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FIFA World Cup 2014: Preview and Predictions - Group D

A Winter's Tale

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Group D is another of the very close and competitive groups in the world cup. Uruguay, Italy and England are more then decent international sides but not absolutely top quality. They all have their key players and styles which can cause problems to and hurt other teams but they also have their inconsistencies and weak points that the very best teams can exploit. Whoever goes through will give any team cause for concern. Fine margins could separate joyous success from total failure - but is anyone's guess as to will be the team to fall short. I actually fancy England who have improved from recent years and their young, attacking players to overcome their opponents and go through as group winners. It is impossible to decide between Italy and Uruguay. You can never rule out Italy and Luis Suarez of Uruguay is recovering from injury and his team at the back are weak. I expect geographical advantage to prevail and for Uruguay to go through. But this is such a close group where one incident, goal, decision or game could make all the difference and define the outcome. Central American's Costa Rica, who are an unknown quantity, I suspect they could be a difficult team to overcome and they might have their say on who goes through, but ultimately they should finish bottom.

England go into this World Cup with lower expectations, but with greater progress and a stronger, more exciting squad than Euro 2012 and the the World Cup four years ago. There seems to be greater potential and material for creativity, pace, skill and exciting directness - particularly in midfield and attack - which could make England more adept to playing and approaching football in a slightly more modern and progressive style. There is hope for England's future but they have been there before - around 15 years ago - and there are hurdles standing in their way: young players aren't the finish article and England hasn't got a great history of laying out and playing to a cohesive, identified philosophy. Nevertheless, the material is there for the future and at this World Cup England does have the weaponry to hurt their opponents - if unleashed and given support and integration. All of England's players are based in Britain: 22 from England (5 from Liverpool, 4 from Manchester United, 3 from Everton and Southampton, 2 from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and 1 from West Brom) and 1 from Scotland (Celtic). Perhaps England's star man in the captain Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney is their best player but he has failed to deliver in his previous two World Cups and has been drifting in and out of games recently. Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool might be an even more important and effective player with his goalscoring abilities and pace. England have got good material in attacking and young players such as Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkely, and if given enough freedom and time, could make a huge difference, but at the same time, perhaps other international teams might be smart enough to cut off the supply of balls to these players and the space for them to move into. England's defence is pretty solid, with Gary Cahill being the leader in central defence alongside Jagielka. England are decent going forward in wide areas but Baines can be suspect at his defensive duties whilst Johnson could be even more of a weak point defensively and going forward he isn't the greatest of crossers or passers. Joe Hart should be a fairly reliable goalkeeper. The determination of England's fate will come down to how the team gels and copes, rather than the individuals (although a couple of outstanding performances could change a game). A young, experimental team could either be boom or boost (perhaps both could be a theme in the World Cup, or even in a single game) and after another long Premier League season, playing in a South American World Cup against tricky opposition could be a little too much for England to deal with. I think England could be just about to embark on a surprisingly good World Cup. I think they'll be too good for their opponents and will negotiate a way to the quarter finals, but there certain flaws or factors which could stand in their way if Uruguay and Italy perform to their best.

Uruguay are a team with the capabilities to go far. In South Africa they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and shortly afterwards won the Copa America. However, in the Olympics and Confederations Cup they came up short and generally failed to impress. And they only just qualified via a play-off. They aren't renowned as a great team defensively but they have got good quality upfront but Suarez isn't fit, Cavani is hit and miss and Forlan is probably past it. I do have my doubts about whether they can match their achievements of recent times, but when it all comes together for Uruguay, they are a formidable team and in a South American World Cup, I think they should go through. Uruguay's squad is made up with: 5 from Italy (Juventus, Lazio, Parma, Bologna, Palermo); 4 from Spain (3 from Athletico Madrid, 1 from Espanyol); 3 from England (Liverpool, Southampton, West Brom), Brazil (Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Vasco du Gama); 2 from Portugal (Porto and Benfica); 1 from Uruguay (Nacional), Turkey (Galatasaray), Paraguay (Libertad), Japan (Cerezo Osaka), Mexico (Morelia), France (PSG). If fit, Luis Suarez will be their most important player but if not then their star man will be Edinson Cavani who is strong physically, quick and can be a lethal finisher but not always consistent. Uruguay can add to their attack with the full backs and some of the midfielders but sometimes they lack creativity in midfield. Despite having the excellent Diego Godin, Uruguay are quite weak defensively, especially with Diego Lugano and other teams could hurt Uruguay in this position. But all in all, I think they will go through and they could grow stronger as the World Cup goes on - quarter-finals could be possible.

Italy seemed to have improved from the ageing team and subsequent disastrous attempt of retaining their World title in 2010. Since then, there are still older players, but most should still be effective and there are some fresher and younger players. Italy reaching the final of Euro 2012 showed that despite they were not a fancied team on paper, on the football field they absolutely knew how to get a job done and there were key individuals who can change a game. It's difficult to tell whether Italy have improved much since then, but more or less there are at the same level but they will have greater confidence within their squad. They will always have a good game plan which can contain and stop the best qualities about other teams, and Italy always has the threat of snatching a goal or a win out of nothing. I expect them to have a solid campaign and be difficult to play against but I suspect the attacking qualities of England Uruguay aswell as the conditions will overcome them. Buy you can never rule Italy out and if they do go through, they will be a tricky team who could negotiate a way deep into the World Cup. Their squad: 20 from Italy (6 from Juventus, 3 from Milan, Torino, Parma, 1 from Napoli, Lazio, Roma, Florientina, Genoa), 3 from France (PSG). Andrea Pirlo at 35 is still their star man with his magnificent and classy way of conducting and play-making in midfield and picking out fine passes. But as always with Italy, they are greater than sum of their parts. If Balotelli plays like he did at Euro 2012, then that will give Italy another dimension but Italy's downfall could come down to a lack of goals and perhaps a more vulnerable defence.

Costa Rica are at their first World Cup since 2006 and will come into Group D with low expectations as the underdogs but will also have a relaxed mindset. It will be interesting to see how the central Americans will do in a South American World Cup. Costa Rica, are relatively unknown but I suspect like Honduras, they will be pretty defensive but they should be a difficult team to break down - only conceded 7 goals in 10 qualifiers - and they might have some punch on the counter attack, especially with star man Bryan Ruiz and also the pacey Olympiakos player Joel Campbell - which gives them greater attacking material than the likes of Honduras The Levante goalkeeper is also a fantastic shot stopper and has a magnificent season in La Liga. Their squad: 9 from Costa Rica (4 from Herediano, 2 from Saprissa, Alajuelense, 1 from Cartagines); 3 from USA (2 from Colombus Crew, 1 from New York Red Bulls); 3 from Norway (Rosenborg, Aalesund, Valerenga); 1 from Belgium (Club Brugge), Spain (Levante), Sweden (AIK), Denmark (Copenhagen), Greece (Olympiakos), Netherlands (PSV), Germany (Mainz), Russia (Kuban Krasnodar). Certainly a team who could spin a surprise or two and perhaps shape the outcome of the group.


[color=rgb(51,51,51)][font=arial]Key games:[/font][/color]

[color=rgb(51,51,51)][font=arial]England v Italy, 14th June - 11pm: A battle between two teams who might cancel each other out.[/font][/color]
[color=rgb(51,51,51)][font=arial]Uruguay v England, 19th June - 8pm: A crucial game where whoever wins should go through.[/font][/color]
[color=rgb(51,51,51)][font=arial]Italy v Uruguay, 24th June - 5pm: It could be a group decider but at the same time, it might be that a draw puts either side through.[/font][/color]

[color=rgb(51,51,51)][font=arial]Predictions:[/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][size=2][background=rgb(248,241,243)]Group D:[/background][/size][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Uruguay[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 2-1 Costa Rica, 14[sup]th[/sup] June @ 8pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]England[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-0 Italy, 14[sup]th[/sup] June @ 11pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Uruguay[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-2 England, 19[sup]th[/sup] June @ 8pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Italy[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-0 Costa Rica, 20[sup]th[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Costa Rica[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-2 England, 24[sup]th[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Italy[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-2 Uruguay, 24[sup]th[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]

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