Greece Pick: You can't begin talking about Colombia at the World Cup without recognising that is going to be twenty years since the tragic murder of Andres Escobar for having the misfortune of scoring an own goal at the tournament held in the United States. That never made sense to me and probably never will...

Any time the World Cup rolls around, you would like to see the best players in action and it is a shame that Radamel Falcao has not made it back to fitness to take his place in the squad for Colombia. I also think that makes the Colombians a little less dangerous without the focal point of the team and the player that could convert any half chances that come their way.

In his absence, Colombia look like a team that is going to play plenty of pretty football but may struggle to really create a lot of chances without the movement of Falcao. In some of their warm up games, Colombia relied on shots from distance and hoping to make something special happen, which could be a problem against a team as defensively sound as Greece.

I do think Greece are going to set up make life difficult for Colombia and they will look to take advantage of any free kicks and corners they get. In a game like this, that might be their best avenue to really hurt a Colombian defence that could be vulnerable to that avenue of attack in this game rather than Greece getting much going on the counter attack.

However, quality should really come through in the first game where Colombia will feel they need to earn the three points with the 'better' two teams left to play in the remaining games. It might take one of the special strikes from one of the top wingers that Colombia will be sending out onto the field to separate the teams, but the likes of James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado have that in their locker and I will back Colombia to get off to a positive start.

Ivory Coast v Japan Pick: There is a feeling that the opening games of a World Cup will always be a little more tense and negative as teams don't want to be put behind the black ball with an early loss in the tournament. Playing catch up is a mental burden so that leads to a few more defensive games where one or two magic moments separate the teams.

While I have predicted the first game in Group C to be a tight contest that could need that moment of magic, I am convinced the layers have underestimated the chance for goals between the Ivory Coast and Japan.

Cards on the table- I don't have a lot of faith in the defences of either of these teams, but I have been impressed with what they can create going forward and I can see both teams having opportunities to score goals.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if both teams score at least once in the game which is being played in Recife- my concern about the setting was that it can be very rainy there which might have made it difficult to play football, but the forecast calls for light rain during the day which may help as the pitch could be slick and quick.

Zambia showed the Ivory Coast that they can hurt Japan, especially from set pieces, but the Ivory Coast have only only had 1 clean sheet from their last 12 games.

I can't shake the feeling that we will be seeing goals in this second game from Group C and that looks a big price at 2.50 being offered by Coral for at least three to be seen in this match.

The two favourites in Group C both won their opening games and meet each other in the second round of matches- Colombia were comfortable winners on the scoreboard, but the 3-0 scoreline did flatter them a touch as Greece caused some problems.

Ivory Coast had to come from a goal down to beat Japan and that puts the Elephants into a great position to reach the Second Round for the first time in their history. The power displayed by the Ivory Coast would make them a tough out for whoever they are paired with in Group D for that Second Round, although they would be wise to not get too far ahead of themselves with two games left to play in Group C.

Colombia v Ivory Coast PickThe results of the first couple of games in Group C may play a big part in this third game as both Colombia and Ivory Coast are likely to understand the ramifications of earning at least a point in this game. It is understood that a win would likely put that team into the Second Round, but a draw wouldn't be the worst result, regardless of what happens in the other game, as it would move both teams onto four points with their destiny firmly in their own hands.

Out of the two teams, the Ivory Coast are likely to be more relaxed having beaten Japan who do look the threat to these two teams in the section, but Colombia play with such freedom themselves that this should remain an entertaining game.

However, I have made the point of suggesting the second round of Group games won't be as open as the first set of games simply because teams have more to gain by being a little more conservative and that is why I am leaning towards the draw in this one.

I actually don't think there is a lot between the teams with the Ivory Coast having a more direct threat and Colombia being able to keep the ball for long periods. If the game is tight, I don't think either team will want to risk losing and putting their place in the Second Round in jeopardy and may take the honourable way out of slowing down and settling for what they have.

Both will see that as a success- Ivory Coast would feel they will at least earn a point against the Greeks that would see them through, while Colombia would feel their chances of earning top spot are improved thanks to their strong goal difference. It seems a win-win situation to me and the draw is a mighty big player from this game.

Japan v Greece Pick: It seems the layers were vastly unimpressed by the Greece performance in their 3-0 loss to Colombia, but Japan look very short in the market to win the game considering how poorly they tend to defend.

I do think Greece are capable of causing problems and they are not the side that will look to defend in numbers behind the ball, but they are playing a more progressive brand of football. That could change if they take the lead of course, but Greece will definitely have a chance of winning this game if they take the opportunities that did come their way against Colombia.

This Japanese defence will give them those chances, but I also think Japan have the forward players that can cause plenty of problems for a more progressive side like Greece. There is talent in the final third and Japan have scored plenty of goals in recent matches and even scored four goals in three Group games at the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year.

At a similar price as the Japan win, the over 2.5 goals option looks much more appealing to me- I have said that the second round of games are likely to be tighter with teams having something to lose, but neither of these teams can settle for a draw as that would likely give them too much to do to overturn Colombia and the Ivory Coast.

Greece in particular can't rely on their goal difference and I expect both teams to continue trying to get forward until the very end of the game in trying to win the game. An early goal would be nice to get the ball rolling and really open the spaces in the game, but I think the layers are under-estimating the attacking ability of both teams and seeing at least three goals is my call.

Colombia have all but secured their place at the top of the Group with the win over the Ivory Coast, although it will be interesting to see how much 'desire' they have to avoid a big defeat that could see them avoid one of the big two nations in the Second Round.

Costa Rica are likely to win Group D and that half of the draw to the Final certainly looks the 'weaker' with Spain also exiting the competition and finishing second might actually be a blessing in disguise.

They would need a heavy loss to Japan and hope the Ivory Coast can beat Greece for that to happen, so the chances are that Colombia win the Group, while the Ivory Coast still remain a strong favourite to follow them through to the Second Round for the first time in their history.

Greece v Ivory Coast PickThere has to be a different mentality for Greece heading into this game, but the pressure will also be on the Ivory Coast if they hear Japan are leading in their game against Colombia. A two goal win for Japan and a draw in this game would allow Japan to sneak into the Second Round, so I will imagine Ivory Coast looking to secure the win that will take them through along with the Colombians.

Greece have to attack- they need to win this game to give themselves any hope of qualifying, but I don't know if they have the players that can push themselves to really get after the Ivory Coast. If they push too far, the likes of Gervinho, Max Gradel, Solomon Kalou and Wilfried Bony have the pace to hurt the Greeks.

The power through the middle of the park provided by Yaya Toure could sap the ageing legs of the Greeks if they are forced to get up and down the pitch and I think the Ivory Coast will have enough to win the game and finish second in the Group.

Japan v Colombia Pick: It is no surprise that the Colombia price is on the drift considering they are expected to make the changes that they are, although you would perhaps think they are still worth backing.

The reason for that is Japan are likely to be pushing men forward in search of goals, but look very suspect at the back and Colombia have the pace to exploit gaps through the match.

However, I think the Colombians have also looked more shaky than the one goal they have conceded to this point may suggest and a new look defence could have a hard time coping with the movement Japan can provide.

It was tough for the Japanese to break down a solid Greece team that had no intention to get forward once they lost a man in the first half to a red card, but they should be afforded more space by a Colombian team that likes to play football too.

That should lead to more decent attacking football from the Japanese and there is every chance this is another Colombia game with at least three goals shared by the teams, but it could make more sense that there are at least four goals scored.

GROUP C PICKS: Colombia @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units) versus Greece
Ivory Coast-Japan Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Coral (2 Units)
Colombia-Ivory Coast Draw @ 3.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Japan-Greece Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Ivory Coast @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Greece
Japan-Colombia Over 3.5 Goals @ 3.00 William Hill (1 Unit)

Group C Update: 3-3, + 1.84 Units (10 Units Staked, + 18.40% Yield)

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