World Cup guide: Group C

  • By: Matt Brocklebank
  • Last Updated: June 4 2014, 9:07 BST

Matt Brocklebank guides you through World Cup Group C, including the best bets for the four teams which include Colombia.

Radamel Falcao: Big miss for Colombia
Radamel Falcao: Big miss for Colombia

Our look at Group D will follow this afternoon with further group previews to come on Thursday and Friday.

Our previews published so far can be found in our football section.

Next week we'll bring you our best bets for the outright World Cup market, the Golden Boot and the plethora of specials markets on offer.

So make sure you stay logged on to sportinglife.com over the coming days to get top betting advice for Brazil 2014.

COLOMBIA

Outright odds: 40/1
To win group: 19/20
To qualify: 3/10

Full squad: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Independiente Santa Fe), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Pablo Armero (West Ham), Cristian Zapata (Milan), Mario Yepes (Atalanta), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo), Santiago Arias (PSV), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate), James Rodriguez (Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto), Aldo Ramirez (Morelia), Alex Mejia (Atleico Nacional), Victor Ibarbo (Cagliari), Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Fiorentina), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate), Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Adrian Ramos (Borussia Dortmund).

Manager: Jose Pekerman

World Cup record: Last 16 (1990), Group stage (1962, 1994, 1998)

How they qualified (most recent 1st): Colombia reached the finals in good style as runners-up in the nine-strong South American zone, winning nine of their 16 games and finishing just two points behind winners Argentina.

v Paraguay (away) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Yepes 38, 56
v Chile (home) 3-3 (HT 0-3) T Gutierrez 69 Falcao 74, 83
v Uruguay (away) 0-2 (HT 0-0)
v Ecuador (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) J Rodriguez 30
v Peru (home) 2-0 (HT 2-0) Falcao 12 T Gutierrez 45
v Argentina (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Venezuela (away) 0-1 (HT 1-0)
v Bolivia (home) 5-0 (HT 1-0) Torres 20 Valdez 49 T Gutierrez 62 Falcao 86 Armero 90+2
v Paraguay (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Falcao 52, 89
v Chile (away) 3-1 (HT 0-1) J Rodriguez 58 Falcao 73 T Gutierrez 76
v Uruguay (home) 4-0 (HT 1-0) Falcao 2 T Gutierrez 47, 51 Zuniga 90
v Ecuador (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Peru (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) J Rodriguez 51
v Argentina (home) 1-2 (HT 1-0) Pabon 44
v Venezuela (home) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Guarin 11
v Bolivia (away) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Pabon 48, Falcao 90+3

Goalscorers: Radamel Falcao led the way with an impressive nine goals, three of which came from the penalty spot. However, the star striker will miss the tournament after failing to recover from a knee ligament injury sustained in January. Teofilo Gutierrez found the net six times and James Rodriguez three. Dorlan Pabon and Mario Yepes were the only others Colombians to score more than once in qualification. Falcao opened the scoring in three games, with five of his nine goals coming in the second half of matches.

Half-time/full-time: Four of Colombia's wins came when they led at half-time. One saw them come from behind at the break and the other four victories came after they were all square at the interval. In their three games that ended a draw, there was an even split between winning, losing and drawing at the break.

Clean sheets: Colombia kept seven clean sheets in total, including shut-outs against Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. No side in the South American Zone conceded fewer goals than their 13.

Win to nil: Six of Colombia's nine victories were to nil, including a 4-0 home victory over Uruguay. After conceding in their first three qualification games, there was distinct upturn in their defensive record, although only one of the six wins to nil came away from home.

Cards: Counting reds as two, Colombia games produced 105 cards at just over 6.5 per game. Colombia received three red cards in their 16 qualifiers.

Other competitive internationals: None in the qualification period - the last continental tournament in South America (Copa America) was back in 2011.

Build-up (most recent 1st): Since completing their qualification campaign with a 2-1 victory in Paraguay, Colombia have beaten Belgium and drawn with the Netherlands in international friendlies.

v Senegal (neutral) 2-2 (HT 2-0) Gutierrez 12, Bacca 45
v Tunisia (home) 1-1 (HT 1-1) J Rodriguez 20
v Netherlands (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Belgium (away) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Falcao 51 Ibardo 66

Team verdict: Group C's seeds qualified for the finals in tremendous style, the introduction of Argentinian manager Jose Pekerman after just three games clearly having a positive effect on the squad.

Their fine blend of defensive solidarity and dangerous strikeforce saw them finish second in the South American zone, just two points behind Argentina.

Radamel Falcao is a big loss. However, Monaco team-mate James Rodriguez, River Plate's Teofilo Gutierrez and Porto forward Jackson Martinez are able deputies in the attacking department and Colombia should score enough goals to progress from a group also including Japan, Ivory Coast and Greece.

Winning Group C looks very achievable and, should they do so, they would face the runners-up of England's group and a potential clash with Uruguay, against whom they had mixed results in the qualifiers - winning 4-0 at home and losing 2-0 in the corresponding tie.

Best bet: While going further than ever before and getting beyond the last 16 is not beyond this well-organised Colombia side, they have been fairly well-found in the market and at around 33/1 to lift the World Cup are easy enough to resist. Their ability to handle the climate cannot be underestimated but they'll certainly become more vulnerable the further they go in the competition and elimination at the quarter-final stage looks a reasonable bet at 10/3 (BetVictor). Colombia's disciplinary record isn't the cleanest and, with their 16 qualification games producing 6.5 cards per game, that angle looks a good way in for punters on a match-by-match basis.

GREECE

Outright odds: 350/1
To win group: 8/1
To qualify: 23/10

Full squad: Orestis Karnezis (Granada), Panagiotis Glykos (PAOK), Stefanos Kapino (Panathinaikos), Kostas Manolas, Giannis Maniatis, Jose Holebas (all Olympiacos), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Giorgios Tzavellas (PAOK), Loukas Vyntra (Levante), Vasilis Torosidis (Roma), Vangelis Moras (Verona), Alexandros Tziolis (Kayserispor), Andreas Samaris (Olympiacos), Kostas Katsouranis (PAOK), Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham), Panagiotis Tachtsidis (Torino), Ioannis Fetfatzidis (Genoa), Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Bologna) Panagiotis Kone (Bologna), Dimitris Salpingidis (PAOK), Giorgios Samaras (Celtic), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham), Theofanis Gekas (Konyaspor).

Manager: Fernando Santos

World Cup record: Group stage (1994, 2010)

How they qualified (most recent 1st): Greece only missed out on automatic qualification from UEFA's Group G on goal difference and had to settle for second behind Bosnia-Herzegovina after both teams finished with 25 points. It was only against Group G's eventual winners that the Greeks dropped points after a 0-0 draw at home and a 3-1 defeat in Zenica. They carried their excellent form into the play-offs against Romania and ran out 4-2 aggregate winners, claiming a 3-1 win in the home leg and drawing 1-1 in the return fixture.

v Romania (away) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Mitroglou 23
v Romania (home) 3-1 (HT 2-1) Mitroglou 14, 66 Salpingidis 20
v Liechtenstein (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Salpingidis 7 Karagounis 81
v Slovakia (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) OG 44
v Latvia (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Salpingidis 58
v Liechtenstein (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Mitroglou 72
v Lithuania (away) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Christodoulopoulos 20
v Bosnia-Herzegovina (away) 1-3 (HT 0-2) Gekas 90+3
v Slovakia (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Salpingidis 63
v Bosnia-Herzegovina (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Lithuania (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Ninis 55 Mitroglou 72
v Latvia (away) 2-1 (HT 0-1) Spyropoulos 57 Gekas 69

Goalscorers: Konstantinos Mitroglou scored five times throughout qualification, including three goals in the two legged play-off with Romania. Dimitris Salpingidis was close behind with four, while Theofanis Gekas (two) was the only other Greek player to find the net more than once.

Half-time/full-time: Four of Greece's nine victories came from winning at half-time, four came from being level at half-time and the very first match against Latvia was the only time they came from behind at the break to claim the win.

Clean sheets: Greece kept an impressive eight clean sheets from their 10 regulation qualification games, but conceded in both legs of the play-off against Romania. Three of their clean sheets came away from home.

Win to nil: Seven of Greece's nine wins were 'to nil', five of which were 1-0 scorelines. Three of the five came in away games against Slovakia, Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

Cards: Counting reds as two, Greece games produced 68 cards at just over 5.6 per game. Greece received two red cards throughout their 12 qualification matches, but only 28 of the total 68 cards were shown to Greek players.

Other competitive internationals: Not applicable - Greece's previous competitive football came at Euro 2012 where they lost 4-2 to Germany in the last eight.

Build-up (most recent 1st): Greece have only played three times since booking their berth in the finals and have failed to score. Two clean sheets - both against fellow qualifiers - add more evidence for their defensive strength, though.

v Nigeria (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Portugal (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v South Korea (home) 0-2 (HT 0-1)

Team verdict: There's a strong sense that moving on from Otto Rehhagel, who so famously guided the national side to European Championship glory in 2004, provided a boost to the Greece team and they impressed under Portuguese boss Fernando Santos when reaching the quarter-finals at Euro 2012 and during their World Cup qualification campaign.

They were a shade unlucky not to win the group as a points total of 25 from their 10 games would have been enough to see them through as winners in five of the other eight groups in Europe.

But they didn't falter against Romania in the potentially tricky play-off, in which they had to play away from home in the second leg, and fully deserve their place in the finals.

Santos will step down as manager after the summer but that isn't likely to have much of an effect on how his team operate. The draw could have been much worse and although they'll be considered the whipping boys by many in this group, it's worth noting the amount of clean sheets they have kept under Santos and that five of their nine victories in total came via a 1-0 scoreline.

They won't be easy to beat and will aim to stifle more attack-minded teams such as Ivory Coast and Colombia, but may just come up short when it comes to making it to the last 16.

Best bet: Greece will do extremely well to get anything from their opening match against Colombia but their qualification record suggests they will keep things tight at the back and aim to edge the tight games. It's worth hanging fire until they play Japan on June 19 and siding with the Greeks (they are currently 2/1 shots for the game) in what promises to be an extremely trappy affair.

IVORY COAST

Outright odds: 150/1
To win group: 4/1
To qualify: 11/10

Full squad: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Sayouba Mande (Stabaek), Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (Toulouse), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Souleyman Bamba (Trabzonspor), Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart), Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor), Constant Djakpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Geoffroy Serey Die (Basel), Ismael Diomande (St Etienne), Max Gradel (St Etienne), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle United), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96), Mathis Bolly (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Wilfried Bony (Swansea City), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Gervinho (AS Roma), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Giovanni Sio (Basel).

Manager: Sabri Lamouchi

World Cup record: Group stage (2006, 2010)

How they qualified (most recent 1st): After entering the Confederation of African Football (CAF) World Cup qualification section at round two, Ivory Coast were drawn alongside Morocco, Tanzania and Gambia in Group C and they topped the table with 14 points. The Elephants won four of their six games, drawing twice with Morocco in the other two. They then faced Senegal in a third round play-off and recorded a 4-2 aggregate victory to seal their place at the World Cup finals.

v Senegal (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Kalou 90+4
v Senegal (home) 3-1 (HT 2-0) Drogba 3 Sane 14 Kalou 49
v Morocco (home) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Drogba 83
v Tanzania (away) 4-2 (HT 3-2) Traore 13 Y Toure 23, 43 Bony 90+3
v Gambia (away) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Traore 12 Bony 61 Y Toure 89
v Gambia (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Bony 51 Y Toure 57 Kalou 70
v Morocco (away) 2-2 (HT 1-1) Kalou 8 K Toure 60
v Tanzania (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Kalou 10 Drogba 7

Goalscorers:
The Ivory Coast's goals were spread out quite evenly between their attacking players throughout the qualification campaign. Salomon Kalou led the way with five, with Yaya Toure contributing four from midfield and Wilfried Bony and Didier Drogba claiming three apiece. The only other player to find the net more than once was the giant Lacina Traore, whose loan spell at Everton last season was ruined by injury and he has subsequently missed out on the squad.

Half-time/full-time:
From their five victories during World Cup qualification, Ivory Coast were ahead at the break in four of them and drawing at half-time in the other. Their two draws with Morocco resulted from being level at half-time, as did the 1-1 draw with Senegal in the play-off.

Clean sheets: From the eight qualification matches, Ivory Coast kept just three clean sheets, two of which came at home, the other in a 3-0 away win against Gambia. They conceded one goal in their final three games, while letting in two in matches against Morocco and Tanzania.

Win to nil: Ivory Coast recorded three wins to nil - the only three games they managed to keep a clean sheet during qualification.

Cards: Counting reds as two, Ivory Coast's eight qualification games produced 31 cards in total at nearly 3.9 per game. Ivory Coast received 20 of those cards, all of which were yellows.

Other competitive internationals (most recent 1st): Ivory Coast bowed out in the quarter-finals of last year's Africa Cup of Nations, losing to eventual champions Nigeria having easily come through the group stage.

v Nigeria (neutral) 1-2 (HT 0-1) Tiote 50
v Algeria (neutral) 2-2 (HT 0-0) Drogba 77 Bony 81
v Tunisia (neutral) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Gervinho 21 Y Toure 87 Konan 90
v Togo (neutral) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Y Toure 8 Gervinho 88

Build-up (most recent 1st): Ivory Coast have played just two friendlies since drawing 1-1 with Senegal in the second leg of their play-off, registering a 2-2 draw against Belgium and last week being beaten by Bosnia in the US. Both games saw the Ivorians score late goals.

v Bosnia-Herzegovina (neutral) 1-2 (HT 0-1) Drogba 90+1
v Belgium (away) 2-2 (HT 0-1) Drogba 74 Gradel 90+2

Team verdict: Ranked by FIFA as the 21st best team in the world, splitting Croatia and Scotland, and priced at 150/1 for World Cup glory, Ivory Coast are not expected to rip up any trees in Brazil this summer.

However, they have a number of players with a wealth of experience in big-game environments and on the international stage, not least talismanic striker Didier Drogba.

The former Chelsea star may not cover as much ground as he used to but has still scored 15 goals in all competitions during his first season at Galatasaray and is likely to be used sparingly, with the in-form Swansea striker Wilfried Bony an exciting alternative in attack.

Yaya Toure has enjoyed his best season for Manchester City, not just in the goalscoring department, and he contributed four goals for his country in qualification.

It's fair to say Ivory Coast have been dealt very difficult groups in their two previous appearances at World Cup finals and this year has offered them a more realistic opportunity to progress beyond the group stages. They didn't lose a game in qualifying and it's not hard to see them keeping that run going through Group C.

Best bet: Ivory Coast are slightly odds-against to make the last 16 and should oblige if they bring their qualification form to the table but, at 20/1 (Sky Bet), they might be worth a small wager to win all three group games. Colombia will be favourites to beat them on June 19 but there's a strong chance Lamouchi's men will have already seen off Japan by then and, should they take enough confidence from that opener to get the better of Colombia, we'd be sitting pretty heading into the final game against Greece.

JAPAN

Outright odds: 200/1
To win group: 9/2
To qualify: 5/4

Full squad: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege), Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo), Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96), Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Makoto Hasebe (FC Nuremberg), Hiroshi Kiyotake (FC Nuremberg), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Manabu Saito (Yokohama F Marinos), Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka), Yuya Osako (TSV Munich 1860), Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale)

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni

World Cup record: Last 16 (2002, 2010), Group stage (1998, 2006)

How they qualified (most recent 1st): Being the top seeds in the whole Asian section, Japan, along with the other top four sides, received a bye to the third round of the huge, two-year qualification campaign. They were drawn with Uzbekistan, North Korea and Tajikistan in Group C and only scrambled through after finishing second behind Uzbekistan. Their form improved significantly in Group B of the fourth round, when pitched against Australia, Jordan, Oman and Iraq, and they progressed to Brazil by winning the group by four points from Australia.

v Iraq (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Okazaki 89
v Australia (home) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Honda 90+1
v Jordan (away) 1-2 (HT 0-1) Kagawa 69
v Oman (away) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Kiyotake 20 Okazaki 90
v Iraq (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Maeda 25
v Australia (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Kurihara 65
v Jordan (home) 6-0 (HT 4-0) Maeda 18 Honda 22, 31, 53 Kagawa 35 Kurihara 89
v Oman (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Honda 11 Maeda 51 Okazaki 54
v Uzbekistan (home) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Korea DRP (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Tajikistan (away) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Konno 36 Okazaki 61, 90+2 Maeda 82
v Tajikistan (home) 8-0 (HT 4-0) Havenaar 11, 47 Okazaki 19, 74 Komano 35 Kagawa 41, 68 Nakamura 56
v Uzbekistan (away) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Okazaki 65
v Korea DRP (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Yoshida 90+4

Other competitive internationals (most recent 1st): It is worth noting that Japan lost all three games they played in Brazil at last summer's Confederations Cup. They followed that by heading to the East Asian Cup in South Korea where their fortunes improved and they won the four-team tournament.

v South Korea (neutral) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Kakitani 25, 90
v Australia (neutral) 3-2 (HT 1-0) Saito 25 Osako 55, 79
v China (neutral) 3-3 (HT 1-1) Kurihara 32 Kakitani 59 Judo 60
v Mexico (neutral) 1-2 (HT 0-0) Okazaki 86
v Italy (neutral) 3-4 (HT 2-1) Honda 21 Kagawa 33 Okazaki 69
v Brazil (neutral) 0-3 (HT 0-1)

Goalscorers: Centre-forward Shinji Okazaki was the leading goalscorer in the whole AFC qualification programme with eight, Keisuke Honda found the net five times, while Shinji Kagawa and Ryoichi Maeda both claimed four goals. The other Japan players to score more than once were Mike Havenaar and Yuzo Kurihara, with two each. Okazaki, Japan's fourth highest all-time goalscorer, continued his form into the Confederations Cup last June, scoring in an entertaining 4-3 defeat to Italy and again finding the net in a 2-1 loss at the hands of Mexico, while he missed all three East Asia Cup matches the following month.

Half-time/full-time: From their eight victories in World Cup qualification, Japan were in front at half-time in six of them and were drawing at the break in the other two. They were behind at the break in two of their three defeats, drawing at half-time in the other. They once came from behind to draw.

Clean sheets: Japan kept seven clean sheets in their 14 qualification games, only two of which came away from home. They failed to keep a clean sheet in three games at the Confederations Cup in Brazil and also conceded in each of their three encounters at the East Asian Cup, although in winning two games and drawing the other, they won the latter tournament.

Win to nil: Seven of Japan's eight qualification victories came to nil, including three 1-0 wins as well as a 4-0 success in Tajikistan and a 6-0 home verdict over Jordan.

Cards: Counting reds as two, Japan's 14 World Cup qualification matches produced 45 cards at 3.2 cards per game. Japan received one red card and 10 yellows.

Build-up (most recent 1st): Japan have played nine international friendlies since claiming the East Asia Cup, winning five of them - including an impressive victory in Belgium - drawing one and losing the other three.

v Costa Rica (neutral) 3-1 (HT 0-1) Endo 60, Kagawa 80, Kakitani 90+2
v Cyprus (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Uchida 44
v New Zealand (home) 4-2 (HT 4-1) Okazaki 4, 17, Kagawa 7, Morishige 11
v Belgium (away) 3-2 (HT 1-1) Kakitani 37, Honda 53, Okazaki 63
v Netherlands (away) 2-2 (HT 1-2) Osako 44, Honda 60
v Belarus (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Serbia (away) 0-2 (HT 0-0)
v Ghana (home) 3-1 (HT 0-1) Kagawa 50, Endo 64, Honda 72
v Guatemala (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Honda 51, Kudo 69, Endo 76
v Uruguay (home) 2-4 (HT 0-2) Kagawa 54, Honda 71

Team verdict: It's hard to argue with odds of 200/1 about Japan going all the way in Brazil this summer as while they've become something of World Cup finals regulars since qualifying for the first time in 1998, they have only progressed beyond the group stage twice.

There's a chance they could complete that feat again this time, with their strong technical ability likely to be a key asset in the exhausting conditions. However, they struggled to make an impression in similar circumstances when losing all three group-stage games at last summer's Confederations Cup in Brazil and that doesn't bode well.

One striking observation from the statistics above is their fantastic disciplinary record, receiving only 10 yellow cards and a red from 14 qualification games. Zaccheroni will be hoping that continues but it also demonstrates a potential lack of resolution, further highlighted by the fact they never came from behind at half-time to win during qualification.

A lot rests on the shoulders of central striker Shinji Okazaki as it's fair to say Shinji Kagawa is hardly going into the tournament in blistering form following a miserable time of things after leaving Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United.

There are no past World Cup meetings between themselves and either of their Group C rivals, but they did lose 1-0 to Colombia at the 2003 Confederations Cup and they could be staring down the barrel if failing to beat Ivory Coast, in what promises to be an intriguing clash of footballing styles, in their opening encounter on June 15.

Best bet: Japan face Ivory Coast in a difficult opening match and a negative result could have a major impact on their next two games. There will be huge expectations in their second game against Greece but the European side will still have all to play for, regardless of their opening result, and are not going to be pushovers. Backing Japan to finish bottom of the group at 3/1 (betway) looks the way to profit.

GROUP VERDICT

Colombia are favourites to win the group at a shade of odds-on after Jose Pekerman's side were runners-up to Argentina in what was a relatively difficult qualification campaign.

Victories over Uruguay and Chile, plus a draw with Argentina, show they are a force to be reckoned with in South America and an opening game against Group C outsiders Greece offers an excellent chance to get off to the best possible start.

However, Ivory Coast also arrive on the back of an impressive run of results during qualification and their big-game players such as Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and the Toure brothers could give them the edge when the two teams meet on June 19.

It will be fascinating to see how much game time Swansea's Wilfried Bony gets as he was hitting peak form right at the end of the Premier League season and could prove to be a real springer in the top scorer markets if allowed to shine with a starting role.

The Elephants will be warm favourites to claim maximum points against Japan and Greece so are well worth backing at 4/1 to claim top spot in the group, with a small investment at 20/1 for them to win all three games rating a sporting bet.

In the game involving the group's two lesser lights, there is unlikely to be a great deal of goalmouth action given how much emphasis both Greece and Japan place on keeping things tight in defence. An interest on the Greeks to nick the win by a solitary goal could be the way to go here after they claimed five 1-0 victories during qualification.

    • Prices correct as of June 3.