The FIFA World Cup is in full swing, and Group D play opens Saturday afternoon as Uruguay takes on Costa Rica without Luis Suarez. The main event will kick off two hours later, as England battles Italy in a rematch of Euro 2012, with both teams hoping to come out on top of Group D in the World Cup.
Uruguay v Costa Rica: Odds favor Uruguay even without their star player. They have a strong attack up front with Diego Forlán and Edinson Cavani. The other “Diegos” (Lugano and Godín) in the back four have a combined 171 caps and 12 goals between them. Uruguay has the most experienced team in the group, and only one player on their 23-man roster has less than 10 international caps, excluding the backup goalkeepers.
Uruguay’s starting 11 according to Coach Oscar Tabarez will have Fernando Muslera in goal; Maxi Pereira, Diego Lugano, Diego Godín, and Martin Cáceres as the back four; Walter Gargano, Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Christian Stuani, and Cristian Rodríguez in the middle third; and Diego Forlán and Edinson Cavani attacking up top.
Costa Rica will not go down without a fight. Though many of their players play in lesser clubs, they have gems like Arsenal’s Joel Campbell and playmaker Bryan Ruiz. Los Ticos are the second most capped team behind Uruguay, and also have only one field player with less than 10 international appearances. Costa Rica is the only team in the group that has never won a World Cup. Coach Jorge Luis Pinto had not named his starting 11 as of Saturday morning, presumably holding the information for match time, but fans can expect to see Ruiz, Campbell, Christian Bolanos, Marco Urena, and newcomer Oscar Duarte.
Prediction: Uruguay 2 – 0 Costa Rica
England v Italy: The real test for Group D of the 2014 World Cup will come later in the afternoon, when England and Italy battle it out for supreme Euro bragging rights. The outcome of this game will tell a lot about how the rest of group play will unfold. Italy is of the tried and tested variety, with veterans Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo commanding the field.
Neither team had released their starting lineup Saturday morning, but Italy’s bright new star, Ciro Immobile, could possibly start up front with “Mad Mario” Balotelli in a dangerous combination for the English back four. On the defensive end, captain and goalkeeper Buffon is earning his 141st cap.
Coach Roy Hodgson’s 23-man roster is the youngest England has seen since 1958. The average age of the players is 26, and the average number of appearances is 29, the least in the group. Likewise, defender Luke Shaw is the second youngest player to take the field in the finals. Still, England has a solid backfield with old hats Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and Wayne Rooney will start up front in a last-ditch effort to capitalize on the world stage.
Raheem Sterling, a 19-year-old Liverpool forward, may get the start if Danny Welbeck is unable to play due to injury. He is among five young field players who have less than 10 caps for the English side. Two of those, Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley, have shown impressive ability in training and could see some playing time as well if injuries or fatigue settle in for the starters. This game against Italy will tell if this young English squad can handle Uruguay and the other world giants beyond group play.
Prediction: England 1 – 1 Italy
Group D will be an interesting battle, with England, Italy, and Uruguay all very capable of advancing, while Costa Rica hopes to pull off the ultimate World Cup upset, or at least win one match. Saturday’s games will give a little more insight into how this group will fare in the end, and how these teams will compete in the knockout stages, should they advance.
Commentary by Christina Jones