As we continue our preview of the teams heading to Brazil for the World Cup, it’s time to look at one of the tougher groups in the tournament; Group D. It includes Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay.
Costa Rica has a mountain to climb if they are going to make it out of the group stages. First, they find themselves in a brutal group with three nations that have each previously won the World Cup. Second is the fact that Costa Rica will be without influential forward Alvaro Saborio and midfielder Bryan Oviedo due to injuries.
Jorge Luis Pinto is in his second stint as manager of Costa Rica. Pinto has also managed the Colombian national team as well as a number of clubs in Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. This is the first time he will be taking a national team to the World Cup.
Costa Rica is particularly strong on defense and they will be relying heavily on goalkeeper Keylor Navas who plays for Levante in Spain’s La Liga.
Other key players include two forwards Joel Campbell on loan from Arsenal to Olympiacos and Bryan Ruiz on loan from Fulham to PSV Eindhoven.
The English media can be brutal and the national team received a lot of criticism for its play at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Finishing second in their group behind the United States was deemed an embarrassment.
This time out the media has not built up the public’s expectations as England finds itself in a strong group and the heat of Brazil is not something that the English side is used to. In fact, manager Rod Hodgson caused a bit of a stir when he complained about England’s first match taking place in the Amazon city of Manaus.
Striker Wayne Rooney is seen as England’s best striker. However, England has several young forwards that could be dangerous as well. They include Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool, Danny Welbeck of Manchester United and Rickie Lambert of Southampton.
The England squad also includes some very experienced players such as midfielders Steven Gerrard of Liverpool and Frank Lampard from Chelsea.
The Italians won the World Cup in 2006 in a final that will always be remembered for the Zinedine Zidane head butt. In 2010 they finished last in their group without even recording a win. This time out, the real Italy should show up.
The Italians will benefit from the fact that many of their players also play together at the club level. The squad includes six players from Italian champions Juventus and three each from AC Milan, Torino and Paris Saint-Germain.
Head coach Cesare Prandelli is well respected and has an impressive resume in Italian football. He was a midfielder for 15 seasons followed by 13 years as a manager at the club level. He has managed the Italian national team since 2010.
Key players for Italy include 35-year-old Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo and AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
The last time Uruguay won the World Cup they defeated Brazil in the final held in Rio de Janeiro. That was in 1950, but in this football mad part of the world you can bet that this current Uruguay side are looking at that result as motivation.
Head coach Oscar Tabarez has a lot of weapons at his disposal. Leading the line will be Louis Suarez, the Professional Footballers' Association player of the year for 2013-14. Suarez is in the form of his life and is a constant threat.
Suarez will be joined up front by PSG’s Edison Cavani and veteran forward Diego Forlan.
Another key player is central defender Diego Godin. Godin is great on the ball at either end. He scored the decisive goal against Barcelona that gave his club, Atletico Madrid its first title in 18 years.
Group D should provide some great matches.
Next time we’ll take a look at Group E: Ecuador, France, Honduras and Switzerland.
Past Group Previews: