To many, Group D of the FIFA World Cup would seem relatively easy to pick, however, just as much as the so-called Group of Death featuring Germany, Ghana, Portugal, and the USA, Group D is one of the more challenging groups in the tournament. Featuring Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay, this group boasts some of the worlds best players and should provide plenty of excitement for football fans. The smart money is on Uruguay and Italy to continue in the tournament, with Italy being favoured by bookmakers to come out on top.
Italy have had the most success recently of all of the teams in this group. In 2012, they were able to make their way to the final game of the European Championship, where they lost to 2010 FIFA World Cup Champions Spain. Their World Cup 2014 qualifying round was also rather comfortable for the Azzuri. Italy also boast one of the best midfielders in the tournament in Andrea Pirlo. And while missing Montolivo, they have the enigmatic Mario Balotelli. Italy are traditionally a strong defensive side with attacking ability that often takes advantage of frustrated offences. With Prandelli as coach, the Italian backside has been questioned but their attacking has been lethal. Look for Italy, an experienced team that tends to thrive under pressure, to make it out of this group.
Uruguay boast one of the best footballers of the last year. Luis Suarez won accolades for his performance with Liverpool, scoring 33 goals on the season, despite missing a host of games due to suspension. Paired with PSG’s Edinson Cavani up front, this is an absolutely lethal duo and every team to line up against this squad will have to be prepared for their speed and tireless work rate. However, Suarez is recovering from knee surgery, and while the squad is optimistic of his return, his fitness and physical condition will be a worry. Even without Suarez, Uruguay should be able to beat Costa Rica in the first match, but will likely need him to be fit and capable against both Italy and England. They have also had a difficult task in qualifying, requiring a play-off after finishing 5th in South America. Had Brazil been involved in qualifications, Uruguay would not likely be in the tournament at all. With questionable team play and worries over Suarez, Uruguay will need to hope that England struggles in the group.
England are bringing something of an interesting squad to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. While Steven Gerrard will run the midfield, stalwarts like Cole and Defoe have been left home, and younger talent in teenagers Barkley and Shaw have been brought along. Rooney is under immense pressure to perform well, and Joe Hart has experienced some controversy this season, though is still favoured by Hodgson. England also have the young new generation of midfielders in Wilshere, Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain. While the defence may be suspect, the midfield may be where England can hope to win games. Strong defensive coverage could frustrate both Uruguay and Italy, but only if they don’t stay too much on their heels and look to counter with little more than the long balls up the field. If Hodgson plays to his strengths instead of the defensive style he has historically employed and Rooney can prove his mettle on the international stage, England will surprise this group and come out of this group.
Costa Rica is seen as the “also-rans” in Group D. They have been given little hope of coming out of this group, but they should not be taken lightly as they can punish teams that refuse to pay them due respect. This is a strong defensive team, but have proven they can score against big clubs, beating both Mexico and the USA in the qualification for the World Cup. They also have the benefit of playing close to home. However, this squad will likely be outmatched by the other three sides and should have a short stint in Brazil.
Prediction: 1: Italy (7 points); 2: England (5 points); 3: Uruguay (4 points); 4: Costa Rica (0 points)
FIFA World Cup Group D Predictions Game-by-Game : Italy come first with seven points, having tied England and beating Uruguay and Costa Rica; England come second with 5 points, beating Costa Rica and tying Uruguay and Italy; Uruguay come third with four points, beating Costa Rica, tying England and losing to Italy; Costa Rica come fourth with no points, losing each game.
Commentary by Bryan A. Jones