The Toughest World Cup Groups for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, South Africa

UPDATE: this list is based on the 20th of November 2009 rankings. For an updated list of the toughest world cup groups (based on the 26th of May 2010 rankings) click here:


Group H

Spain: 1

Chile: 17

Switzerland: 18

Honduras: 38

Average ranking of group=18.5



Group E

Netherlands: 3

Cameroon: 11

Denmark: 26

Japan: 43

 Average ranking of group =20.8


= 3.

Group C

England: 9

USA: 14

Algeria: 28

Slovenia: 33

 Average ranking of group =21


= 3.

Group D

Germany: 6

Serbia: 20

Australia: 21

Ghana: 37

 Average ranking of group =21



Group B

Argentina: 8

Greece: 12

Nigeria: 22

South Korea: 52

 Average ranking of group =23.5



Group G

Brazil: 2

Portugal: 5

Ivory Coast: 16

North Korea: 84

 Average ranking of group =26.8



Group A

France: 7

Mexico: 15

Uruguay: 19

South Africa: 86

 Average ranking of group = 31.8



Group F

Italy: 4

Paraguay: 30

Slovakia: 34

New Zealand: 77

 Average ranking of group =36.3


The above rankings from 1-8 indicate the toughest World Cup groups (1) through to the easiest World Cup groups (8.) The number next to each country is their soccer ranking. The average ranking of the group is simply an average number of the 4 countries soccer rankings. Although this page is titled ‘Toughest World Cup Groups,’ this term ‘toughest’ is ambiguous, depending on from whose point-of-view you are determining ‘toughest’ from. For instance, are you determining it from a hypothetical 5th countries point-of-view that is joining each group? It is difficult to determine ‘toughest’ from the point-of-view of one of the countries within the group because then the question arises, ‘from which one within the group.’ This seems arbitrary to choose one country within the group.

The above ‘Toughest rankings’ of 1-8 are also not an entirely accurate description of ‘toughness.’ For instance, imagine a group had countries ranked 1, 2, 3 and 154 in it. (Although this is impossible due to the pots system.) The average ranking for this group would be 40 and this group would hence be ranked number 8 and ‘easiest’ in the above list. It is clear that from the way the World Cup roster works in terms of qualifying for the 2nd round that this group would actually be very tough.

This is less of a concern as each group in the World Cup comprises one team from each of 4 pots. These pots tend to give an approximately homogenous distribution of rankings.

 In conclusion, please be aware that this above list is by no means a perfect indication of ‘toughness’ as this is an ambiguous term in terms of point-of-view. Also the ‘Average ranking of group’ measure of toughness (as above) is problematic in the sense that an obviously very tough group can be ranked as easy.

Note that the country rankings are from the 20th of November 2009 and are the FIFA World Rankings.

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