It is kind of poetic when the World Cup’s customary group of death is actually Group D. Rarely, does that happen! This year’s edition of the greatest show on earth has England, Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica drawn in one group. Let’s take a look at the teams and predict which 2 can go to the next round.
There was a time when both England and Spain were seen as perennial underachievers. Now that Spain has moved on to win multiple trophies on the international stage, it is England that’s left holding the unwanted mantle. Roy Hodgson did a more than decent job during the Euro 2012, but he will be expected to do more than get knocked out in the Quarterfinals now that he’s spent a lot of time with the squad. Despite it being the group of death, with Italy and Uruguay sure to pose problems, England would certainly be expected to wade through the tricky waters and reach the knockout stage.
Italy have had a lot of recent success that they look towards to for inspiration. Beating a Zinedine Zidane inspired France in the 2006 World Cup final and a rampant Spain team away from clinching the Euro 2012, one would expect them to be favourites in this tournament. Much will depend on their defence, and if the Italians are known for anything, it is, rightly or wrongly, their strong defence. That should give them a good chance of winning through the tricky ties.
Uruguay is one of the stronger South American nations when it comes to football, but they will rue their luck for having given such a tough group to negotiate. They had a very good tournament 4 years ago where they reached the semifinals, albeit with help from Luis Suraez’s hands. But it will be a brave man who will pick Uruguay to finish above either of the European heavyweights, Suarez’s goal scoring form notwithstanding.
For all intents and purposes, Costa Rica are the whipping boys of this group. No matter how brave a front they put, the other 3 teams in the group will be looking at Costa Rica as their best chance to get 3 points. So, any point they can get from the 3 games they are going to play in this year’s World Cup would be a major win for them, which is a kind of tragedy considering they finished 2nd in their qualification group as opposed to Uruguay having to go through a playoff while England labored towards topping the group.
Matches to look forward to
England vs Italy
England do not have a great record against Italy in international tournaments. They faced Italy in the final phase of a World Cup only once, in 1990, and they lost that game. In the World Cup qualifiers, England and Italy have faced each other 4 times, but England’s managed only 1 win while Italy have won 2. Even the Euros have not been kind to the English, having drawn one and lost one. So, Italy will be firm favourites in this match, but one would expect this to finish in a dull draw. The highlight of the match will be Gerrard vs Pirlo, and it will be interesting to see who will come out on top.
Italy vs Uruguay
The famed Italian defence versus a Luis Suarez who is in the form of his life will certainly be a mouthwatering clash. While it is tempting to chalk off Suarez’s form to the service he gets from Gerrard & co., one has to remember that not only does he create opportunities on his own, he also has had quite a few assists this season. Another thing to remember is that all of this came despite a 6 match ban coming into the season.
Players to watch out for
Luis Suarez – The fact that his is the only name that has been mentioned multiple times is testament to the season that he has had. He’s sure to have a big impact on the tournament, though one hopes it won’t be the notorious kind. Seeing as he’s been clean for an entire season, Uruguay will be hoping it will be his goal scoring antics that will take them to the next round.
Wayne Rooney – The great hope of England, everyone will be looking to Wayne Rooney to provide the much needed impetus that all British teams over the years seem to have lacked. With Daniel Sturridge in great form too, this could be the year when the England frontline comes alive and takes the team beyond the cursed quarterfinals.
Mario Balotelli – While the whole world will be looking at Andrea Pirlo as Italy’s main man, it will probably be the mercurial Mario Balotelli who will have the biggest impact for Italy in this World Cup. Balotelli is perhaps the best option for Pirlo to give his throughballs to, and Mario has more than enough skills to beat his markers and get the ball into the net.
Italy – 6
England – 6
Uruguay – 6
Costa Rica – 0
Read about the other groups here!