While the United States men’s national team has an incredibly difficult group at the World Cup, it’s not the Group of Death, at least according to the numbers.
The Group of Death is Group B, with Spain, Chile, the Netherlands, and Australia.
Here’s the average team “soccer power index” ranking (an advanced stat invented by Nate Silver) for each group:
- Group B, 15.0 (Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia)
- Group D, 15.25 (Uruguay, England, Italy, Costa Rica)
- Group G, 16.25 (Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana)
- Group E, 20.0 (France, Ecuador, Switzerland, Honduras)
- Group F, 20.25 (Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria, Iran)
- Group C, 20.25 (Colombia, Ivory Coast, Greece, Japan)
- Group A, 21.75 (Brazil, Mexico, Croatia, Cameroon)
- Group H, 31.0 (Belgium, Russia, South Korea, Algeria)
The groups are laughably uneven because FIFA uses its own flawed ranking system to make them. The average team in Group B is ranked 15 spots higher than the average team in Group H.
Spain is ranked 3rd, Chile 5th, and the Netherlands 10th in the world, according to SPI. If the groups were shuffled differently, it’d be plausible to see all three of them going to the semifinals. Instead, one of them is going home in the first round.
Chile is the outsider here, but a lot of people are picking them to get out of this group over Holland. Arturo Vidal is one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world. In attack, Alexis Sanchez is coming off a fantastic year for Barcelona. Chile scored 29 goals in World Cup qualifying, second only to Argentina in South America.
Spain is one of the favourites to win the entire tournament. They have won three-straight major competitions (2008 Euros, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euros). The injection of Diego Costa as a traditional striker should liven up a style of play that has gotten a bit stale in the last year or so.
The Netherlands made the final in 2010. The general feeling is that they have lost a step and are going to leak a ton of goals, but their attacking quality makes them dangerous in any game.
Poor Australia is going to get destroyed and go out after three games. It should give them some solace that a top-10 team will exit from the Group of Death with them.
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