Cup draws were once upon a time a straightforward yet fairly exciting process. Weary old gentlemen like Bert Millichip would mechanically draw pairs of numbered balls out of a velvet bag until none were left. The teams represented by the numbers would then play one another with the winner progressing to the next round.
Unfortunatently, every tournament now seems to have a group stage. Organisers argue that this makes the competition fairer and more exciting. Everyone else knows it's just a ploy to boost TV revenues whilst making the early stages of tournaments like the UEFA Cup unbearable. With group stages, a shit team can get to play up to 6 times before being rightfully eliminated.
The draw itself has also slowly become a spectacle in its own right, often accompanied by a pointless prologue that lasts for hours before any teams are actually drawn. The process is usually tediously complicated as well, with teams being separated into countless pods. The aim is to ensure that no one has the slightest clue what's going on, so that FIFA/UEFA can rig the draw without anyone noticing.
This farce culminated before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The draw, which started on 2 December 2009, may very well still be going on now. It included lots of confusing local dancing, a cameo from David Beckham looking like a hick and Charlize Theron trying desperately hard to explain what was going on, despite neither understanding herself or really being South African anymore. Even former President Nelson Mandella, no stranger to torture himself, didn't bother to turn up, remarking afterwards that the draw was unbearably long and asking "So hang on a second, why weren't Ivory Coast in England's group? I didn't really get what that American bird was on about."
- 1 Group of Death
- 1.1 Famous Groups of Death
- 1.1.1 1998/9 Champions League Group D: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Brondby, Manchester United.
- 1.1.2 2002 FIFA World Cup Group F: Argentina, England, Nigeria, Sweden
- 1.1.3 2010 FIFA World Cup Group G: Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea
- 1.1.4 UEFA Euro 2012 Group B: Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark
- 1.1 Famous Groups of Death
- 2 Group of Shit
- 2.1 Notable Groups of Shit
- 2.2 2014 FIFA World Cup
Group of Death
The Group of Death is a label applied by the media to any group in a tournament that contains at least 3 teams with a realistic chance of qualifying.
The name stems from the way that decent teams are not expected to meet each other until the latter stages of a tournament because:
- draws are usually seeded
- FIFA/UEFA typically rig draws to maximise television revenues or create contests deemed "interesting" by someone. Examples from the Champions League include the rather convenient draws of AC Milan (David Beckham) vs Man Utd, Inter (Jose Mourinho) vs Chelsea and the inevitable Liverpool vs Chelsea borefest that must be endured twice every single season.
- Qualifying rules normally allow a lot of shit teams into competitions only to highlight the inequities in World football. Examples being most African or Asia sides in the World Cup and the Eastern European sides called 'Rapid Something or Other' you get in the Champions League.
Occasionally, however, the process will go wrong and several decent sides will end up in the same group sending the media into a state of frantic excitement about the Group of Death. This is despite the fact they know it will end in a massive anti-climax, as always happens when big clubs meet in major tournaments.
Famous Groups of Death
1998/9 Champions League Group D: Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Brondby, Manchester United.
Disregarding laughable but ultimately endearing then-Danish Champions Brondby, Group D contained 3 of the 4 strongest teams in the competition. This led to the farcical stuation of a Barcelona team including Figo, Guardiola, Patrick Kluivert, Luis Enrique and Rivaldo failing to leave the group stage whilst Real Madrid and Internazionale contented themselves by stuffing the living daylights out of the likes Sturm Graz in the group stages before being eliminated by proper teams (or in Real's case, Dynamo Kiev) in the quarter-finals.
The group's make-up also led to Manchester United having to play Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Internazionale and Juventus twice each in order to contest the infamously jammy final where they would play Bayern Munich a third time.
2002 FIFA World Cup Group F: Argentina, England, Nigeria, Sweden
This draw sent the media into a special frenzy because not only did it contain 4 teams that are in theory all quite good, but because it matched England against bitter (cheating) rivals Argentina and Sven-Goran Eriksson's Sweden. Unfortunately, the media had forgotten that the Swedes are draw obsessed dullards, especially when playing against England and the Nigerians generally go to pieces in major tournaments. The only real drama was David Beckham scoring a winning penalty against Argentina and getting revenge against (cheating) midfielder Diego Simeone for shamefully play acting to get Beckham sent off 4 years earlier.
In the end, only 9 goals were scored in all 6 games - 4 of them by Sweden.
2010 FIFA World Cup Group G: Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea
In theory this should be an interesting group given the attacking nature of 3 of the sides. It is also likely to be the first case of the name 'Group of Death' being applied literally, when North Korea are sent home without even a goal to their name to be brutally murdered by the Government.
UEFA Euro 2012 Group B: Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark
Four teams plucked out of the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. This threw the spotlight on particularly shit groups such as group A, and left people wondering why the Polish and Ukrainian teams should have a place in the competition at all.
2013/14 Champions League Group F: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Marseille, Napoli.
A seminal event in the ongoing war between the Hipsters and the New World Order in European football. After several years of big money clubs owning the semi-finals of the tournament, hipster bandwagon team #1 Borussia Dortmund made the final in 2012/13. The same year, hipster bandwagon team #2 Napoli finished 2nd in Serie A, less than 5 years after they had been in the Italian 4th division. However the hipster rebellion's well-laid plans to seize the key stronghold of the UEFA shadow government were foiled as this group quite literally was fought to the death and a quarterfinal worthy team was booted (as it turned out, Napoli, while on the last day Arsenal and Dortmund were just as endangered). Also no coincidence that at points during this season, Borussia Dortmund have been so injury ravaged that 4th stringers are starting in defense.
All said and done, this was a true group of death. All three teams (save for poor O-fer doormat Marseille) recorded point totals that would have put them top, or qualified, from literally all the other groups. The New World Order won this round of the ongoing war, as total shit teams like Manchester United (9th in league at end of group stage) and AC Milan (13th!!) got through. Shame on you, UEFA.
Group of Shit
Newton's Third Law of Motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Likewise, for every Group of Death that is drawn, there is also a Group of Shit, equally shitty as the other is deadly.
Even layabout students, who tend to watch every single minute of a World Cup on their unlicensed televisions, generally avoid games from the Group of Shit.
For some reason, Man Utd inevitably seem to be drawn into one of the Groups of Shit in the Champions League every season.
Notable Groups of Shit
2002 FIFA World Cup Group H: Japan, Russia, Tunisia, Belgium
This group set an new low for Groups of Shit, since most will have at least one side worthy of qualification. Unfortunately, some moron decided that Japan should be a seed team for the tournament and this was the result. Never has there been a more surreal experience for an English football fan than waking up at 7 in the morning to find that Tunisia are playing Russia in the World Cup.
In fairness, the group produced 16 goals, including a thrilling 3-2 win for Belgium over Russia. Then again, you can probably see that kind of thing down the park on a Sunday afternoon as well.
2006 FIFA World Cup Group D: Portugal, Mexico, Iran, Angola
Depravity at its worst.
2010 FIFA World Cup Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Given that José Luis Chilavert doesn't play for Paraguay anymore, the one potentially exciting thing about this group was no more. The group is best summed up by the headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport, which translated roughly as, "SURELY YOU ARE BLESSED ITALY. FIRST YOU ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS DESPITE PLAYING LIKE UTTER SHIT IN GERMANY, NOW YOU ARE HANDED THE WEAKEST OF POSSIBLE DRAWS. DON'T YOU DARE COME HOME IF YOU FUCK THIS ONE UP."
Italy went on to embarassingly crash out of the group, coming bottom and causing La Gazzetta dello Sport to release an open letter to the national team which spanned three issues.
UEFA Euro 2012 Group A: Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Russia.
For many reasons this group seems destined to go down in the history as one of the greatest ever Groups of Shit. These reasons include:
- One of the Czech Republic's 2 good players (and probably the best player in the group), Petr Cech, being a goalkeeper
- The other good player for the Czech Republic being Tomas Rosicky, and thus probably injured for the duration of the tournament.
- Greece being in the group.
- Greece's best player and star striker Georgio Samaras having less than a 1:3 goals:games ratio, despite playing for the strongest team (Celtic) in an absolutely woeful league (SPL)
- All of Russia's decent players (Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko) having gone to shit in the last few years.
- All decent players who could have played for Poland having decided to play for Germany instead (Klose, Podolski, Trochowski).
Group C: Colombia, Japan, Greece, Ivory Coast
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia, Nigeria, Iran