The fourth World Cup group to be previewed here at Fred Stanley Sport is Group D, which of course features England as they attempt to add a second World Cup crown 48 years after securing their first. Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica will attempt to thwart Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, however, and Group D promises to be fiercely competitive later this month in Brazil.
Best Finish – Winners (1930, 1950)
Odds – 33/1
Two-time winners Uruguay will be confident of emulating their effort in South Africa four years ago, when they somewhat controversially reached the semi-finals after Luis Suarez‘s infamous handball against Ghana cost the Africa side dearly. The Liverpool striker will hope to make the headlines for all the right reasons in Brazil, however, and after the season he enjoyed for the Reds he’s in prime position to make a positive impact on the biggest stage of all. Although he’s currently recovering from a knee injury Suarez is expected to be fully fit for the start of the tournament, which would be a huge boost to a Uruguay strike force that also includes Edison Cavani. The South Americans may not be as strong in defense as they are up top but make no mistake about it – they’re one of the teams to watch this summer.
Best Finish – Last 16 (1990)
Odds – 4000/1
Costa Rica are rank outsiders for the competition, returning to the World Cup stage after an eight year absence. While their 2006 vintage contained legendary striker Paulo Wanchope, of Derby County and West Ham United fame, the current edition features former Fulham forward Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell. While they form a less formidable front line than Uruguay, for example, the duo have the potential to cause some hiccups to the three more established teams in Group D. Perhaps the biggest advantage the Costa Ricans will have in Brazil doesn’t concern talent, but their familiarity with the South American heat and humidity.
Best Finish – Winners (1966)
Odds – 28/1
Can England finally end their wait for a major trophy in Brazil? Probably not, but Roy Hodgson’s decision to select a youthful looking squad was a bold one and at least means it won’t be the usual suspects who fail to come back holding a trophy. The squad are currently acclimatising to conditions in Miami, where they’ll play two final warm-up games before heading south for Rio before their first game in Manaus against Italy. If the Three Lions are to get off to a flyer in the jungle they’ll surely need Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney to fire on all cylinders, something he has failed to do of late for both club and country. However talk of dropping the former Everton man has been premature, and while Daniel Sturridge may have been more prolific thus far in 2014 it’s Rooney who has the international pedigree that has helped make him an integral part of the national set-up for over a decade now.
Best Finish – Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Odds – 25/1
The Azzuri head to Brazil in search of a fifth World Cup crown, though they’ll find it challenging just to make it out of Group D having been dealt a tough hand in December’s draw. A strong showing at Euro 2012 should give the Italians hope; however that successful campaign was achieved in the relatively cool climes of Eastern Europe, a far cry from the South American sauna that will await them later this month. Andrea Pirlo was the star of the show for Italy two years ago and the Juventus playmaker’s relaxed style of play could suit the Brazilian conditions more than most, and if the Azzuri are to enjoy another successful World Cup they’ll need Pirlo to be at his supreme, casual best.
Uruguay v Costa Rica – June 14, Fortaleza (20.00 GMT)
England v Italy – June 14, Manaus (23.00 GMT)
Uruguay v England – June 19, Sao Paulo (20.00 GMT)
Italy v Costa Rica – June 20, Recife (17.00 GMT)
Italy v Uruguay – June 24, Natal (17.00 GMT)
Costa Rica v England – June 24, Belo Horizonte (17.00 GMT)
Who do you think will qualify from Group D in Brazil? And can England win the World Cup under Roy Hodgson? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley