At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Group Three was labelled the "Grupo de la Muerte" by local journalists. The group featured England (1966 winners), Brazil (1962 winners and soon-to-be 1970 champions), Czechoslovakia (1962 runners up) and Romania, and was the only group at the tournament to just feature teams from the traditional footballing powerhouses of Europe and South America.

The label has since become a World Cup staple. The Knowledge suggests the toughest ever Group of Death came 12 years later:

Before the ranking system came into existence in 1993, the title surely must go to Argentina, Brazil and Italy being drawn together in the second group stage of the 1982 World Cup, with only one to qualify. This system was only used once ... perhaps because it killed off big teams rather too quickly.

In 1986 the label was attached to Group E, featuring West Germany, Uruguay, Denmark and Scotland. Again it was the only group to include only European and South American teams.

Does this mean that European and South American teams are more aware of their own World Cup mortality? Or that the continent's journalists are more prone to use of the phrase? And must all four teams have a serious hope of advancing to the next stage for a section to be labelled "Group of Death"? At Euro 1992, the Scottish media labelled Group C the "Group of Certain Death" because Scotland were certain to be eliminated having been drawn alongside Holland, Germany and the CIS (as the USSR football team was briefly known).

Using the Fifa rankings system, the Guardian US interactive team aims to show which teams face the toughest schedule and which is the 2014 World Cup's Group of Death (unless you think that there can actually be more than one). Now the Fifa rankings system has its own limitations (such as the self-perpetuating nature of giving more points for games involving teams from Europe and South America) but it is the best measure we have of the relative strength of nations playing the world's game.

According to our analysis of the World Cup schedule, Group G (Germany, Ghana, Portugal and USA) is the hardest and Spain vs the Netherlands is the toughest matchup. Australia have the toughest schedule, having the misfortune of being the lowest-seed at the tournament (59th in the world) while facing Spain (1), Holland (9) and Chile (15).

However, Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque insists:

"We have to define it as complicated but I don't believe this is the Group of Death."

Perhaps he's already secretly written off the Aussies (he certainly wouldn't do it publicly, for that way hubris lies). Or perhaps he's managing expectations. 

As Simon Burnton wrote in 2009

The Group of Death: Every World Cup has one. Inevitably, one of the big teams involved gets so scared about being in the Group of Death that they play really badly, meaning not only that they go home in disappointment and disgrace, but that the group turns out not to be so very troublesome after all. But what if it were called the group of poop – would teams not then approach it with a smile?

Groups of Death are given the label in advance of the tournament. What happens at the tournament may prove to be completely different.