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World Cup Preview: Group G

The World Cup begins in exactly 22 days, and we are officially excited. Starting June 11, there’s nonstop historic action, all day: From 7:30 a.m. on, you have every excuse to pretty much take the whole summer off. We continue our World Cup coverage today with our preview of Group G. (See our Group H Preview here.) So, here’s all you need to know about Group G, which features Brazil, Ivory Coast, North Korea, and Portugal.


FIFA Rankings
No. 1: Brazil
No. 3: Portugal
No. 27: Ivory Coast
No. 106: North Korea

Best World Cup Finish
Brazil: Championship (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).
Ivory Coast: 1–0–2 (2006, only appearance).
North Korea: Quarterfinals (1966).
Portugal: Third place (1966).

Best Player
Brazil: Kaka, midfielder.
Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba, striker.
North Korea: Yong-Hak An, midfielder.
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, striker.

Coach (and Sideline Garb)
Brazil: Dunga. The Brazilian-soccer legend has drawn his fair share of criticism, even taking heat from the Brazilian president. He has already announced he’s stepping down after the Cup. (Whatever this is.)
Ivory Coast: Sven Goran Eriksson. The two-time World Cup coach for England (2002 and 2006), Eriksson (also briefly the coach of Mexico) has taken over Africa’s best chance. “Svennis” is also famous for his headline-grabbing affairs with various notable public figures. (Suit and tie.)
North Korea: Kim Jong-Hun. This being North Korea, no one knows much about the coach, other than that he’s defense oriented. And that Kim Jong-Il is almost certainly the coach anyway. (Suit, no tie.)
Portugal: Carlos Queiroz. Former coach of the N.Y.-N.J. MetroStars, he’s the author of the famous “Q-Report,” which mapped out a plan to make soccer more popular in the United States. (Athletic gear.)

Broadcaster-Worthy Anecdote
Brazil: Kaka, the best player on the theoretical best team, has struggled with injuries his whole season with Real Madrid, but claims he’ll be “100 percent” for the Cup. Plus, you know, his name — it’s Kaka.
Ivory Coast: Drogba is probably the best scorer in the whole tournament, and this is the best chance for an African team to succeed on its own continent.
North Korea: Because of the charming, short-stalked Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean people, thanks to the state-run media, will only receive results from the World Cup if its team wins. In the Group of Death, expect a full news blackout.
Portugal: The Group of Death — God, what a great name; why can’t the AL East be called the Group of Death? — doesn’t really matter for North Korea, who would likely finish last in a rec league. But for Portugal, FIFA’s No. 3 team that struggled in qualifying, it could be terrifying: The opening match against the Ivory Coast could decide, immediately, who advances.

June 15, 10 a.m.: Portugal vs. Ivory Coast
June 15, 2:30 p.m.: Brazil vs. North Korea
June 20, 2:30 p.m.: Brazil vs. Ivory Coast
June 21, 7:30 a.m.: Portugal vs. North Korea
June 25, 10 a.m.: Ivory Coast vs. North Korea
June 25, 10 a.m.: Brazil vs. Portugal

1. Brazil
2. Portugal
3. Ivory Coast
4. North Korea

World Cup Preview: Group H

World Cup Preview: Group G