Being drawn into the group of death in the World Cup means the chances of going very far in the tournament are awful, non existing even. Uruguay, England and Italy weren’t great favorites going into Brazil 2014, but after the draw they’ve receiving, pitted against each other, their chances of doing something memorable in the tournament, which means at least a semifinal, took another huge hit.
History tells us that a good group stage draw means everything. Since moving to the 32-team format, the trophy-winning side has always had a comfortable group to begin with. It doesn’t mean anything about the knockout stages, but one match is just one match, while getting through a tough group, even psychologically, is something much tougher.
Easy Champions Route
In 1998, France were drawn with Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Denmark. It’s hard to find an easier group, as France won all three matches. Their round of 16 rival was Paraguay, a tough team but not the most difficult draw in the world. It’s hard to ask for a more comfortable set up, especially while playing on your home turf.
Brazil in 2002 (South Korea & Japan) enjoyed an easy group as well – Turkey (who they had a tough time beating), China and Costa Rica. Easy nine points for Brazil, playing a weak Belgium side in the round of 16. Things got tougher later on, but not enough to stop them from winning the trophy.
In 2006, Italy didn’t have the easiest of groups, but not a group of death – Ghana, Czech Republic and the United States. It was more about being a tough group to decide on who goes second, but there was no doubt about the superior team – Italy topped the group with 7 points, going on to dramatically beat Australia in the round of 16, another comfortable draw before things got more difficult.
In 2010, Spain got an easy group to stat with – Switzerland, Chile and Honduras, but things were slightly complicated after losing in the first match to the Swiss. They still qualified, finishing first, but were crossed with the group of death, giving them Portugal in the round of 16, winning 1-0.
Groups of Death?
There was no such thing before the 1998 world cup, because in the 24-team format, most third-place teams qualified. The 1998 World Cup didn’t really have a group of death. The Nigeria-Paraguay-Spain-Bulgaria one was the closest to it, and none of those teams actually made the quarter finals.
In 2002, the Argentina-England-Sweden-Nigeria group was labeled as such. Argentina and Nigeria didn’t make it out of the group stage; Sweden lost to Senegal in the round of 16; England lost to Brazil in the quarterfinals.
In 2006, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Yugoslavia and the Netherlands were in the group of death. Argentina and the Dutch made it through, but the Netherlands were knocked out in that violent match against Portugal, while Argentina didn’t make it past the quarterfinals.
In 2010, the group of death was Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. The two favorites advances, but Portugal didn’t make it past the round of 16 (losing to Spain), while Brazil were hit with the ‘curse’ as well, losing in the quarterfinals to the Netherlands.