As they worked out their chances of qualifying from Group C, the coaches of Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Greece and Japan agreed on one thing - that all the teams in the group have a chance of extending their stay in Brazil and making it to the knockout rounds. Doing so would represent a notable achievement for these four countries.
Only Colombia and Japan have ever gone beyond the group stage, and both went on to lose in the Round of 16. So why are the coaches so enthusiastic about their chances in Brazil? “All four countries are happy with the draw. It is going to be very open,” said Greece’s Fernando Santos.
But this does not mean that the coaches consider it an easy group. “None of the teams can be considered favourites, but they are all tough opposition,” declared Santos. Perhaps Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni best summed up the group. “It could be better, but it could be worse too,” he said. This evenly matched dispute begins on 14 June.
Jose Pekerman, Colombia
I want to start by saying how exciting it is to be here with Colombia - to be back at a World Cup Final Draw after such a long absence. We knew that whatever group we ended up in was going to be difficult. World champions have been knocked out at this stage before. There are some big names in the group, but the teams with lesser reputations will also be difficult opponents. It will be an interesting group from a tactical point of view. The four teams have very different styles. Japan are in great form at the moment, while Côte d'Ivoire will be playing in their third World Cup. Greece are not flashy, but we know how strong they are.
Fernando Santos, Greece
It is a very evenly matched group. None of the teams can be considered favourites, but they are all tough opposition. All four countries are happy with the draw. It is going to be very open, and anyone can beat anyone else. A lot of people will say that it is one of the easier groups, but for me it is one of the most difficult. Colombia have some very well-known players, such as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Jackson Martinez and others that have done well in Europe, particularly in Portugal. Côte d'Ivoire also have some top class, experienced players. And Japan are a very well balanced, explosive team.
Sabri Lamouchi, Côte d'Ivoire
It is a tight group, though for Côte d'Ivoire it is not as hard as the groups we were in at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. But having said that it is far from easy. There is one of the best teams from South America, the strongest side in Asia, and Greece, who are very hard working and organised and one of the most difficult teams to play against in Europe. We want to have a good opening game, and we are going to make sure we prepare the players as well as possible so we arrive strong in Brazil. We want to do better than we did at our last two appearances and make it to the knockout stage.
Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan
It could be better, but it could be worse too. I am not just saying this because we have ended up in the same group, but I have considered Colombia one of the World Cup favourites since well before the Final Draw. They are a team that can mount a real challenge for the title, and everybody wanted to avoid them in the group phase. The fact that everything went so smoothly for us when we stayed in Brazil during the Confederations Cup will help a lot with our preparation, in terms of travel and logistics.