Group A

Italy and Argentina highlight what looks to be a highly competitive group. Ironically, both Italy and Argentina met head-to-head in the round of 16 last year, where Italy pulled out the victory. Make no mistake about it; Coach Mario will have Argentina poised to get revenge on last year’s loss.

Nigeria came into last year’s cup under new leadership and fared well. They were behind the eight ball to begin with, when they drew defending champs Ivory Coast last year. This year, they have regrouped and are looking to make some noise by advancing from the group stage for the first time in three seasons.

Little is known about Saudi Arabia, since this is their first year in the cup, but they are comprised of a young roster, which seemingly can run for days, so they may try to outlast the other teams in this group.

Come out to Ramp Playground (3300-40 Solly Ave.) on August 10 at 8:30 p.m. when Italy and Argentina battle: it’ll be a telling match on who may win the group.

 

Group B

Group B is the first contestant for the “group of death.” Mongolia, Haiti, and Colombia all made it out of the group stage last year, and Guinea comes in as a potential sleeper– not just in the group, but perhaps in the whole tournament.

Mongolia has the best showing, but fell short in the round of 16 last year, while Haiti and Colombia did not advance past the play-in round. Guinea is new to the tournament, but there will be a familiar face on the sideline; Coach Maxwell has left Sierra Leone to lead Guinea this year.

We will know a lot about the group on night one, game one when Colombia battles Haiti– it’s the kickoff match for a reason! Every match in this group will be competitive, and the fan bases that follow these teams are as passionate as can be. Expect some tie-breakers to come into play when the dust settles in this group.

 

Group C

Group C is highlighted by last year’s third place game winner, Jamaica, who got there with a win over Greece in last year’s play-in round. What was interesting about that game is that Jamaica won on penalty kicks– so a save here or there, and Greece may have been our third place winner.

Another rematch is between Greece and Morocco, who matched off in group play last year, with Greece taking a 6-1 victory home with them.

Thailand had a very strong showing last year, even though they did not push through into the knockout rounds. They played very tight in their group (-2 goal difference), so Group C better not sleep on them this year. The match to see: Jamaica vs. Greece on August 5 at 12 p.m. at the Germantown Supersite (Sedgwick and Lowber Sts.).