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Jun 9, 2014

Groups E & F: Inside the numbers

Argentina's Lionel Messi failed to score at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Argentina's Lionel Messi failed to score at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Group E

Group E is the only group without a team that reached the knockout round at the 2010 World Cup. Switzerland, France and Honduras were all eliminated in the group stage in 2010, scoring a total of two goals among them, with the only win coming through Switzerland's stunner over Spain. Here's a note on each Group E country and Soccer Power Index projections for which teams will advance to the knockout round.

• Switzerland is appearing in its third straight World Cup, its longest streak since appearing in four straight World Cups from 1934 to 1954. The Swiss shocked Spain with a 1-0 victory in their 2010 World Cup opener, but still failed to reach the knockout round.

• Ecuador had the best home record in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, going unbeaten in eight games (7-0-1), but Ecuador did not win a single qualifier away from home. This is Ecuador's third World Cup, after being eliminated in the 2002 group stage and losing 1-0 to England in the round of 16 in 2006.

• France's Franck Ribéry, who will miss the World Cup with a back injury, led France in games, goals and assists in UEFA World Cup qualifying. France will hope it can continue its pattern of success at alternating World Cups without the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or finalist. Les Bleus won the 1998 title and were runners-up in 2006, but were eliminated in the group stage in both 2002 and 2010.

• Honduras is making its third World Cup appearance and second in a row. In Brazil, Honduras will be looking for its first win at the World Cup after not scoring in its three matches in 2010. Jerry Bengston was Honduras' top scorer in World Cup qualifying with nine goals.

• Despite missing its star player, France has the best odds to advance from Group E (78 percent) according to the Soccer Power Index. Ecuador has the second-best chance to reach the knockout round with a 57 percent chance.

Group F

Argentina and Nigeria are among the teams in Group F, marking the third time in four World Cups that those teams have been grouped together. In those previous two World Cups, Nigeria finished last in its group both times, while Argentina won the group in 2010 and finished third in 2002. Can both advance this year? Check out the Soccer Power Index projections and a note on each Group F team.

• Argentina's Lionel Messi is looking to get back on the score sheet in the World Cup after not scoring in five games in 2010. Messi has scored only once in eight career World Cup games. La Albiceleste have not reached the semifinals of a World Cup since 1990, when they were the runner-up.

• Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only debutant in this year's tournament, is led by star striker Edin Dzeko, who was second in European World Cup qualifying with 10 goals. The 2014 World Cup will be the first major competition for the Bosnia-Herzegovina senior national team. 

• Nigeria made the knockout round in each of its first two FIFA World Cup appearances -- 1994 and 1998 -- but was eliminated in the group stage of its last three. Its last win at the World Cup was a 1-0 triumph in the 1998 group stage against Bulgaria. Since then, Nigeria has two draws and six losses.

• Iran is appearing in its fourth World Cup, with its only win coming in 1998 against the United States (2-1). Iran is tied for the second-oldest squad at the tournament with an average age of 28 years, 7 months, behind only Argentina.

• Behind Brazil, Argentina has the second-best chance to advance to the knockout round (93 percent) and win its group (75 percent), according to the Soccer Power Index. Bosnia-Herzegovina is the second favorite with a 56 percent chance to advance, followed by Nigeria (33 percent) and Iran (19 percent).