By Andrew McGoff
The way that the drawn was done meant that some Groups stand out as being a lot harder to exit than others. If we go off FIFAs World Rankings we could see teams such as Mexico (20th), Netherlands (15th), Ivory Coast (23rd) and USA (13th) finish 3rd and go home early.
Group D includes three teams out of the top ten in the world rankings. At least one of Uruguay (7th), Italy (9th) and England (10th) will be having an early holiday (or an extended domestic pre-season!). Let’s not forget Costa Rica (ranked 28th) who are more than capable of putting a spanner in the works
With the exposure the Premier League has in NZ, England is the team (more so than Australia) that we, as kiwis, know the most about. The unpopular Roy Hodgson has assembled England’s second youngest World Cup side. The players are young and very talented and will head into matches confident in their abilities, and without the fear older colleagues might hold deep down. When Michael Owen scored his wonder goal against Argentina, at 18yrs of age, in the 1998 World Cup, a comment that stands out from the commentator at the time, was that it was down to the brashness of youth. He had no fear. Players like Raheem Sterling (19), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (20) and Ross Barkley (20) will relish the opportunity to come up against the world’s best full backs and central defenders. If this seasons EPL is anything to go by, they could have a field day.
I’m a big Liverpool fan, and we get a fair amount of (warranted) criticism for discussing the rich history of our club. However, this is a drop in the ocean compared to English fans banging on about their 1 World Cup in (all together now) 1966. Since then the Three Lions have only managed to finish in the top 4 once (4th in 1990).
In 1966 the winner of Eurovision was Austria, Fulham were relegated, Atletico Madrid won La Liga, Real Madrid won the Champions League and as we are all constantly reminded, England won the World Cup. So far in 2014, 4 out of 5 have happened again which gives England fans a glimmer of hope that this could be their year.
The first ever World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930 and was won by the host nation. They won it again (in Brazil!) in 1950 and came 4th in 2010. Uruguay are the current Copa America champions surprisingly beating Argentina 5-1 in the Quarter Finals. They will be the team that is the least out of their comfort zone in Brazil. With players such as Diego Forlan, Edison Cavani, Diego Godin, Martin Caceres and the world’s best player, Luis Suarez, they will be a formidable force.
Whilst they are not being talked about as being a contender for this tournament, you just can’t count Italy out. They are one of the giants of this tournament having won it 4 times and most recently in 2012 they reached the final of the Euros. Italy got it wrong in 2010 by fielding an aging squad to finish 4th behind New Zealand. According to the TAB they are the favorites to win Group D.
You can’t help but feel Costa Rica are here to make up the numbers, appearing in only their 4th World Cup. They are massive underdogs, but as New Zealand showed in 2010, they could still play their part in ruining the tournament for someone in the Group.
Last Chance to Impress
This will be the last tournament for a few of the big names in football.
35 year old Andrea Pirlo ‘The Architect’ is a joy to watch when he is in full flight. He controls the tempo of games, takes a mean free kick, and knows what it is like to win. This is most certainly his last World Cup. When he does hang up his boots he will likely be remembered as one of Italy’s best ever players.
England’s captain, Steven Gerrard, will be hungry for more success in his 3rd and final World Cup. He is the heart beat of the side and will play a key role in whether England make it past the group stage and progress deep into this tournament.
Last: Costa Rica
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Also in this series; Group A