Summary: Group C plays out a lot like Group A and Group B. El Salvador SHOULD get second in Group A, Norway SHOULD get second in Group B, and Nigeria SHOULD get second in Group C. But in Group C, it's a lot murkier. France is back with a vengeance after being ousted by Ireland in the semi-final. They beat Laos fairly handily, and Laos ended up winning. The team remains the same, give or take a couple players. If the schedule works the way it did last year, France won't have to face Ireland until the final. And you can bet France will be bulldozing its way to the final. Botswana was up and down last year, playing Ireland a lot closer than expected and tying a strong Canada team, but they also lost to Columbia. They need some consistency if they have any hope of making it out of the group this year. Luckily for Botswana, the frontrunner for second place is Nigeria, the most inconsistent team in the tournament. Greece always shows up to play. They may not have the talent they once had, but they're Greek through and through, and a great addition to the tournament. A physical team, they'll have to rely on a compact defence to prevent any balls from getting through, because they lack scoring ability. Italy has been in the tournament for the last 4 years or so, and the result has always been the same. Never a contender, they play hard for pride and the occasional win. Attaining third in this group would be a great accomplishment. Nigeria. What can you say about them? Every year that they're expected to do good, they fall flat. Once you're down on them, they impress you. No one really knows what to expect from Nigeria, except the Nigerian team. They've been practicing hard for quite some time now. They did exceptionally well in the Regina Men's Tournament, reaching the final and narrowly losing to the O'Neill Alumni Team. They practice in the facility quite a bit(way more than any other team) and are scheduling exhibition games galore. You want a prepared team? Nigeria is it. They may not have the individual skills, but they'll play great as a team. Anything less than the semi-finals will be disappointing for them. Afghanistan is another up and down team, much like Botswana, but that's because the makeup of their team has changed so drastically from year to year. Rumor has it their team is on the rise, and could challenge Nigeria for that second spot. Before they can do that, they'll need to find a defence and some composure. They would concede a few goals, get a couple cards, then concede a few more goals. We'll see what they can come up with this year.
Prediction: France will easily sweep the group. Nigeria doesn't have the track record of El Salvador and Norway, so locking them in for 2nd place is a little tougher. However, I do expect their preparation to pay off and see them in the second round. The groups rarely turn out the way you'd expect, but these first three groups are pretty straightforward. Any upsets would be tremendous, and I hope I'm wrong on all these predictions for that reason. Botswana and Afghanistan are the next best teams, and will battle it out for third. Italy and Greece will bring up the rear.
In Finishing Order: France, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Botswana, Italy, Greece.