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What is a 'Group of Death' in soccer? Famous football tournament term explained

There is an evident reason why a particular team would like or not like to be in a 'Group of Death'. That could give you an indication of that team's level of confidence, especially in the latter case. Let's simply refer the same to the mind games otherwise.

Every tournament is likely to have one, but we will first need to understand what is a 'Group of Death' in soccer. GOAL explains...

What is a 'Group of Death' in soccer?

A 'Group of Death' is when - say in a group of four teams, where only the top two make it through - at least three sides would usually have the bet placed on them to progress in a multi-staged tournament. It can also mean that the group is entirely made up of teams who are considered very strong, and that will then result in two good teams facing their fears of an early exit.

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For example, Germany and Costa Rica had to pack their bags earlier than they would have liked to, after failing to finish above Japan and Spain in Group E at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In another occurrence, three World Cup winners in Italy, Uruguay, and England could not stop Costa Rica, individually or collectively, from finishing first in Group D of the 2014 edition of the world event.

When is 'Group of Death' expression used?

After all, teams qualify for a given tournament, they will know their opponents in the first stage of the competition only with the result of the draw. Hence, 'Group of Death' is an expression generally used before the beginning of the matches.

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When was the term 'Group of Death' first used?

The origin of the term 'Group of Death' is believed to be stamped out by Mexican journalists in Spanish (as "grupo le la muerte") while describing Group 3 of the 1970 World Cup featuring England, Brazil, Czechoslovakia (later split to the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and Romania.

It soon caught up again when Group C in the second phase of the 1982 World Cup consisted of Italy, Brazil, and Argentina. The Guardian eventually rated it as the "deadliest group ever" as they discussed whether Group C (Netherlands, Italy, Romania, and France) of the 2008 European Championship deserved that tag.

The term gained a lot of popularity in the English-language media when Uruguay, West Germany, Denmark, and Scotland were drawn into Group E for the 1986 World Cup.

Can there be more than one 'Group of Death' in a tournament?

Yes. It eventually comes down to the chance of multiple groups with traditional heavyweights in the above-explained criterion. There is always an expectation that certain teams should pass the first stage of a tournament with ease, but that can soon turn into a debate based on each one's perception of the strengths of the opponents in question.

Can leagues have a 'Group of Death'?

There is always a lookout for the 'Group of Death' whenever the UEFA Champions League group stage draw results unravel themselves. However, a traditional domestic league has lesser odds of having a 'Group of Death' due to the very nature of its format.