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World Cup 2014: Group D Preview
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dhunt2402


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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2014 9:19 pm    Post subject: World Cup 2014: Group D Preview Reply with quote

GROUP D



Overview



This might be one of the toughest groups to predict in the entire tournament. Uruguay are as inconsistent as a top team can be, they were the last team to qualify from South America in each of the last two World Cups, but they seem to be able to flick the switch when the big competitions roll around. Italy is a team that’s always a threat to go the distance, as we saw when they finished runner-up at the European Championships in 2012 and when they won it all at the 2006 World Cup. They’ll be looking to ride a combination of organized defense, experience, and a potent attacking duo to another deep run. England is a classic case of the underachiever, blessed with a wealth of talent but almost never with the imagination or the luck to overcome the best sides in the world. To make it out of this group, they’ll have to reverse that and do it quickly. Finally, Costa Rica isn’t expected to qualify for the knockout stages, but they have the ability to cause plenty of trouble for the other three teams, and could very well play a key role in determining who ends up qualifying from this group.

Uruguay



4th place finishers at the 2010 World Cup, this Uruguay team returns many of the same players that carried them to the semifinals, including Diego Forlan, the man who won the Golden Ball as the best player at the last World Cup. Coach Oscar Tabarez has a team that he likes and has largely stuck with it over the years, and while that is sometimes a negative, many agree he has the right starting eleven in place. Though Forlan, 35, is no longer the threat he was four years ago and will likely make his mark off the substitutes bench, La Celeste has a new talisman that could have the same kind of transcendent impact on their chances. Best known in 2010 as the guy who in the eyes of many blatantly cheated to prevent Ghana from scoring what would have been the winning goal in the quarterfinals, Luis Suarez has since joined English side Liverpool and become the most exciting striker in the Premier League and a consensus top 5 player in the world. He’ll start up front alongside Edinson Cavani, another striker who has improved leaps and bounds since the last World Cup and was sold last summer to Paris Saint-Germain for over 60 million euros (the 5th most expensive transfer in history). The midfield is solid if unspectacular, led by the portly yet efficient Arevalo Rios and Nicolas Lodeiro. The defense is a strong point, marshaled by long-time captain Diego Lugano and emerging star Diego Godin, who scored the goal that secured this season's Spanish league title for Atletico Madrid. Finally, they’re able to count on one of the most reliable keepers in world football in Fernando Muslera, who is also something of a penalty-saving specialist, something to look out for should Uruguay qualify for the knockout rounds.

Uruguay had a bit of a sluggish qualification campaign, finishing in the 5th and final spot in South America, and having to beat Jordan in a two-legged playoff to make it to Brazil. It ended up being a very similar path to the one that got them to South Africa in 2010, where they ironically beat Costa Rica 2-1 on aggregate in the two-legged playoff. Nonetheless, they’ve managed to turn it on in the big competitions, winning the 2011 Copa America (an all South American competition) and making the semifinals of the 2013 Confederations Cup, losing 2-1 to eventual winners Brazil. If Suarez is his usual brilliant self and the efficiency of the players behind him is enough to stymie Uruguay’s opposition, expect them to make another deep run in another big international tournament.

Italy



The 2006 champions had a 2010 World Cup to forget, finishing last in a group with Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand, teams they were expected to demolish. But just as four years made a big difference then, so has it now. In fact, just two years made the difference for this Italian squad, when they made a surprise run to the final of the European Championship back in 2012. Under coach Cesare Prandelli, formerly of Fiorentina, Gli Azzurri play a hybrid 3-5-2/4-3-3 formation, centered on perhaps the most talented and decorated midfielder of his generation, Andrea Pirlo. Along with goalkeeper Gigi Buffon and midfielder Daniele De Rossi, Pirlo represents the remnants of that magical 2006 squad, and like a fine Tuscan wine, he has definitely gotten better with age. He likes to sit deep in midfield and ping the most accurate long range passes imaginable to send Italy’s forwards in on goal, and is perhaps the best free kick taker in the world today. Cerebral, deadly accurate, and dreamy to boot, the man has everything. The rest of the squad isn’t bad either. The defense is a rock, as is tradition, and is anchored by the Juventus trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, and Leo Bonucci. Their collective years of experience as a unit is invaluable to the national team, and shines through in their excellent organization and at times impenetrable defensive work. Where Italy makes opponents pay, however, is on the attack. The incomparable Mario Balotelli could give you brilliance, he could give you lunacy, and pretty much everything in between depending on the day, but there’s no denying his talent and ability to take over any match. He will likely be partnered by New Jersey’s own Giuseppe Rossi (wait, why isn’t he playing for the U.S. then!? Loooong story), one of the best strikers in the world when healthy, which is an important caveat since he’s had to come through absolute injury hell, 2 ACLs and an MCL in the past three seasons, to make his first appearance at a major international tournament. If Rossi can continue the white-hot form that he displayed at Fiorentina this season, and Balotelli can flick the switch that has been mostly off in a down season for both him and AC Milan, they will cause opposing defenses fits, especially with the service from Pirlo and the midfield likely to be sublime.

Italy’s qualification campaign was conducted for the most part in cruise control, finishing first in their group in the UEFA qualifiers without losing a match. Balotelli was the lead scorer with 5 goals in qualification, and they were able to re-incorporate Rossi back into the group as well in the later matches after a two-year absence due to injury. That combination will be critical to Italy’s chances, as they’ll need to be in top goal-scoring form if they are to win the group and avoid a difficult Round of 16 opponent. Either way, Italy will be a very difficult side to eliminate for even the best teams in the tournament, and could make a run to the last four or even further if they play to their potential.

England



Ah, the Three Lions. Perhaps the most snake-bitten team in recent World Cup history (sometimes self-inflicted, sometimes not), England will be looking to shed that title this year with a strong showing from a relatively young squad. Led by the best English player of his generation, Steven Gerrard is still ticking along at age 34, not the goal threat or rampaging talent he once was, but now a more cerebral, tactical player that leads by example and can pick a long diagonal pass with the best of them. Along with Man United’s mercurial if talented forward Wayne Rooney (aka Shrek), he represents the backbone of what’s sure to be a much younger England than we’ve seen in the past. Daniel Sturridge has blossomed into a fantastic poacher at Liverpool, and will likely lead the line just in front of Rooney. Beyond that, manager Roy Hodgson’s attack could include a number of players depending on the matchup. Danny Welbeck or Adam Lallana if he wants a nose for goal from out wide, Raheem Sterling or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain if he wants excitement and blistering pace, and everyman James Milner if he wants a hard worker with positional responsibility. Who partners with Gerrard in midfield is another question, with teammate Jordan Henderson or 20 year-old sensation Ross Barkley most likely to slot in next to the captain, both offering energy and technical ability in the engine room. The defense, which has traditionally been a strong point over the years, is the biggest area of concern this go-round for England. Gone are the days when they could count on world-class stars like John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, those stalwarts will likely be replaced by Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, an industrious if uninspiring duo. The fullbacks, Glen Johnson and especially Leighton Baines, offer two quality options going forward down the flanks, but will have to stay defensively responsible with not much help likely to come from midfield. Joe Hart in net has had his ups and downs with Man City, but has been playing well of late and is a quality keeper when on form.

England also finished in first place in their UEFA qualifying group without losing a match, nipping Ukraine by a single point on the last day of qualification. Wayne Rooney was ever-present, scoring 7 goals to lead everyone, with Welbeck and Frank Lampard joint second with 4 goals. After bowing out somewhat controversially (though probably deservedly in the end) to Germany in the Round of 16 in South Africa, they will be need to play at a much higher level to even reach the knockout stages this year. At this point, they have to be considered slight underdogs to best either Italy or Uruguay, but with the wealth of talent they have in the squad, it is certainly possible for them to not just qualify but to win the group if everything comes together.

Costa Rica



Despite a population of only 4.8 million, Costa Rica has made 4 World Cups since first qualifying in 1990, and has consistently been amongst the best North American teams in recent years. They play a hybrid 3/5 man back-line under manager Jose Luis Pinto, with two central midfielders, two attacking midfielders, and a lone striker. Something of an unusual formation in world football, but one that has been quite effective for them in competitive matches. The fulcrum of the attack for Los Ticos is the captain Bryan Ruiz, who is currently under contract with English side Fulham. Maddeningly inconsistent for his club, Ruiz is a much more impressive player for his country. He plays with an understated elegance, very comfortable on the ball, he likes to drift in from the right wing, and many of the most successful attacks from the Costa Ricans start off his left foot. The beneficiary of Ruiz’s play is often times Joel Campbell, a longtime youngster at another English club, Arsenal. Campbell has been loaned all around Europe over the past few seasons, and has finally begun to break out this season at Greek club Olympiakos. scoring 9 goals as his team won the Greek league title. He scored a peach of a goal against Manchester United in the Champions League, and uses his pace well, whether played on the left wing or as an out-and-out striker. Another player to watch in the attack is Celso Borges, a goal-scoring midfielder who plies his trade for Swedish club AIK and is capable of some stunning long range goals. At the back, their three central defenders form a staunch, cohesive line of defense, but will miss left back Bryan Oviedo of Everton who will not recover from a broken tibia and fibula suffered in January in time to make the flight to Brazil. And it would be a grave injustice to not mention the goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who is without question the most in-form Costa Rican player by a wide margin. Playing for Spanish side Levante, Navas has come from relative obscurity this season to become one of the best goalkeepers in Spain and a transfer target for some of the biggest clubs in the world. Blessed with lightning quick reflexes and excellent aerial ability, Navas is a rising star, capable of some truly incredible saves and will surely cause more than a few problems for the talented attackers he’ll face in Brazil.

Costa Rica qualified 2nd amongst North American teams only behind the United States, but were able to boast some impressive wins, including a resounding 3-1 victory over the U.S. in October. However, most of their success came on home soil, winning all five games for 15 points in San Jose and winning none of their five road games, taking only three points in the process. They did boast the best defensive record in qualification, allowing only 7 goals in the 10 matches, so they will surely look to rely on that defensive prowess against the firepower they will go up against in every match they play in the group stage. Ruiz led the way with 3 goals in the final round of qualifying, and will likely continue to be the lead source of attacking impetus in Brazil. The Costa Ricans should spring a surprise draw or two, and maybe even a win against their Group D opposition, but it would be a massive shock to see them qualify for the knockout round.

Group Prediction



Despite the wealth of attacking talent on display in Group D, the group stage matches will be fairly low-scoring and cautious in general. Neither Prandelli (Italy) nor Hodgson (England) are known to be particularly cavalier when it comes to attacking, and Costa Rica will definitely be relying on their defense. Meanwhile, Uruguay will be plenty happy to play on the counter, relying on the pace of Suarez and Cavani to exploit any holes left by the opposition. In the end, I think the superior talent of Italy will see them win the group, with Uruguay in 2nd place, England in 3rd place with a trip up against 4th place Costa Rica costing them a chance at the knockout rounds.
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dotmotion


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think England will get out of this group tbh. I see Uruguay with their shaky defense (at least quality wise) being their downfall. It makes England's look pretty good in comparison.
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dhunt2402


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dotmotion wrote:
I think England will get out of this group tbh. I see Uruguay with their shaky defense (at least quality wise) being their downfall. It makes England's look pretty good in comparison.


Uruguay's defense is pretty underrated, Godin is a stud and Lugano always seems to play well for them. Love Maxi Pereira, and Caceres/Fucile aren't bad options either. Plus they get a ton of help from Rios/Gargano. I do think England have a good chance to make it through, but if I had to guess, Suarez will win Uruguay points on his own and that will be enough to see them through.
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The Wyzzinator


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice write-up dhunt! I put a link to it on the main WC page which is still under construction but at least it's there. I should have my Group F preview up in the next few days and the other ones hopefully in the next week to 10 days to complete it.
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This game wasnt that bad. Ive seen much worse.

Of course. you watch Chelsea.
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marky_b27


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For England's sake, I hope negative Roy is in charge for the first two games.

If we can escape from the Italy and Uruguay games with a draw from each of them then I would be confident that we would proceed.
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Dr. Philly


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like the write up. Can't say much about Muslera but from the CL tie we had against Galatasaray, he was horrid.

Also should have mine up within the next week or so.
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texans_uk


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welbeck, nose for goal?
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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll go...

Italy - 7
Uruguay - 5
England - 4
Costa Rica - 0

This is a pretty compelling group though, I could see it going any number of directions.
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dhunt2402


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

texans_uk wrote:
Welbeck, nose for goal?


Should have clarified, for England. He's been serviceable to pretty good for England under Woy. Had a pretty great Euros (this still qualifies as one of the most shocking goals I've ever seen) and scored 4 goals in World Cup qualifying. He's clearly in the mix to start, and it's not totally unwarranted based on how he's played.
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91jmay


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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

England have a punchers chance of going through, but on paper we are the 3rd best team IMO. Avoiding defeat first two games should get us through, but I'd like Roy to be adventurous and UNLEASH.



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LeeEvans


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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great write up man, really enjoyed it. If Uruguay don't get out of their qualifying funk then I think England progress although, as you said, Uruguay have a tendency to show up when they need to it. Should be a pretty interesting group.
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LeeEvans


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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 7:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Wyzzinator wrote:
Nice write-up dhunt! I put a link to it on the main WC page which is still under construction but at least it's there. I should have my Group F preview up in the next few days and the other ones hopefully in the next week to 10 days to complete it.
I've finished half of my write up, I should be able to finish it today or tomorrow.
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marky_b27


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The good thing for whoever comes out of this group is there last 16 tie is likely to be relatively straightforward.
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mse326


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OT to 2014, but since you brought up "blatant cheating" I'll say my peace.

There is absolutely and demonstrably nothing wrong with what he did. Was it against the rules? Of course. Was the red card warranted? Absolutely. But your job as a player is to do what you need to in order to help the team win. He needed to do that. And the penalty for such an action is dictated in the rules and was followed here. Players intentionally foul a guy about to break away all the time. There isn't a corner or free kick towards the box where there isn't a ton of shirt pulling that refs just let go because they don't want to give too many free kicks instead of just telling defenders to learn how to defend within the rules. Players intentionally waste time at the end of games until they are given the yellow card. All of these are against the rules and no one questions them. So why this? Or Henry's handball in qualifying against Ireland? Because he had a clear effect? Are we good with "cheating" as long as we aren't sure that it mattered? It's absurd. He was right to do it and the hate that he got from it is absurd.

/rant
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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mse326 wrote:
OT to 2014, but since you brought up "blatant cheating" I'll say my peace.

There is absolutely and demonstrably nothing wrong with what he did. Was it against the rules? Of course. Was the red card warranted? Absolutely. But your job as a player is to do what you need to in order to help the team win. He needed to do that. And the penalty for such an action is dictated in the rules and was followed here. Players intentionally foul a guy about to break away all the time. There isn't a corner or free kick towards the box where there isn't a ton of shirt pulling that refs just let go because they don't want to give too many free kicks instead of just telling defenders to learn how to defend within the rules. Players intentionally waste time at the end of games until they are given the yellow card. All of these are against the rules and no one questions them. So why this? Or Henry's handball in qualifying against Ireland? Because he had a clear effect? Are we good with "cheating" as long as we aren't sure that it mattered? It's absurd. He was right to do it and the hate that he got from it is absurd.

/rant


I 100% agree actually.
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