World Cup Previews – Group D

England, Uruguay, Italy, Costa Rica

England5_2918643b

The Perception

England have been handed a very tough group, but there is belief that we can get out of it with the pressure off.

Fixtures

14 June 2014

Uruguay v Costa Rica, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 20:00 (ITV)

14 June 2014

England v Italy, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 23:00 (BBC)

19 June 2014

Uruguay v England , Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 20:00 (ITV)

20 June 2014

Italy v Costa Rica, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 17:00 (BBC)

24 June 2014

Italy v Uruguay, Arena das Dunas, Natal, 17:00 (ITV)

24 June 2014

Costa Rica v EnglandEstadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 17:00 (ITV)

England

article-2645305-1E61F69A00000578-849_634x420

  • World Ranking: 11 (correct to 6 June)
  • World Cup best: Winners (1966)
  • World Cups played in (including 2014): 13 (first in 1950)
  • Manager: Roy Hodgson
  • Captain: Steven Gerrard

Star Man – Wayne Rooney

20140601-115928-43168315.jpg

This will be Wayne Rooney’s third World Cup and he admits the previous two have been far from successful. Nonetheless, seven goals in six qualifiers helped him nudge ever closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s England record of 49. England will need him at the top of his game – and to keep his cool – in Brazil. Since Euro 2004, he has never really performed at major tournaments, and this one would be the best one to end that. 48 years of hurt…

One to Watch – Adam Lallana

20140601-115927-43167917.jpg

After a fantastic season with Southampton in which he helped The Saints to their highest ever Premier League finish, Adam Lallana is on the radar of many top clubs including Liverpool and Tottenham. Despite only making his England debut against Chile last November and only having three caps to his name, the 26 year old is many people’s favourite for Roy Hodgson’s starting XI. It’s no exaggeration as to how massively he’s come in the last year, and catching the eye at the World Cup will round off a superb season for Lallana.

How they qualified

England finished their qualifying campaign unbeaten and conceded just four goals. However, they left it to the last game to secure their ticket to Brazil, despite their opposition not being the strongest. Laboured draws against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro were a tough watch.

Prediction – Group Stages

As much I want to predict England as World Cup winners, I just can’t see us getting past the group stages. Call me pessimistic, but I think the quality going forward that Italy and Uruguay possess will be too much for our shaky defence. We won’t be out by the time we play Costa Rica, but knowing England, other results won’t go our way. I am however, a lot more hopeful than I was five months ago, and I feel as though with no pressure on them, the players could perform to their best. We can qualify, but we won’t make it easy for ourselves.

Uruguay

urugry-football-team-2014

  • World Ranking: 6  (correct to 6 June)
  • World Cup best: Winners (1930, 1950)
  • World Cups played in (including 2014): 12 (first in 1930)
  • Manager: Oscar Tabarez
  • Captain: Diego Lugano

Star Man – Luis Suarez

1960068_w2

Luis Suarezis Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer with 39 goals in 76 caps; he beat Diego Forlan’s previous record during last year’s Confederations Cup. The Liverpool forward’s pace, fleet-footedness, power and control make him one of the game’s most potent strikers. He may have scored three goals at the 2010 World Cup but his handball on the line in the quarter-final against Ghana is the abiding memory of him from South Africa. After a season with Liverpool in which the 26 year old won the Premier League Golden Boot and PFA Player of the Year award, he will be raring to go in Brazil. He is a doubt though to start the tournament after picking up a knee injury which could be good news for England.

One to Watch – Nicolas Lodeiro

Nicolás-Lodeiro

Attacking midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, 25, has been reinvigorated at Brazilian club Botafogo and is back in the international fold. The youngest member of Uruguay’s 2010 World Cup squad was sent off just 18 minutes into a substitute appearance in Le Celeste’s group opener and later fractured his foot against Ghana. He will be hoping for a more successful tournament this time around in the country where he plies his trade at club level.

How they qualified

Uruguay were the last team to qualify for the tournament, but still took their place amongst the seeded teams. They struggled in their qualifying group and failed to take one of South America’s four automatic spots, finishing. They were drawn against Jordan in a play-off tie, in which they finished the job in the first leg with a 5-0 victory. A 0-0 in the second leg saw out the aggregate victory.

Prediction – Quarter-finals

Just as Colombia’s hopes rest on Falcao’s fitness, Uruguay will be hoping that Luis Suarez is ready for the tournament, otherwise they could struggle. With or without the Liverpool man, they will still be used to the South American conditions, whilst Edinson Cavani remains another huge threat. Will get out of the group and appear to be cruising, until hosts Brazil or holders Spain inevitably come into their path and knock them out in the quarter-finals.

Italy

Italy-National-Team-Getty-Images1

  • World Ranking: 9 (correct to 6 June)
  • World Cup best: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
  • World Cups played in (including 2014): 18 (first in 1934)
  • Manager: Cesare Prandelli
  • Captain: Gigi Buffon

Star Man – Mario Balotelli

Balotelli-Italy-World-Cup-2014-shirt

AC Milan forward Mario Balotelliheads to the World Cup as a maturing performer. He inspired Italy to the Euro 2012 final, scoring twice in the semi-final against Germany, and top scored in qualifying with five goals. Balotelli has managed 12 goals in 29 appearances – and Italy have never lost when he has scored. Controversial at times, but mesmerizingly brilliant at others. You just feel as though this may be the tournament where he shakes off his childish image.

One to Watch – Mattia Destro

1858203_w2

For such a young player, Mattia Destro has some fantastic scoring stats. There’s no arguing with the numbers. By mid-April, the 23 year old had scored 13 Serie A goals at a rate of one every 85 minutes. Nobody in Europe’s top leagues has a better ratio. Destro gets every type of goal: the beautiful hit and the four-yard scuff. With one goal in four Italy games, the Roma striker has been in Cesare Prandelli provisional 30 man squad, and if he makes it to Brazil, him and Balotelli could light up Group D.

How they qualified

Arguably too easily. Italy qualified with two matches to spare, along with the Netherlands becoming the first European nation to book their place. Prandelli experimented for the final two matches – both games were drawn, crucial ranking points were dropped, and Italy’s seeding hopes dashed. As a result, they have been placed in the toughest group in the tournament.

Prediction – Quarter-finals

The Italians will either breeze through this group and qualify without much difficulty, or falter and ensure they don’t get past the first round for the second World Cup in succession. I’ll go with the first prediction, but they’ll do well to get past the quarter-finals once they qualify for the knockout stages.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica's national football team

  • World Ranking: 34 (correct to 6 June)
  • World Cup best: Round of 16 (1990)
  • World Cups played in (including 2014): 4 (first in 1990)
  • Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto
  • Captain: Bryan Ruiz

Star Man – Keylor Navas

article-2516825-19CF9BD700000578-355_634x416

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas has already reached a half century of caps for the national team at the age of 26 and he kept seven clean sheets in 14 qualifying matches. He is now first choice for Levante in Spain’s top flight, with bigger clubs taking an interest. With a whole host of word class strikers in Group D, Navas may be the one player to stop Costa Rica from suffering some thrashings.

One to Watch – Joel Campbell

Seleccion_Nacional-Seleccion_de_Estados_Unidos-hexagonal-Mundial_Brasil_2014-Estadio_Nacional_ALDIMA20130906_0079_3

Joel Campbell, who scored against Manchester United in this season’s Champions League, can play either as a striker or on the wing and scored some crucial goals in qualifying to help Costa Rica qualify. Blesses with great speed, the 21 year old is officially an Arsenal player, but has spent the last three seasons on loan in France, Spain and Greece respectively.

How they qualified

They finished comfortably as runners-up in the final CONCACAF group stage, with their five wins all coming at home. They only conceded seven goals in the final phase, fewer than any other team. Qualifying from Group D will be less easy. A lot less easy.

Prediction – Group Stages

The draw has been very tough to Costa Rica, and it will be an achievement if they can end the group not bottom of it. Their are stars in the squad such as Navas and Campbell, but Jorge Luis Pinto’s side could be in for a heavy defeat or two. Possibly three.

My final table prediction

Group D

Advertisements

One thought on “World Cup Previews – Group D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s