World Cup Profiles - Group D

Group D

This is likely to be the final shot at World Cup glory for Oscar Tabarez’s aging Uruguay side.
A repeat of the 2010 campaign where they finished third behind Spain and Holland would be deemed a success, but if they are to achieve this, star man Luis Suarez will have to stay fit.
The Liverpool hitman has developed impressively since the last World Cup and is coming off the best season of his career. He missed two qualifiers – a narrow 1-0 win over Venezuela and a 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Colombia. The latter result provided a warning of how things could go in Brazil if Suarez were to get injured or suspended.
Uruguay will have to guard against a lack of pace at the back, with Diego Lugano well into the twilight of his career, and hope that they can slip Suarez in on the break.
The Copa America holders endured a slow start to the qualifying campaign. Uruguay were seventh going into the final third of the qualifying campaign but that win away to Venezuela, a 2-1 triumph in Peru and a dramatic home win over Colombia turned things around. They were edged out of a top four spot by Ecuador on the final day meaning a play-off with Jordan, which they ultimately sailed through 5-0 on aggregate, with all the goals coming in the first-leg.
Uruguay have a proud history. They have won the World Cup twice and been champions of their continent 15 times – including at present.

How they qualified
Buoyed by their fourth place finish at South Africa 2010 and their Copa America triumph a year later, La Celeste went into the South American qualifying competition for Brazil 2014 as firm favourites to progress. Their plans were hampered in 2012, however, when they collected just two points out of a possible 18. The Uruguayans recovered their poise just in time, eventually edging into fifth and booking a place in the intercontinental play-offs for the fourth time in a row. Waiting for them there were Jordan, who were no match for Uruguay in the first leg in Amman, which ended in a 5-0 win for the visitors. Defending that lead comfortably in a goalless draw back in Montevideo, the Uruguayans made sure of their berth in Brazil.

World Cup history
Prior to the 1970s, when they began a lengthy period in the doldrums, Uruguay were widely regarded as one of the giants of world football. That status was founded on their two FIFA World Cup wins, the first of them coming at home in 1930 and the second in Brazil 20 years later, when they stunned the host nation with a shock 2-1 win at the Maracana, an epoch-defining game that will forever be known as El Maracanazo. Their run to the semi-finals at Mexico 1970 would be their last flourish for some considerable time, however.
In the years that followed the Uruguayans appeared only infrequently in the global showpiece. After failing to qualify for USA 1994 and France 1998, La Celeste made their return at Korea/Japan 2002 only to go out in the group phase and then lose out to Australia in the play-off for a place at Germany 2006.
Another play-off followed in the qualifiers for South Africa 2010, this time against Costa Rica and this time safely negotiated. In what was their 11th world finals, the Uruguayans brought back memories of yesteryear by surging to fourth place, with the inspirational Diego Forlan making off with the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player.

Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Rodrigo Munoz (Libertad)
Defenders: Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica), Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion), Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez (both Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool), Martin Caceres (Juventus), Jorge Fucile (Porto)
Midfielders: Alvaro Gonzalez (Lazio), Alvaro Pereira (Sao Paulo), Walter Gargano (Parma), Egidio Arevalo Rios (Morelia), Diego Perez (Bologna), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton), Nicolas Lodeiro (Botafogo)
Forwards: Luis Suarez (Liverpool), Edinson Cavani (Paris St Germain), Abel Hernandez (Palermo), Diego Forlan (Cerezo Osaka), Christian Stuani (Espanyol)

The key players
Strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have become the standard bearers for Uruguayan football and the national team over the last couple of years. The Liverpool man ended the South American preliminaries as the leading scorer with 11 goals, and was the second most-used player by coach Oscar Tabarez. The deadly duo have plenty of ballast behind them, with the vastly experienced pair of Diego Lugano and Diego Godin directing rearguard operations with aplomb, and Fernando Muslera providing a safe pair of hands between the posts. Even so, after an often-troubled qualifying campaign El Maestro Tabarez will no doubt be looking to shuffle his pack and build up some momentum ahead of Brazil 2014.

The Coach: Oscar Tabarez
The veteran is in his second spell in charge and likely to adopt a cautious game plan in Brazil. There will be much reliance on the counterattack, and the finishing abilities of Suarez and Edinson Cavani, whose work rate is impressive, whether playing through the centre or further wide. Tabarez guided Uruguay to the 2011 Copa America and fourth place in the World Cup four years ago.

Prediction: Knockout Stages
This will be the last major tournament for much of this squad and the draw in December was not particularly kind to them, as they face Italy, England and Costa Rica. Tabarez’s men should get the better of Costa Rica and Italy but are likely to finish second in the group with England expected to pip them for top spot.

Quick Facts:
FIFA Ranking: 6th
Best World Cup Result: Winners (1930 and 1950)
Best Copa America Result: Winners (1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011)
Record Scorer: Luis Suarez
Most Capped Player: Diego Forlan
Captain: Diego Lugano

Group Matches:
Saturday, June 14, 2014 v Costa Rica (Fortaleza)
Thursday, June 19, 2014 v England (Sao Paulo)
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 v Italy (Natal)

England have never entered a World Cup with expectations so low.
This may work in the Three Lions’ favour, because with the reduced pressure, Roy Hodgson’s side may be able to rid themselves of the inhibitions that have hindered them in previous tournaments.
But why is there such pessimism at home?
England’s recent showings at World Cups have generally followed the pattern of a distinctly average group stage showing followed by elimination, often on penalties, at the hands of one of the world’s super-powers.
England really plumbed the depths in their 0-0 draw against Algeria in the 2010 group stages. They edged through the group and were then comprehensively beaten 4-1 by Germany in the second round. The English public fear a similar scenario, that’s if they can even get out of a fiendish group.
Hodgson’s men only really sparked to life in the final qualifiers for this tournament as they produced dynamic displays to see off Montenegro and Poland. But that optimism quickly gave way to the usual negativity that accompanies the national team when they lost back-to-back games at Wembley against Chile and Germany for the first time in 36 years.
When the draw was made in December, the doom mongers were out in force, as England were handed a group containing Euro 2012 finalists Italy, Copa America holders Uruguay, and Costa Rica.
But there is cause for optimism. The form of Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling in the 2013-14 season suggests that England have a couple of wide men who can create real problems in Brazil, while in Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere, England possess two players who would get into almost any squad.
In Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, Hodgson may no longer be able to call on a couple of world class center backs, but the pair know how to defend and Hodgson will take a solid spine with him to Brazil.
Hodgson, aware of his side’s limitations, will make England hard to beat, just as they were in qualification when they did not lose a game.
This may not be a vintage Three Lions, but Hodgson has the know-how to guide them out of the group.

How they qualified
England finished top of European Group H to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup after securing victory on the final match day against Poland, banishing the demons of four decades earlier when a draw against the same opponents saw the Three Lions miss out on the 1974 tournament.
The road to Brazil 2014 was not as smooth as their campaign to reach South Africa, where they won nine of their ten matches on the way to the 2010 finals. Even though Roy Hodgson guided his side to an undefeated campaign, automatic qualification evaded England until the final match at Wembley. Two draws against closest rivals Ukraine, as well as stalemates in Warsaw and Podogorica, left England fans nervous until captain Steven Gerrard put the home match against Poland beyond doubt with a late goal to double his side's advantage and seal qualification.

World Cup history
England have appeared at 13 editions of the FIFA World Cup, including seven of the last eight. They were below-par at South Africa in 2010, narrowly qualifying from their group with a victory in the final match against Slovenia, before being outclassed 4-1 by Joachim Low’s Germany at the Round of 16 stage. The Three Lions have been FIFA World Cup winners once, in 1966 when they were hosts, but have since suffered a succession of early exits. Sir Bobby Robson came closest to matching the achievements of Sir Alf Ramsey’s ‘Wingless Wonders’, guiding England to the semi-finals at Italy 1990 only to be knocked out on penalties by Germany.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Fraser Forster (Celtic)
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United)

The key players
Wayne Rooney remains England’s greatest threat and his seven goals in six World Cup qualifying starts underlined his importance to Roy Hodgson's side. In midfield, Gerrard and Frank Lampard provide experience and creativity while young guns Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana highlight the Three Lions' attacking flair for the future. Danny Welbeck came into his own during qualification, scoring four goals on the way to the finals, while Daniel Sturridge's emergence as one of the English Premier League's top forwards can only bolster Roy Hodgson's attacking options for Brazil.

The Coach: Roy Hodgson
The former Inter Milan and Liverpool manager likes to set his teams out to be hard to beat and hit the opposition on the counterattack. This is likely to be England’s modus operandi in the humidity of Brazil. Hodgson boasts international experience after successful spells with Switzerland and Finland earlier in his career.

Prediction: Knockout Stages
The draw was unkind to England, no doubt, but they have a reasonable chance of qualification, with the second group game against Uruguay likely to be vital. The three Lions have enough weapons in their armoury to progress to the knockout stages and could surprise many by topping the group ahead of Italy and Uruguay.

Quick Facts:
FIFA Ranking: 11th
Best World Cup Result: Winners (1966)
Best European Championship Result: Third Place (1968)
Record Scorer: Sir Bobby Charlton (49 goals between 1958 and 1970)
Most Capped Player: Peter Shilton (125 caps between 1970 and 1990)
Captain: Steven Gerrard

Group Matches:
Saturday, June 14, 2014 v Italy (Manaus)
Thursday, June 19, 2014 v Uruguay (Sao Paulo)
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 v Costa Rica (Belo Horizonte)

Italy qualified for the 2014 World Cup with two games to spare – something they have never achieved in their history.
Coach Cesare Prandelli concedes that the Azzurri are not among the three or four favorites for the tournament, but are capable of doing the heavyweights damage when at their best.
There will be little room for Italy’s traditional slow start to major tournaments as they have been pitted alongside England and Uruguay in a daunting Group D.
Prandelli fielded 40 players over the 10 qualifying games, adding weight to the argument that the former Fiorentina boss does not know his best team. The 56-year-old showed a flexibility in qualifying to respond to injuries and suspensions, but also to choose his starting 11 based on player form.
Prandelli has spoken of his desire to field top scorer in qualifying, Mario Balotelli, in attack alongside Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi. The former Villarreal star has spent much of the season on the sidelines with yet another knee injury but will enter the World Cup fresh if he can put his injury troubles behind him. His rat-like cunning and sharp finishing in the box could see him dovetail well with the more creative Balotelli.
Milan star Balotelli has been a victim of Prandelli’s insistence on a ‘code-of-conduct’ which sees players dropped from the squad for offenses committed at club level. Midfielder Daniele de Rossi has also felt Prandelli’s wrath when axed for the March friendly with Spain after punching Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi, but will be key in Brazil.
As will veteran Andrea Pirlo who continues to roll back the years for Juventus. The former Milan midfielder will be one of the best passers and free-kick takers in Brazil, even at the grand old age of 35.
Italy endured a miserable 2010 World Cup, finishing bottom of a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand. But Prandelli has installed a more attack-minded approach and the Azzurri were a delight to watch as they reached the final of Euro 2012.

How they qualified
Often below par during qualifying before raising their game at final tournaments, Italy went about things differently for once by taking imperious control of Group B in the European Zone. Their task appeared potentially tricky when they were drawn alongside Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria, but La Nazionale surged through unbeaten and booked their ticket to Brazil with time to spare, meaning they will head to the finals confident that their internal revolution has been a success. After all, Cesare Prandelli seems to have consigned Catenaccio to the past. Prandelli has led the side to the UEFA EURO 2012 showpiece and a 14th consecutive FIFA World Cup finals berth – all while remaining faithful to an attacking style of play.

World Cup history
With four world titles to their name (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006) and two runners-up slots (1970 and 1994), Italy lie second only to Brazil on the all-time FIFA World Cup honours board. La Squadra Azzurra are also the only team along with the Brazilians to have won the competition twice in a row. Their 4-3 semi-final defeat of West Germany at Mexico 1970 is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular matches in the history of the tournament.

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain), Mattia Perin (Genoa)
Defenders: Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Gabriel Paletta (Parma)
Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Parolo (Parma), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (AC Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)

The key players
Captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the only survivor from their 2006 triumph in Germany along with Andrea Pirlo, while a host of youngsters have broken into the team, such as central defender Andrea Ranocchia and midfielder Marco Verratti. Up front, the transition from old to new has been even more dramatic thanks to the emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy and Giuseppe Rossi's return to the fore. Also with a vital role to play are the maverick duo of Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo.

The Coach: Cesare Prandelli
The former Parma and Fiorentina boss can be credited with putting the national team back into the affections of the public with his attacking mind-set, dignified approach to managing players and commitment to bringing through the next generation of Azzurri stars. Prandelli exceeded all expectations when he guided Italy to the final of Euro 2012 and he has enough quality at his disposal to take his men deep into this tournament.

Prediction: Group Stages
Italy’s opening group encounter against England in the heat of Manaus is likely to be a cagey affair. Uruguay’s attacking threat could be the difference when the two sides meet. It was unfortunate for Italy being drawn in the group of death and they are likely to fall short.

Quick Facts:
FIFA Ranking: 9th
Best World Cup Result: Winners (1934, 1938, 1882, 2006)
Best European Championship Result: Winners (1968)
Record Scorer: Luigi Riva (35 goals from 1965-1974)
Most Capped Player: Fabio Cannavaro (136 caps from 1997-2010)
Captain: Gianluigi Buffon

Group Matches:
Saturday, June 14, 2014 v England (Manaus)
Friday, June 20, 2014 v Costa Rica (Recife)
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 v Uruguay (Natal)

Costa Rica
Despite being pitted in a difficult 2014 World Cup qualifying group alongside Italy, England and Uruguay, Costa Rica should not be underestimated.
For the first time, the Central Americans have some established players performing in European leagues, with Bryan Ruiz spending the second half of the season on loan from Fulham at PSV Eindhoven, the Arsenal-owned Joel Campbell impressing for Olympiakos and Bryan Oviedo catching the eye for Everton before a serious injury.
This is one of the best generations in Costa Rica’s history and they will not lie down in what is considered the 2014 World Cup ‘Group of Death’. They are not expected to go through but neither should onlookers expect 5 or 6-0 thrashings for Jorge Luis Pinto’s side. They conceded just seven goals in 10 qualifying games and defeated the USA and Mexico on their way to sealing second spot in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying section.

How they qualified
The arrival of the Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto as national team coach has ushered in a new era for Costa Rica. Joining the CONCACAF preliminaries in Round 3, Los Ticos finished second behind Mexico in their group to advance to the final six-team phase, where they sealed their ticket to Brazil 2014 with two games to spare, eventually finishing second behind USA. Their successful campaign was based on two key factors. The first was their solidity at the back, with Pinto’s side conceding only seven goals in the final round, fewer than any other team. The second was their formidable home record of five wins in five games in the final phase.

World Cup history
Costa Rica played their first game as a national team in 1921, a 7-0 win over Central American neighbours El Salvador. As they developed as a side, things weren’t always quite so easy, but after many years of manful efforts they finally managed to reach the world’s biggest football tournament in 1990, taking full advantage of Mexico’s suspension to reach the finals in Italy. Once there, they beat Sweden and Scotland to reach the knockout rounds in an impressive debut under the care of Bora Milutinovic, where they lost to Czechoslovakia.
They returned to the world stage in 2002 after narrowly failing to reach USA 1994 and France 1998. Drawn into a tricky group alongside eventual champions Brazil and semi-finalists Turkey, the valiant Ticos went out at the first hurdle, the same stage where they would make their exit in a significantly poorer showing four years later in Germany.

Goalkeepers: Keilor Navas (Levante), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Daniel Cambronero (Herediano)
Defenders: Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew), Michael Umana (Saprissa), Oscar Duarte (Club Bruges), Waylon Francis (Columbus Crew), Heiner Mora (Saprissa), Junior Diaz (Mainz 05), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls)
Midfielders: Celso Borges (AIK Stockholm), Christian Bolanos (FC Copenhagen), Oscar Esteban Granados (Herediano), Michael Barrantes (Aalesund), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Diego Calvo (Valerenga Oslo), Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano)
Forwards: Bryan Ruiz (PSV Eindhoven), Joel Campbell (Arsenal/Olympiakos), Randall Brenes (Cartagines), Marco Urena (FC Kuban Krasnodar)

The key players
Costa Rica’s fortunes lie at the skillful feet of one Bryan Ruiz. Called “a truly special player” by former coach Rodrigo Kenton, Ruiz established himself at club side Twente in the Netherlands before moving on to Fulham in England. Now back in the Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven, he ranks among the best playmakers in the North, Central American and Caribbean zone. Alongside Ruiz are a number of tried-and-trusted performers like Alvaro Saborio, Cristian Bolanos and outstanding goalkeeper Keilor Navas. The dribbling skills and all-around attacking play of the young Joel Campbell have made him another of Los Ticos’ most valuable assets.

The Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
The 61-year-old failed in his first spell as Costa Rica boss between 2004 and 2005, but oversaw qualification for this tournament after taking over again in 2011. The Colombian has also coached his own national team and a host of clubs in South and Central America.

Prediction: Group Stages
For Pinto’s predominately defensive side, this tournament will be more about spoiling the ambitions of more illustrious opponents, rather than any realistic hopes of qualifying for the second round.
Costa Rica can be an inconsistent side, but if we see the sort of outfit that lost just twice in the second round of qualifiers, Italy, England and Uruguay may just be in for a game.

Quick Facts:
FIFA Ranking: 34th
Best World Cup Result: Second round (1990)
Best CONCACAF Championships Result: Winners (1963, 1969, 1989, )
Record Scorer: Rolando Fonseca (47)
Most Capped Player: Walter Centeno (137)
Captain: Bryan Ruiz

Group Matches:
Saturday, June 14, 2014 v Uruguay (Fortaleza)
Friday, June 20, 2014 v Italy (Recife)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 v England (Belo Horizonte)