By Rob McDonald

COLOMBIA

What We Know:
While the loss of Radamel Falcao is hardly ideal, it’s not necessarily a hammer blow Colombia’s chances for a strong showing. In a competitive but not overwhelming group and with a strong squad, Colombia are one of the teams that those who know these kinds of things are tipping to do well.

What They Could Be:
Entertaining. Managed by Jose Pekerman, who took Argentina to the 2006 World Cup, we can expect a team stuffed with exceptionally talented technical footballers doing lots of nice things. They also have Teo Gutierrez, the wildly talented and exuberant River Plate playmaker, who is slightly less sane than most.

What They’ll Probably Be:
The team that knocks England out of the World Cup.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado, one of the most under-rated players in Europe.

GREECE

What We Know:
Pragmatic to a fault. Defensively sound. Absolute bobbins going forward. They’re not a barrel of laughs but you can’t help but admire them.

What They Could Be:
Kings of the 1-0. Again. With forwards like Kostas Mitroglou (who signed but didn’t play for Fulham) and Georgios Samaras (8 international goals), it’s not hard to see why they work so hard on being good defensively. Expect jokes about buses.

What They’ll Probably Be:
A pain that teams will have to overcome to prove their worth.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Theofanis Gekas’ massive face.

IVORY COAST

What We Know:
What has to be the swansong for the Ivorian golden generation, this competition will see whether the plucky underdog has anything left in them. A good qualifying campaign and a team that knows each other well and is good going forward, their fortunes will be decided by a manic defence.

What They Could Be:
Very, very, very funny: Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora make up their central defensive partnership. Apart from that, though, there is a revitalised Gervinho, Yaya Toure, what’s left of Didier Drogba and Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, who can all be a hand full when they want to be.

What They’ll Probably Be:
It’s hard to gauge, frankly. Each of Japan, Greece and the Ivorians have their strengths and weaknesses and it could very well be a case of who hits the ground fastest that sees who progresses.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Kolo Toure. I bet Phil bloody loves Kolo Toure.

JAPAN

What We Know:
Managed by Alberto Zaccharoni, expect fun with the Japanese this time around. Playing with gay abandon and all of the lovely technical footballers, Japan will be a tough match for everyone they face. The duo of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda will provide the creative fulcrum with Mainz’s Shinji Okazaki the main goal threat.

What They Could Be:
Fun. Technically good and very dynamic, Japan will look to take advantage of Ivory Coast’s defensive weaknesses and move Greece about enough to create the pockets of space that they can exploit.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Unlucky to go out in the group stages but ultimately short of the quality to get through the group stages.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Don’t know. Kagawa? Has he fallen enough?

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