Visualization of the Week: Groups of Death in the World Cup

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When FIFA announced the final matchups for the 2014 World Cup, the selections brought tough news for U.S. soccer fans. Team USA was placed in a group with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Germany and Portugal are both ranked among the top five teams in the world and Ghana beat the United States in the previous two World Cups. For Team USA, it’s a group of death.

These four teams will begin the World Cup by playing a round-robin tournament against each other. Because only two teams can advance to the 16-team single elimination tournament that decides the next World Cup champion, the United States has to upset at least one European powerhouse to move on.

Is there precedent for such an upset? Our friends over at Mode Analytics developed a compelling visualization on the subject of groups of death (see image below). Also available is an interactive visualization that explores how teams have fared in other “groups of death” in previous World Cups. Unfortunately for U.S. fans, history—and Team USA’s own record of disappointment—is not on America’s side.



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