Brazil lead 'group of death'

As Groups of Death go, they do not come much more fatal than Group G.

Three of anybody's pre-tournament favourites - Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast - brought together to fight it out for only two second round places, along with the distinctly unknown quantity of North Korea.

The form guide would suggest Didier Drogba's men ought to be the ones most capable of accompanying Brazil through, especially given Portugal's tortuous but ultimately fortunate qualification campaign.

However, as the history of previous so-called Groups of Death would suggest, even the stand-out seeded team can take nothing for granted in as rarefied an atmosphere as the first round of the World Cup.

Take the Group of Death in the 1990 first round, which pitted holders and favourites Argentina with the tough Romanians and Soviets, and the relatively unknown quantity of Cameroon.

Cameroon's historic opening game win over the Argentinians turned the group on its head, with the Africans eventually qualifying as group winners, Romania clinching second spot and the holders suffering an embarrassing first round exit.

Or 1994, when favourites Italy kicked off their campaign with a stunning defeat to the Republic of Ireland, leading to their group stage elimination with Mexico and Jack Charlton's men progressing through.

Spain were bounced out early of a 1998 group also including Nigeria, Paraguay and Bulgaria, while in 2002 Argentina again missed out with Sweden and England squeaking through from Group F.

And with the Brazilians kicking off the group against supposed minnows North Korea in Johannesburg on June 15, it only heaps more pressure on them not to slip up.

With the final Group G pairing featuring the Brazilians and Portugal 10 days later, there is every chance it could be a match which leaves one of the big-shots returning home - and the legend of the Group of Death living on.

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