Three Lions to struggle

Luis Suarez (centre) could prove to be England's worst nightmare.

After analysing Groups A, B and C in World Cup 2014, we take a look now at yet another tough group – Group D.

England, Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica will fight it out for two berths to the second round of World Cup 2014 in Brazil. So far, Roy Hodgson has lamented the draw while some others have talked about how they have to just get on with it.

All the teams in this group played at World Cup 2010 in South Africa and three of them – England, Uruguay and Italy – qualified for the second round of the tournament. This time though, one of them will not make it.

Two teams are sure to falter in this group. But which ones? Here is my take on Group D:

Roy Hodgson has already said that England will have a tough time surviving this group. Fans and pundits have echoed Hodgson’s sentiment and some of these have predicted England losing out to Uruguay and Italy. Nevertheless, anything can happen! I’ve always seen England as an overrated team and their only beacon of hope at this World Cup is Wayne Rooney. True, it’s good to know that players like Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard have no problems playing against big guns but England will be hoping that more men step up to the plate. Roy Hodgson is a good tactician and as a football coach, has enjoyed much success, but will he be successful with England? The team did well in a tricky qualifying group comprising Ukraine and Poland and it’s fair to say Hodgson passed that test. This one however, be tougher and the onus will be on the manager to do better than his predecessors. Rooney, of course, will be the main man for the Three Lions if selected, yet, expect contributions from veterans like Frank Lampard, Gerrard and Ashley Cole as they seek to end their international careers on a high in Rio. Alongside the vets, expect youngsters like Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge to be on the plane to Rio.

Organised, talented and disciplined – traits that best describe the Uruguayan national football team. Under Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay have done well in every international tournament they’ve participated in in the last four years. Fourth at World Cup 2010, 2011, Copa America champions in 2011 and fourth at last year’s Confederations Cup, many pundits are expecting Uruguay to come out with guns blazing and continue to impress. The team are known for their strong defenders and industrious midfielders but the ones who will make the difference are the strikers. In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, they’ve got a duo that can wreak havoc. Luis Suarez has proven time and time again that he is a mercurial talent while Edinson Cavani is known for his physical strength and ability to score wonderful goals. Uruguay have got an experienced squad and I’m sure Tabarez will stick with stalwarts like Diego Godin, Alvaro Pereira, Arevalo Rios, Fernando Muslera and Diego Perez in Rio.

Under Cesare Prandelli, Italy have done away with the Cattaneccio system. With a good mix of young and experienced players, and with their balance of capable players in both defence and attack, you can expect Italy to make it to the next round. It’s going to be a bruising affair of course but if the likes of Mario Balotelli can keep his cool, they’re going to be one of the favourites for the cup. At the 2013 Confederations Cup, Italy finished third behind Spain and champions Brazil. Fifty-six-year-old head coach Prandelli is stepping down after World Cup, so he’s bound to go all out here to prove a point. Italy have always been known for their strong defence and it’s the same this time around as well. If selected, Gianluigi Buffon will play in his fifth world cup and his experience will be important to spur the team forward. And he will be protected by his Juventus teammates Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Meanwhile, Balotelli and Stephan El Sharaawy should serve as the side’s main attackers.

Costa Rica
Los Ticos are expected to finish last in this group. The CONCACAF nation will find it really tough to survive in the face of three illustrious opponents. They can only hope for the best and maybe pray that Jorge Luis Pinto is capable of one or two miracles. In the past, Costa Rica had players like Paulo Wanchope, Ronald Gomez and Winston Parks. These days though they have guys Bryan Oviedo, Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Christian Bolanos and Keylor Navas. The question is: Are these new guys capable of beating the other sides in Group B? Ruiz for one, had a poor season with Fulham is hoping to find his form at PSV Eindhoven while Oviedo looks set to miss the World Cup after suffering a horrific injury slightly more than a week ago. The other three – Campbell, Bolanos and Navas – meanwhile, are regulars for their clubs but they aren’t players who make a big difference. It’s going to be a real struggle for Costa Rica.

It’s tough to predict who will qualify from this group because Italy, England and Uruguay are all equally strong contenders. Personally, I’m expecting England to wilt in the Rio sun with Italy and Uruguay emerging victorious. It’s going to be an interesting group and every match will be closely watched.

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