Mr McInnes continues to salivate about this year’s World Cup by taking a look at England’s group: Group D. Not that we’re favouring them above the mighty Costa Rica or anything.
Surprisingly Uruguay only finished 5th in their COMNEBOL qualification group, having to qualify for the World Cup finals through a play off against Jordan, eventually winning 5-0 over the two legged affair. Their poor qualification form is especially surprising considering how well they did four years ago in South Africa and then their Copa America win the following year. La Celeste have some fantastic talents in their squad but what they really have going for them is the continuity which can only breed further successes. Manager Óscar Tabárez has been in charge (for a second time) since 2006, so he must have a very special bond with his players. Having won the inaugural FIFA World Cup on home soil in 1930 and then again in 1950 in Brazil, Uruguay will be wanting to build on their somewhat surprise 4th placed finish at the last World Cup. My opinion is that they have every chance of getting out of the group and from there who can really tell? I think being a South American team in this tournament is really going to help in terms of not having to adapt too much to climates and altitude, which is something I think European teams will struggle with. Obviously Luis Suárez has had the season of his life with Liverpool, scoring 31 goals in 33 Premier League games as well as picking up personal accolades; PFA Players’ Player of the Year, Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year and in the PFA team of the Year, the joint European Golden Boot winner will have a massive say in La Celeste’s success in Brazil. Key players will be the aforementioned Luis Suárez, keeper Fernando Muslera, La Liga winning Diego Godín, Maxi Pereira, Walter Gargano, Cristian Rodríguez, PSG’s drug cartel kingpin lookalike but probably thoroughly nice chap Edinson Cavani and not forgetting the old boy include in the preliminary squad, Diego Forlán, now plying his trade in Japan of all places.
Group D underdogs Costa Rica had a solid route to the World Cup Finals. Winning all of their home games in the CONCACAF qualification process, they finished second on 18 points only 3 points behind 1st placed USA. This summer will be ‘Ticos’ 5th finals appearance but their first since 2006. They have only once made it out of the Group Stage in to the Round of 16 and that was at their first World Cup appearance at Italia 90. I’d be lying if I said I knew much about this team in all honesty but I really can’t see them finishing anywhere above last place in this group, having to play the likes of Uruguay, Italy and England, all of whom previous World Cup winners. What I do know about Costa Rica though is that they are captained by Fulham flop Bryan Ruiz and are managed by Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto. What I have enjoyed in my brief research of this team is the collection of eclectic names on their team sheet. There are players by the Hispanic names such as Carlos Hernández, Giancarlo González and Esteban Granados but then you see names like Roy Miller, Kendall Watson and Patrick Pemberton also in the mix. I’m not sure of the point I’m making but it made me chuckle nonetheless. Key players are sought after Levante keeper Keylor Navas, Óscar Duarte, AIK Solna’s Celso Borges, talisman Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal youngster and perennial loanee, Joel Campbell.
Love to hate, hate to love. That’s all I can really say bout my feelings for The Three Lions, they bore the life out of me but whenever a tournament comes around and they are competing I begrudgingly become an England fan, only to have my hopes and dreams shattered, as per. Let’s be honest, there really isn’t much expected of England at this years Finals but I believe that to be a good thing. Qualification should have been a sure thing, and it was seeing as England won the group but they only did so by 1 point. There were no losses in qualification but 4 very poor draws against Poland, Montenegro and both ties against second placed Ukraine. Progress to the latter stages on this year’s competition is by no means a certainty but that also means it’s an opportunity, any one of England, Italy or Uruguay can win this group so that should make for some open and entertaining games. Finally an England manager, in this case Roy Hodgson, has opted to oust some of the rusty and crusty members of the ‘golden generation’, in favour of some fresh young Premier League talent, talent that is unpredictable and talent that can excite. The biggest name cut was Ashley Cole, who soon after announced his retirement from International Football. It’s a shame in a way as he is still a world class player but there comes a time when sentiment needs to be done away with and you need to give the new generation a chance, even if this summer is a failure, it’s all vital experience. Some of the newer names to the squad are the Southampton trio of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, Everton’s dynamic midfielder Ross Barkley and the Liverpool’s trio of Jordan Henderson, Raheem Stirling and Daniel Sturridge. Key players still remain dandruff free Joe Hart between the sticks, Captain fantastic, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney if he feels like being the player that he can, the rest is much of a muchness and as I say, the younger guys are just unpredictable but lets count that as a bonus. Here’s hoping that come the time of the quarter finals I won’t be sat in a Wetherspoons draped in a St George’s cross, crying in to a warm pint of Carling having just witnessed England choke on penalties against Germany, Portugal or Argentina.
’Gil Azzurri’ had no problems qualifying for Brazil 2014, winning six and drawing four out of their ten qualification games in Group B of UEFA’s qualifying system, with the enigmatic Mario Balotelli top scoring with five goals in the process. Having won the competition four times, the most recent of which at Germany 2006, Italy go in to every tournament looking to go all the way. The opening fixture against a lesser England team is a real opportunity got Cesare Prandelli’s men to signal their intent although saying that it took penalties to decide the game the last time they met at a tournament, that being Euro 2012. They are going to have to adapt quickly and not just to each of the different teams they have to play but to the climate in Brazil, the real killer being humidity. I would say Italy are the most structured of the teams in Group D and that may have some bearing on their progress. I have always enjoyed watching the Azzurri at tournaments, the likes of Alessandro del Piero, Francesco Totti and Christian Vieri scoring goals at World Cups always sticks in my memory. For me, the key men this summer are talismanic captain and record appearance holder Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chielini, Daniele de Rossi, the bearded wizard that is Andrea Pirlo, a man who ages as finely as the wines on his vineyard, along with Riccardo Montolivo, Parma’s diminutive Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli and Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, if featured.