2021 Unity Cup Group Stage Preview
Group A: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Germany, Argentina
At first glance, it looks as if Ivory Coast would cruise through this group, but we cannot forget about Ghana! Ghana has played some tough opponents in their friendly matches thus far and have finished 1-2, losing both games by only 1 goal. We see Germany and Argentina as middle of the pack teams – teams that could advance if the top 2 teams in each group advanced. But since we only have 3 wild card spots, it looks like Ivory Coast might be the only team in the Round of 16 out of this group.
Group B: Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Italy, Guatemala
It is hard to not take Sierra Leone to win this group. They are stronger than the other 3 teams in the group. What we question is will one of the other 3 teams have the ability to grab a wild card spot? We see them all battling and grinding out games against each other which could ultimately cost them all a spot in the Round of 16. If one of them could prove to be better than the rest, we see 2 teams coming out of this group.
Group C: Ukraine, Kenya, Albania, Trinidad
One big question surrounds this group – what type of talent does Kenya and Trinidad have? We know all about Ukraine and Albania from year’s past, but does Kenya or Trinidad have the talent to upset the favorite in the group? We see Ukraine running away with the group if the 2 new comers cannot keep up with them but do not sleep on Albania. Their 6-2 record in their friendly matches must not go unnoticed.
Group D: Haiti, Cameroon, Poland, Israel
We expect Group D to be one of our more competitive groups – all 4 teams are returning and have proven to have the ability to win games in the group stage. Cameroon, Poland, and Israel are all on an even playing field and should battle each other for the #2 spot in the group. Haiti might not be one of the stronger teams in the tournament, but they should be able to get out of this group unless one of the 3 previously mentioned teams can pull of the upset.
Group E: Liberia, Guinea, Greece, Chile
Diving into Group E, one matchup in particular has us marking our calendars. The Liberia and Guinea match should be one of the most intense of the group stage. We know the winner of that game will more than likely advance but will we see one of the 3 wild card teams come from this group? Guinea has the talent and speed and Greece has the patience and experience, but not much is known about Chile. We expect Liberia to win the group but can Guinea or Greece join them in the Round of 16?
Group F: USA, Mali, England, Venezuela
This group is as up in the air as it can get. Not much is known about USA with their new leadership and roster. Will they be dominant like the previous USA team that made it to Championship Saturday? England has beaten several quality teams in their friendly matches and we know Mali and Venezuela are usually strong in their own rights. We lean towards picking USA to win the group but don’t be surprised if the host nation doesn’t advance for the first time in tournament history.
Group G: Mexico, Sudan, France, Belize
Looking at this group on paper, one would think Mexico should run away with the group. If you were to look at friendly results though, you might want to take a step back. Sudan has played an impressive friendly schedule, finishing with a 4-1 record (their only loss coming to Ghana in a one goal game). It looks like they have what it takes to give Mexico a run for their money. For France and Belize, neither of them have recorded friendly results so it is tough to tell if either of them could get in the way of Mexico or Sudan.
Group H: Colombia, Nigeria, Bosnia, Puerto Rico
At first glance, Group H looks like it could be very competitive. Colombia and Nigeria are 2 relatively strong teams with Bosnia close behind. Puerto Rico usually sneaks out a win or 2 in the group stage but it might be difficult for them to do so in this year’s tournament. We see the group being decided by the Colombia and Nigeria game, but if Bosnia could pull off a win against Nigeria, things could get very interesting!
Group I: Brazil, DR Congo, Lithuania, South Korea
If there was to be a team to shock the Unity Cup world, we believe it is going to be from Group I. Brazil will be the usual Brazil, but all of our eyes are on the rebuilt Lithuania team. Rumors of their retooled team have forced us to put Brazil on upset alert. We look forward to seeing this match as well as what DR Congo and South Korea have put together. Do one of them have what it takes to compete with the 2 top dogs in the group?
Group J: Honduras, Senegal, Romania, Palestine
Fresh off their first Unity Cup tournament, Palestine is looking to make it back to the knockout rounds. Unfortunately, they will have a tough task in taking down team Honduras who is notably strong and takes care of business in the group stage. Senegal and Romania, though, should also give Palestine problems. We expect Honduras to come out of the group but the other 3 teams could knock each other out of the race for a wild card spot.
Group K: Ireland, Morocco, Wales, Peru
We look at this group and one team stands out to us the most. Ireland has been dominant in the group stage, having goal differentials close to +20 in each of the last few tournaments. We expect Ireland to advance but will someone upset the Irish? Morocco and Peru have had the talent to make the play-in rounds in past tournaments but that was 2 years ago. Looking at the friendly results, Wales does not seem to be a threat to either of these teams but you can never doubt a team that is new to the Unity Cup!
Group L: Jamaica, Gambia, Belarus, Vietnam
In Group I, not much is known about Belarus. The only thing we know about them is they defeated Albania in a friendly. With the amount we do not know about Belarus, it is hard to not take Jamaica to win the group. In the past, Gambia and Vietnam have proven to not be very strong teams so we don’t see them giving Jamaica any troubles. At the end of the day, this group will come down to what Belarus puts on the field. If they can compete with Jamaica, the Jamaicans better bring their A game.
Group M: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Turkey, India
In our final group, we have last tournament’s surprise team. A newcomer to the Unity Cup in 2019, Burkina Faso surprised all of us as they easily won their group and earned a bye to the Round of 16. We expect to see them right back in the final 16 but will one of the other 3 teams in the group join them? It will all depend on the teams Ethiopia, Turkey, and India have put together. If one of these teams proves they are far and away better than the rest, the only thing stopping them from advancing should be tiebreakers.
52 teams representing nations from around the world are playing in the 2021 Philadelphia International Unity Cup tournament. Check out profiles of the teams and their coaches, with insights on their inspiration and enthusiasm for soccer in Philadelphia.