Groups C & D: Inside the numbers
Group C is one of three at the 2014 World Cup to feature teams from four different continents. Three of the four countries in Group C were at the 2010 World Cup, with seeded Colombia the exception. The group looks wide-open, as none of the teams have ever won a World Cup knockout game. Here's a note on each Group C country and Soccer Power Index projections for which teams will advance to the knockout round.
• Colombia will be without star forward Radamel Falcao, who finished tied for third in CONMEBOL with nine goals scored in World Cup qualifying. Colombia is making its first World Cup appearance since 1998, ending the longest World Cup drought of any team at the 2014 tournament.
• Greece looks to advance to the round of 16 for the first time. They have played a total of six World Cup matches, with the only win a 2-1 triumph over Nigeria in 2010 -- the only World Cup game in which Greece has ever scored.
• Ivory Coast scored six of its 19 World Cup qualifying goals within the first 15 minutes of the match. Sabri Lamouchi, Ivory Coast's French coach, is the second-youngest head coach at the World Cup at 43 years, nine months. The only coach younger than Lamouchi is Croatia's Niko Kovac. Ivory Coast's backup keeper, Sylvain Gbohouo, is the country's only player who plays in Ivory Coast's domestic league.
• Japan is participating in its fifth straight World Cup after failing to qualify for any of the previous tournaments. Japan is looking to advance to the knockout stage in consecutive World Cups (2010, round of 16) for the first time after an impressive defensive performance in South Africa, where it allowed just two goals.
• Colombia, ranked eighth according to Soccer Power Index, has a 78 percent chance of advancing from Group C. There could be a battle for the second team to emerge, however, with Ivory Coast having the best chances of the other three (54 percent), followed by Greece (39 percent) and Japan (30 percent).
Group D is the first group in World Cup history to feature three countries that had previously won a World Cup. Italy (four titles), Uruguay (two) and England (one) have combined to win seven of 19 World Cups, though Italy is the only one of the three to lift the trophy in the past 40 years. Here's a note on each Group D country and Soccer Power Index projections for which teams will advance to the knockout round.
• Costa Rica, appearing in its fourth World Cup, has lost its past four matches in World Cup play with a negative-nine goal differential. The only time Los Ticos were able to advance from the group stage was in 1990, when they reached the round of 16.
• England has advanced from the group stage in each of its past 10 World Cup appearances -- including 1982, when it was knocked out in the second group stage. Only one member of England's squad plays outside of the Premier League: backup keeper Fraser Forster, who plays for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership.
• Italy has won four World Cups, the second most to Brazil's five titles. Italy also has qualified for 18 World Cups (second to Brazil's 20), including 14 in a row, the third-longest active streak. But defending champion Italy failed to advance from its group in 2010, after doing so eight straight times.
• The key to Uruguay's World Cup run will depend on the health and fitness of striker Luis Suárez, who led South America with 11 goals scored in qualifying. He's coming off a season in which he scored 31 Premier League goals, tying the league record for a 38-game season.
• Soccer Power Index predicts a close race to win Group D, with England as a slight favorite (35.6 percent chance to win the group, 64 percent to advance) over Uruguay (35.2 percent chance to win the group, 63.9 percent to advance). Four-time champion Italy has a 45 percent chance of advancing from the group and Costa Rica rounds out the group with a 27 percent chance.