World Cup Special #4: GROUP D

by Ray_North on May 24, 2014

images-1Group D: Oh yes, we’ve finally arrived at it, every World Cup has one, and this is the Brazil 2014 version – The Group of Death. Le Groupe De Mort, oh yes. And, what makes it more fascinating for those of an English persuasion is that it involves England, it involves Italy and it involves Louis Suarez (fingers crossed).

So, let’s look at the runners and the riders and let’s start with Costa Rica Whipping boys? No chance – think that and you will end up with turnips all over your face (I love making up my own cliches) and England will be hoping that by the time they face the Ticos in Manaus on the 24th June, they will have taken a couple of points at least off the more fancied Italians and Uruguayans. And of course, it is possible – Costa Rico qualified fairly comfortably with a couple of defeats along the way against Honduras and USA and since qualification their form has been unspectacular losing against Chile and South Korea.

The gaffer is the highly experienced diminutive Colombian Jorge Louis Pinto, and he has built his team around the former Fulham schemer Brian Ruiz – who didn’t really set the Premier League on fire, but has undoubted talent. They will be served by the Spanish based goalie Nevas and the New York centre half Roy Miller. But, even though they did once beat Scotland in a World Cup match, I expect them to find this group too exacting. Unknown-1

Player to watch Joel Campbell. (pictured) Fast direct with two good feet.

Moving slightly south of Costa Rica and you come to Uruguay. Uruguay have a tremendous world cup pedigree – winners in 1930 and, famously winners again in 1950 when they beat the host nation Brazil in a final in front of half a million people at the Maracana (I may be exaggerating the attendance slightly) in a match which caused such a massive bout of national mourning that for a while it was thought that the whole Republic of Brazil might simply disintegrate.

The manager is another experienced old campaigner Oscar Tabarez who has now been in charge for 8 years – which says a great deal about his abilities – a warning to England fans: HE KNOWS WHAT HE”S DOING! But, saying that, he will have been having sleepless nights in the last week since his one truly World Class player Louis Suarez went down like a sack in training with a torn meniscus – Uruguayans have been holding vigils to pray for his knee, and no doubt a few Scousers have had a word with the gods of football upstairs as well.

But, the team is not just about Louis Suarez – Edison Cavani is no slouch either, whilst the midfield of Diego Perez and Christian Rodriguez are vastly experienced and remain from the Uruguay team that reached the semis in South Africa. Whilst Diego Forlan might be wrong side of 35, but he still knows the way to goal.

If Uruguay have a weakness it’s at the back where the vastly experience skipper Lugano may lack a bit of pace.

I have to say as a Welshman, I’m glad I’m not facing them at the World Cup! If Suarez is fit, it’s difficult to see them not progressing through the group stage.

Unknown-3Player to watch – if Louis isn’t fit then this may give a chance to Palermo striker Abel Hernandez (pictured – one for the girls!) who has scored 7 goals in 11 international starts!

Italy. One of the rules of the World Cup is that the Italians always do well. Ok, they don’t always win, but apart from the last tournament when they crashed to defeat against Slovakia (prompting David Pleat immortal commentary, ‘and that as they say in Rome, is au-revouir’. Genius), they are always strong, difficult to beat and able to raise their game when they need to. The current manager is the elegant, perfectly bouffed, Cesare Prandelli – and he has spent the last four years re-building the Italians. They qualified without losing a match and now have a team that will carefully hold the ball and let the class of Andre Pirlo pull the strings from deep where Di Rossi will happily run around for him. Buffon is still between the sticks and the back four, though no longer boasting the likes of Maldini or Cabrini, will now how to deal with all but the cleverest attacks – but my sneaking suspicion about Italy is that they lack firepower – personally I’ve never been convinced by either Ballotelli or Cassani and Guiseppe Rossi wasn’t discarded by Sir Alex for nothing. I have a hunch, that Italy may fall at the first hurdle, particularly if England can catch them cold in the ‘match of death’ on the 14th June.

Player to watch – look out for Mattio Di Sciglio who I’m told is the new Maldini. Unknown-4

Which brings me to England. Ah England. I can’t tell you great it is to be Welsh, when watching some callow, nervous young Englishman pick up the ball and walk up the pitch during the inevitable bi-annual England World Cup Summer Penalty Shoot-out Fiasco – knowing that the poor sod, hasn’t got the slightest chance of putting the ball into the back of the net. Bless you all! I don’t mind admitting, that I’ll be supporting the English – how could I not with five Liverpool players in the squad.

And, I have to say, I’m strangely excited by the prospect of watching the English this Summer – Roy Hodgson may be about to stumble upon a fairly decent team. Steve Gerrard’s incarnation into a world class sweeper/holding midfielder, is perfect for international football, whilst the pace of Sterling, Sturridge and the Ox, plus the guile of Wilshire and Rooney, may mean that England will reward the patient nation with a bit of a World Cup Odessey this June. How far it will go, will depend upon a number of factors – injuries being one of them, Cahill and Jagielga look ok at the centre of defence, but an injury to one of them, and England may struggle – similarly, if Gerrard is knackered, then suddenly the midfield looks a bit bereft – his presence will be crucial to the performance of the youngsters.

images-2As I say though, I have a good feeling about this England team and can see Raheem Sterling proving an absolute handful for defences who won’t know much about him – I’ll also be watching out for Ross Barklay who really does have everything to become a World Class midfielder.

I’ve got a feeling…….

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East May 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Unlike your other group posts, no prediction of how the group will end….


Ray_North May 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm

I’m going to get my crystal ball out nearer the time – but, my prediction for this group is:
1.. England
2. Uruguay
3. Italy
4. Los Ticos


George_East May 24, 2014 at 8:11 pm

A brave call that!


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