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Jun 11, 2014

Groups G & H: Inside the numbers

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to score in his third straight World Cup.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to score in his third straight World Cup.

Group G

Many are calling Group G the Group of Death, and here's a fact to support that claim: Group G is the first group in World Cup history in which every team reached the knockout round at the previous World Cup. So which countries advance this year? Check out the Soccer Power Index projections and a note on each Group G team ...

* Germany has failed to win a major trophy since Euro 1996, despite reaching the semifinals five times (three in World Cup, two in Euro). Germany has reached the quarterfinals in 15 straight World Cups and could become the first country to reach four consecutive World Cup semifinals. German forward Miroslav Klose is one goal shy of tying former Brazil star Ronaldo as the all-time World Cup top scorer.

* Portugal's all-time leading scorer with 49 goals, Cristiano Ronaldo could become the first Portuguese player to score at three World Cups. He is currently one of three players to have scored at two World Cups alongside Pauleta and Simão.

* The United States seeks to advance to consecutive World Cup knockout rounds for the first time. The U.S. is at its seventh straight World Cup (last missed it in 1986), the seventh-longest active streak in the world and longest in CONCACAF. The Yanks have advanced past the group stage all four times after a win or draw in their opening match and have been eliminated in the group stage all four times after losing their opener.

* This is Ghana's third consecutive World Cup appearance. It had never reached a World Cup prior to 2006, but has advanced out of its group in each of its previous two appearances. Inexperience may be a concern for Ghana, which has the youngest squad at the World Cup with an average age of 25 years, 6 months.

* Germany is the Group of Death's favorite, according to Soccer Power Index, with just under a 90 percent chance to advance to the knockout round. Portugal has the second-best chance (45 percent), followed by the U.S. (35 percent) and Ghana (31 percent).

Group H

South Korea is the only Group H team that reached the knockout round in 2010 and both Belgium and Russia are at the World Cup for the first time since 2002. Top to bottom, this is the weakest group, according to ESPN's Soccer Power Index, with an average rank of 32. Here's a note on each Group H country and SPI projections for which teams will advance to the knockout round ...

* Eleven players from Belgium's 23-man roster play in the Premier League, with only England fielding more Premier League players. Belgium, the Group H seeded team, has only three players who play in the Belgian League. Only two countries at the World Cup will count on younger squads than Belgium, whose average age is 25 years, 11 months.

* Russia is at its first World Cup since 2002 after failing to qualify in 2006 and 2010 and is looking to make it out of the group stage for the first time since 1986 as the Soviet Union. Russia's entire squad, all 23 members, plays in the Russian Premier League. Fabio Capello (68) is the oldest coach at the 2014 World Cup.

* South Korea is appearing in its eighth straight World Cup and ninth World Cup overall. South Korea's nine World Cup appearances are the most by any Asian side -- however it has advanced past the group stage only twice before. Its best result was in 2002 when, as a co-host with Japan, it finished in fourth place.

* Algeria is making its fourth World Cup appearance, but has never advanced past the group stage. Algeria won two of its first three World Cup games (both in 1982), but has failed to win its past six. Only two members of Algeria's squad play in the country's domestic league.

* After missing out on the past two World Cups, Belgium is bringing a strong squad to Brazil, which Soccer Power Index gives a 76 percent chance to advance to the knockout round. Russia has the second-best chance to advance from Group H (62 percent), followed by South Korea (41 percent) and Algeria (20 percent).

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