Group D features my favorite squad and yours, Uruguay, as well as Italy, England and Costa Rica. Unlike Group C, this one will be competitive because it might have too many great teams in it. England, Uruguay and Italy are all former champions, and they’re eager to deliver another title to their fans.
National Anthem: Orientales, la Patria o la Tumba
Coach: Óscar Tabárez
Best Showing at A World Cup: Champions 1930 and 1950
I’m going to be devoting an entire article to Uruguay, so there’s not much of a need to get into them here. The keys to their tournament are going to be whether or not Luis Suárez is at full strength after undergoing arthroscopic surgery just 23 days before Uruguay’s first game, whether or not Edinson Cavani can finally step into the international spotlight like he has on the club level, the goalkeeping of Fernando Muslera and if the team can keep from suffering the defensive lapses they suffered periodically throughout qualifying.
I’ll be rooting for Uruguay to win this whole tournament, so clearly I’m picking them to advance past this round.
National Anthem: Noble Patria, tu Hermosa Bandera
Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Best Showing at A World Cup: Round of 16, 1990
Costa Rica is going to be the most overlooked team in this group, and that might work to their advantage. They made the World Cup by finishing second in the CONCACAF “Hex” qualifying with 18 points. Their game is built almost entirely on defense. During qualifying, they went 476 minutes without allowing a goal at one point. They struggle with time of possesion and scoring, but the defense will keep them in a lot of games.
The key player for Costa Rica is captain Bryan Ruiz, an attacking midfielder who plays for Fulham of the EPL. When he’s on his game, he will create a lot of problems for opposing defenses. Another notable is forward Joel Campbell, who is currently on loan to Olympiacos in Greece via Arsenal.
If Italy or England falter, and Uruguay doesn’t get Súarez back, Costa Rica could sneak into the next round. Stranger things have happened.
National Anthem: God Save the Queen
Coach: Roy Hodgson
Best Showing at A World Cup: Winners 1966
England fans are riding pretty high after the qualifying period because their boy won the European qualifying Group H and went undefeated in the process. In 2010, they barely snuck out of the group stage with 5 points (along with the United States). They have a reputation of finding ways to lose on the big stage (except for 1966, of course). Can they overcome it?
If they are going to make a big impact in this World Cup, it’s all going to go through the feet of Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool star put up one of his best seasons in the EPL, but he’s 34. England will keep him in the midfield so that they can utilize his great passing skills and rest his legs at the same time. The other important player for England is Wayne Rooney, who seems like he’s been the face of this team for 20 years, despite only being 28. He’s always struggled to stay healthy on the big tournaments, but he’s been doing well so far.
England has a good chance to be one of the two teams that make it out of this group, but they might need some help from Uruguay and Italy to make it through.
National Anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Best Showing at A World Cup: Winners, 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006
Italy made it to the dance by winning the European qualifying Group B, proving that, once again, they are ready to make an impact on the World Cup. They had a tough go in 2010, not making it out of the Group Stage and not even winning any games, and they’re hoping to redeem themselves in Brazil.
One thing Italy has on their side is experience. Goalie Gianluigi Buffon might be 35, but he’s still at the top of his game. Other guys, like Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini and Daniele De Rossi have played in multiple world cups as well, so they won’t be shy on the big stage. Pirlo is the one who runs the offense from the middle of the field. Even though he’s getting older, he’s still the man on the national squad.
The guy everyone will be watching is explosive striker Mario Balotelli. Balotelli is one of the most polarizing figures in the World Cup. You either love him, or you hate him. He’s the type of guy that has the talent to win games by himself, but he’s also just as likely to get thrown off the pitch for doing something stupid. I can’t wait to see how far he carries Italy in this World Cup.
I’m clearly reserving one of these spots for Uruguay. If that surprises you, you haven’t been reading Jobu’s Rum for very long. The other spot, I think, is a tossup between England and Italy. That being said, I wouldn’t count Costa Rica’s defense fully out of anything. However, final predictions must be made, and I choose Italy. Uruguay and Italy move on to the next round.
Featured image courtesy of: Getty Images
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