THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

icon wcrunningcupWith the group stage complete and plenty of shocks, here's a look at how WSC contributors' predictions from the World Cup Team Guide are looking

Group A
"With confidence high a final appearance is expected," said Jack Lang of hosts Brazil's chances at the World Cup, while "for the more fervent… anything less than victory will be catastrophic." They are on course so far, topping their group.

Before the tournament Aleksandar Holiga suggested there was doubt over Croatia coach Niko Kovac's credentials, "though in general he is fairly popular". That may have changed after they failed to live up to expectations and went out at the group stage. Instead it was Mexico who went through, though "any advancement on that would be a miracle". Still, coach Miguel Herrera has lived up to his reputation as being "happy to be a public persona". Cameroon fans "expect them to have a good chance of second place behind Brazil", but they are going home without a point.

Group B
"These players have shown an ability to get things right on the big occasion," said Dermot Corrigan about Spain, after flagging up their poor performances in the build-up to this World Cup. "The biggest concern might be a slip in the group against either Holland or Chile which could lead to a rematch with the hosts in the last 16." In the end they slipped to both and were out after just two matches. Holland, however, had "probably the lowest expectations for some time" coming into the tournament, according to Derek Brookman, though their performance against the reigning champions and 100 per cent record so far will have raised them somewhat. Chile are justifying being tipped by Pelé to do well, which Joel Sked pointed out wasn't appreciated, and Alexis Sánchez is living up to his status as poster boy in his home country. According to Mike Ticher, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou was just looking for "anything remotely positive" from the World Cup and a battling performance by his young squad against Holland was a high point.

Group C
Colombians were confident of making the second round and dreaming of the quarter-finals according to Jake Lagnado and Wilson Orozco. They also suggested fans could "expect an improvised dance from the Colombian coast" when they scored, which we have already been treated to. Sean Carroll said progression from the group was "seen as a must" for Japan, while also pointing out their Ultra Nippon group would "clean up their mess before they leave the stadium too". At least one of those came true. "Greece will have to summon the 'spirit of Euro 2004' to get out of their group," predicted Nassos Stylianou, which they have. He went on to say that "collective shock" would be the reaction to any Greek goal. Ivory Coast fans thought they had a chance of getting out of the group but expectations were low "because coach Sabri Lamouchi has little experience and recent team performances have not inspired confidence". There was at least the appearance of the Mama Elephants leading their chants as predicted by John James, though.

Group D
Antonio Mateo wrote that Costa Rica "were expected to be combative at least, and there is a positive feeling that they can upset some people in Uruguay, England and Italy who expect an easy win". They ended up topping the group, beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing against England, who were perceived as the "easiest" of the three. "Expectations were relatively high" in Uruguay despite a poor qualifying campaign, according to Nick Dorrington. He also pointed out that Diego Lugano "can turn nasty when he feels journalists are wasting his time". Matthew Barker suggested there was some optimism for a good run in Italy, so the blow of going out in the group stages and the subsequent resignation of manager Cesare Prandelli, "Italian football's conscience", will be a disappointment.

Group E
Before the tournament, James Eastham said that in France "any mention of the World Cup can provoke sanctimonious tutting and feigned indifference" before pointing out that "this will change over night if France do well". Meanwhile Switzerland were "keen to justify their ranking" according to Paul Knott, and they will get a chance to do that in the second round against Argentina. "The first objective for Honduras is that the team scores," which they did against Ecuador, though they didn't manage to pick up a point in the tournament. Ecuador themselves will be disappointed not to make the second round after hoping "the two Europeans teams in their group will struggle to perform in South American conditions".

Group F
Argentina manager Alex Sabella's "more patient playing style" and emphasis on defence made him less popular than his forebears according to Sam Kelly, though they are still on course for the semi-finals that are seen as the minimum achievement. Bosnia's first tournament ended at the group stage after a disappointing defeat to Nigeria, though it may not have much effect on the coach Safet Susic, described as a "national hero" by Richard Mills. Nigeria got over their "uneasy truce" and lived up to their unexpected status as African champions – Kwane Ibegbuna highlighted the popularity of the team because of their locally based players. Meanwhile in Iran "hardly anyone" believed they could get out of the group according to Adnan Tabatabai, though "fears for their defence, especially against Lionel Messi and co" proved unfounded, as it took Argentina until injury time to score against them.

Group G
Portugal had been nicknamed "Os Conquistadores" by a local paper before the tournament but Phil Town suggested that was wishful thinking with the "clear dependancy on Cristiano Ronaldo" their downfall in a group-stage exit. Germany are on course so far having won their group, which is lucky because "anything less than reaching the semi-finals will be viewed almost universally as a failure" according to John Van Laer. Ed Upright suggested there was "restrained optimism" in the US and the focus was on beating their "World Cup bogey team Ghana". They managed that and qualified for the second round, while Ghana's belief they "could go one better than last time and reach the semi-finals" now seems rather wishful thinking.

Group H
"Unlike the Dutch, Belgians are notoriously modest in their ambitions," according to John Chapman and Sven Claes, though they have lived up to the expectations of most and got through the group stage. Russia manager Fabio Capello "is respected like no other national-team coach since the break up of the Soviet Union" according to Sasha Goryunov but that will be tested after another disappointing exit at the group stage. Meanwhile David Winter suggested "the 2014 Algeria team are seen as more talented than their 2010 counterparts but younger and less experienced". That has been enough to get them through, though, while the 85 per cent of South Koreans who thought they would reach the second round will be wondering where it all went wrong. Tom Hocking

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