Every World Cup has a group that makes its players and fans quiver in fright and shiver in terror: The Group of Death. And if you had to face Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast and Portugal, you'd be quivering and shivering too.
Brazil is, and always will be, Brazil. Yes, they no longer play some football, but they're so good they didn't have room for one of the highest paid soccer players in the world, Ronaldinho. Robinho, Luisao, Kaka, with all their one name superstars, they are certainly the Madonna of world soccer. And this time around, they also have some bad ass defenders, and a hotshot goalie. Good luck everybody.
That being said, last year in South Africa at about this time, Team USA laid some hard wood on Brazil, and should've beaten them handily in the Confederations Cup. Portugal has the player with the greatest ratio of pretty boy to talent of any athlete in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo is ridiculously, sickly talented, and so easy on the eyes it almost hurts to look at him. The downside: he's a delicate genius, fragile as a hothouse flower. And while he is surrounded by lots of world-class one-name superstars like Deco and Nani, the only reason they got to South Africa was the Ingmar Bergman like death swoon that Sweden performed at the end of World Cup qualifying.
The Ivory Coast should go a long way in this tournament. Didier Drogba is possibly the best striker in the world, a man with Michael Jordan like strength, skill and breath-holding athleticism. He builds hospitals, he scores goals. Kolo Toure is not only a fun name to say out loud, he is also a wise and savvy hardman who has a nose for goal and a very talented younger brother named Yaya. "Yaya, Kolo, time for supper." Then there's Salomon Kalou. If Kolo Toure married Salomon Kalou, he'd be Kolo Kalou. Didn't think I'd find a way to work gay marriage into the World Cup did you?
The point is, Ivory Coast is packed with take-no-prisoner tough guys who are also highly skilled practitioners of their craft. I'll say it again, the Ivory Coast should go a long way in this tournament. And then there's North Korea. Yes, they will terrify people with their nuclear capability, and surprise people with their bright attacking style, but sadly, I believe The Group of Death will kill them.
GROUP G: YES: Brazil & Ivory Coast NO: Portugal, North Korea
David Henry Sterry is, along with San Francisco literary legend Alan Black, author of The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatic's Guide. With contributions by Po Bronson, Irvine Welch, and Simon Kuiper