GROUP OF DEATH
THE WAY TO WORLD CUP GLORY HAS OFTEN BEEN THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE. IN 2006 ITALY BUILT UP MOMENTUM IN A WEAK GROUP AND WENT on to win the trophy. Meanwhile, the advancing Group of Death teams, the Netherlands and Argentina, combined to win one game in knockout play. Yet there's something so right about fighting one's way out of a scrum of heavyweights that any side winning this year's Group of Death should be a favorite to reach the final. ¶ Consider Group G: Brazil, the most successful World Cup country; Portugal, an '06 semifinalist; Ivory Coast, one of the best of a continent on the cusp of soccer greatness; and North Korea, a mystery with upset potential. Plus two FIFA World Players of the Year (Kaká and Cristiano Ronaldo) and two Premier League scoring champs (Ronaldo and Didier Drogba). ¶ Remember that the first true Group of Death, in 1958, featured Brazil's Pelé, the Soviet Union's Lev Yashin and England's Sir Tom Finney. To be the best, Brazil beat the best. It could happen again.