Group D is likely to be the stage of disappointment for one World Cup heavyweight. This Group is contested by 3 star teams, along with an underrated prospect. The 4 teams that contest the group are Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy.
Luis Suarez has undergone knee surgery and may be out for the entire Group Stages. We will be monitoring the situation, and if he doesn’t make it, he will be replaced by Diego Forlan.
Uruguay was the dark horse in the last World Cup, and they were fantastic, winning in a tough group that was contested by hosts South Africa and contenders Mexico and France. They then outscored South Korea in a goal fest and defeated African heroes’ Ghana in a very controversial match. Placing 4th in the World Cup, they will be hoping to finish 3 spots higher this time around. Last time the World Cup was played in Brazil, in 1950, Uruguay beat the Brazilians in a shocking final that haunts the Brazilians 64 years later. Star strikers such as Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will hope to recreate this result for Uruguay, along with some help from world-class Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin. The first step to being World Cup Champions may be the hardest for Uruguay.
Costa Rica are arguably the most underrated side in the tournament, and they have executed wins against Klinsmann’s USA thanks to a perfect defensive setup. In the final round of the qualification process, they only conceded 7 goals in 10 games, as stated on Wikipedia and FIFA’s websites, and they could pull off 2 shutouts and a lucky win to advance. Along with their disciplined defence, they also have Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell to help provide a threat in attacking areas.
England fans have expected more than what their country is capable of for years, and it has ended in disappointment each and every time. This year, they have been drawn into a group where they aren’t favourites to even advance, and this has put England fans in despair. Because of this, people have overlooked the English squad that has everything needed to pull the stops if manager Roy Hodgson can play it correctly. They have stars and veterans such as Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. Players who are some of the best in the World at their position are unknown outside England, such as Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines. The youngsters in England are the icing on the cake. Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere will all play their part as England tries to recreate the glory they once tasted in 1966.
Italy has been, for a long time, the country with the best overall centre-midfielders and defenders. Looking at Italy’s squad, they are often misjudged as one that is ageing, because of stars such as Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Antonio Cassano, who are still fantastic players, debatably just as good as before. In reality, they have a tank full of steam and young stars such as Mattia de Sciglio, Mario Balotelli, Marco Veratti, Ciro Immobile, Mario Balotelli and more. Whether they can have the same glory as in 2006 or not is a question, but they ceratinly have the best squad in the group by a distance.
Strengths by Position:
There are 3 fantastic Goalkeepers in the group. Gianluigi Buffon is still a fantastic shot-stopper, even in his mid to late 30s, and Joe Hart made a fantastic recovery after a bad stretch of form for Manchester City. Fernando Muslera deserves a shout as well, even though he isn’t one of the best in the world. Keylor Navas also warrants a mention, after a stellar season for Levante.
1. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy
2. Joe Hart, England
3. Keylor Navas, Costa Rica
4. Fernando Mulsera, Uruguay
Leighton Baines is an excellent left-back in the Fullback position, and with Kyle Walker at his side, England has a formidable fullback duo. Mattia de Sciglio deserves a shout for Italy, while Ignazio Abate has speed that is not matched by any player in the Group, especially because Theo Walcott is injured for England.
1. Leighton Baines, England
2. Mattia de Sciglio, Italy
3. Ignazio Abate, Italy
4. Kyle Walker, England
Centre Backs are a fundamental part of the core in most starting 11s today. Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli form one of the best centre back duos in the world, and Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are a very underrated duo, and so are Diego Godin and Martin Caceres.
1. Diego Godin, Uruguay
2. Andrea Barzagli, Italy
3. Gary Cahill, England
4. Giorgio Chiellini, Italy
5. Phil Jagielka, England
6. Martin Caceres, Uruguay
Anchor-Defensive Midfielders keep the team connected. Often without them, teams split in 2. Andrea Pirlo is still fantastic, and he is the best in the world at splitting other teams in half. Steven Gerrard has coped with loss of pace (because of age) by transforming into this role, in a fantastic switch for him.
1. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
2. Steven Gerrard, England
Box-to-Box Central Midfielders are engines of the team, and are the only players who contribute equally to both attack and defence. Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio are likely to start from Italy’s pool of fantastic players in this area, and regardless of whether Jack Wilshere or Jordan Henderson starts for England, they have a very formidable option.
1. Claudio Marchisio, Italy
2. Daniele De Rossi, Italy
3. Jack Wilshere/Jordan Henderson, England
Attacking Midfielders and Number 10s are responsible for making plays and being the main providers in attack. Italy does not play any of these, whereas Wayne Rooney and Adam Lallana will be great in the position for England. Gaston Ramirez also deserves a mention, despite not being in great form since his transfer to Southampton.
1. Wayne Rooney, England
2. Adam Lallana, England
3. Gaston Ramirez, Uruguay
Wingers/Wide Forwards/Inverted Wingers are the attacking threats on the wing. Teaming up with the fullbacks, the best wingers are great at crossing, shooting and have immense pace. Raheem Sterling is great at the young age of 19, and he is the only major winger in the group. Bryan Ruiz is the other winger that could be on the headlines in the Group.
1. Raheem Sterling, England
2. Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica
Strikers hit all the headlines for the goals they score. Most of them have only that job. Luis Suarez plays more as a false nine, but they still have a similar job. Suarez is the 2nd best player in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment. Edinson Cavani is also one of the best players in the world, and Daniel Sturridge was the 2nd highest scorer in the EPL behind Liverpool teammate and group rival Luis Suarez. Mario Balotelli is extremely temperamental and inconsistent, but on his day (1 in 4) he is the best player on the pitch.
1. Luis Suarez, Uruguay
2. Edinson Cavani, Uruguay
3. Daniel Sturridge, England
4. Mario Balotelli, Italy
Matchups and Predictions:
You can expect to see 6 fantastic fixtures in Group D. Take a look at the match previews and predictions for each fixture.
Uruguay vs Costa Rica:
Uruguay need to go into this match expecting that Italy and England will take 3 points from Costa Rica. Costa Rica need to enter the match believing this is their only chance to get points in the group.
Uruguay mismatch Costa Rica and win across the pitch here. Although Costa Rica’s defence is quite good, it doesn’t weigh up to the Uruguayan attack.
Prediction: Uruguay 2-0 Costa Rica; Goals, Cavani, Suarez; MOTM Suarez
In a fantastic match for Uruguay, they will convince many that they will win the Group.
England vs Italy:
In the entire Group Stages, there probably isn’t a match that will be so affected by the climate. Both teams will be playing in the dry and very hot area of Manaus. Expect England to favour a rugged approach and for Italy to try and hold possession in a tiki taka style.
Italy Defence: The matchups for Italy’s back 5 are almost even. Giorgio Chiellini beats Daniel Sturridge in the centre of the park, and Wayne Rooney beats Andrea Barzagli. Adam Lallana (or James Milner) beats Ignazio Abate, and Mattia de Sciglio is evenly met by Raheem Sterling. Italy should win here, because of the climate and because of Andrea Pirlo at CDM.
England Defence: Matchups are similar here. England win on both wings, with Kyle Walker and Leighton Baines doing very well, and Balotelli and Marchisio will be challenged quite well by Cahill, Jagielka and Gerrard. Expect England to win here by some distance.
Italy destroy England’s midfield, and Italy have a better goalkeeper.
Prediction: England 0-0 Italy; MOTM Pirlo
Pirlo will control the match entirely, but Italy won’t beat the English defence in a match where the entire pitch will be deflated.
Uruguay vs England:
England will only take 1 point from their first match, so they will go for the 3 here. Uruguay will also need the 3 points to try and secure a place in the next round.
Uruguay Defence: Uruguay’s Diego Godin will most likely be challenged to stop Wayne Rooney, in a great tactical battle. Martin Caceres will need to stop Raheem Sterling, which is tough for him, and Maximiliano Pereira will greatly struggle to stop Adam Lallana. Expect this tactical battle to decide the match.
England Defence: Gary Cahill will look to prevent Luis Suarez from doing much, and he will greatly struggle. Phil Jagielka won’t provide a match for Edinson Cavani. Expect Uruguay to destroy here.
England, otherwise, win across the pitch. Expect them to outplay the Uruguayan midfield.
Prediction: Uruguay 3-2 England; Goals, Cavani (2), Godin, Gerrard, Sturridge; MOTM Cavani
A great effort from England won’t trump the mismatch at their defensive end. This will be a score fest, and expect Rooney to underwhelm, as well as Suarez. You can also expect Cavani to step up here.
Costa Rica vs Italy:
Costa Rica will need to draw this match to stay in it, whereas after Uruguay beat England, an Italy win will eliminate Costa Rica, along with ensuring that Italy will only need a point to advance.
Italy win across the pitch here. Expect a promising performance to get them close to advancing to the next round.
Prediction: Italy 2-0 Costa Rica; Goals, Balotelli, Pirlo; MOTM Balotelli
Italy will almost ensure they are in the next round with Uruguay, in a convincing match. Pirlo will score a stunning free kick.
England vs Costa Rica:
England need this win, and will play everything. Can Costa Rica end it early? Let`s find out.
England will win across the pitch, and Costa Rica won’t win a tactical battle in the entire group.
Prediction: England 2-0 Costa Rica; Goals, Rooney (2); MOTM Rooney
Rooney will be the hero England have always wanted him to be and he will score his 1st World Cup goal. But will Rooney’s heroics kick in too late?
Italy vs Uruguay:
Italy will need 1 point to secure their place in the next round. Other than that, this is a fight for 1st, as Uruguay`s style doesn’t counter Colombia’s well, in the hypothetical Round of 16 fixture.
Italy Defence: Italy and Uruguay will have a face-off in their strongest areas. Uruguay`s attackers beat Italy`s centre-backs, but just barely. A combination of Chiellini, Barzagli and Pirlo may just be enough to beat the Uruguayans. This tactical battle will decide the match.
Other than that, Italy win across the pitch. Expect a game reminiscent of the 3rd place match in the Confederations Cup.
Prediction: Italy 1-1 Uruguay; Goals, Marchisio, Suarez; MOTM Chiellini
A fantastic performance from the Italy defence will ensure they are in the next round.
Final Prediction Table:
Uruguay, 7pts, +3 GD
Italy, 5pts, +2 GD
England, 4pts, +1 GD
Costa Rica, 0pts, -6 GD
Uruguay will advance in 1st and help Italy win their battle with England for 2nd. No one will stop the Uruguayan attack.
Match Schedule for Group D (Eastern Time):
Uruguay vs Costa Rica: June 14, 3pm
England vs Italy: June 14, 6pm
Uruguay vs England: June 19, 3pm
Italy vs Costa Rica: June 20, 12pm
Costa Rica vs England: June 24, 12pm
Italy vs Uruguay: June 24, 12pm
Will Uruguay and Italy advance? We never know when it comes to the World Cup. Find out by watching this exciting group at the World Cup and continuously tuning into my reports.