Saturday, June 7, 2014

2014 World Cup Group D Preview

     This group has a good amount of intrigue thanks to the connections all of these teams have with each other. Uruguay and Costa Rica have a decent amount of recent history against each other, Uruguay and Italy just played each other in the Confederations Cup, Italy and England just played each other in the Euros, and there's a little about that Luis Suarez guy. Therefore, this group should provide plenty of good storylines to latch onto.

   Uruguay are the defending holders of 4th place in the World Cup, and you would be lying if you said you expected that in 2010. This is what happens when a striker like Diego Forlan gets hot. There is not much change from that team to this one, which could end up being a problem. Or, if Uruguay's ridiculous strike force with Suarez, Cavani and Stuani get going, it might not be. On paper, this is a team that has underachieved massively, thanks to the expectations they set themselves in 2010 and 2011. Even though South American World Cup Qualifying is always a bit of a minefield, finishing 5th is not something Uruguay should be doing. Aside from the inevitable power up front, Uruguay do have a strong defense and midfield, if not exposed by speed and characterized by a lack of creativity. Names like Lugano, Pereira (Maxi and Alvaro), Godin and Caceres are all still present, which means the defense will be stout if not a touch slow, and in the midfield they still have the power of Gargano, Rodriguez, Rios and Gonzalez, even again at a lack of creative impetus. Gaston Ramirez and Nicolas Lodiero will have to step their games up for Uruguay to get out of a group that has matchup problems for them, as we will see below.

   One of my old favorite pasttimes at World Cups gone by is laughing at England when they failed to meet the lofty expectations that the English Press set them, when in reality they had no chance of meeting those expectations in any reasonable fashion. Unfortunately for me in 2014, they've gone, and are replaced by uncharacteristic optimism thanks to two managers of Spanish influence: Pochettino and Martinez, and one who was taught in that school at Swansea: Rodgers They've transformed England from a stale team of the Capello days to an exciting one that Roy Hodgson must temper. Therefore, the Southampton, Everton and Liverpool influence in this side is overpowering, with the usual smattering of United, Chelsea and Arsenal players as well. That influence has brought up questions about how England will play, and how those players will link in together. That remains to be seen, but England will at least be an entertaining team to watch with some definite flair, as opposed to the dour days of the past. The one thing England have that can cause everyone else problems is speed, and they have it in buckets with players like Sturridge, Sterling, and on the flanks as well with players like Shaw and Barkley available. It's amazing to see how England have changed even from the draw to now. They've gone from "happy to be there" to "well, maybe there's something here", and that's a scary thought for Group D.

    Apparently, Italy will be happy if they make the quarterfinals, which seems weird since the Azzuri are still a world power. They did finish second at the Euros and 3rd at the Confederations Cup, which means the expectations are still there for a high finish. The turnover in the squad has been small, so Italy will be able to take that experience to heart as they go forward against teams they know all too well. Andrea Pirlo is still his usual levels of awesome, and his heir apparent Marco Verratti could well soon take over his role, and up front Italy has their usual cadre of potent forwards, even if Giuseppe Rossi doesn't make it (which would be tragic, for the record). So Italy looks like most of the Italy teams of old, which means they'll make a deep run, right? Well, the defense isn't quite as strong as Italy teams of the past, and aside from the standouts in the midfield of Pirlo and De Rossi, it doesn't inspire quite as much confidence as it should. Italy will make it out of this group to be sure if they can put what happened in 2010 behind them, but the quarterfinals might in fact be their ceiling.

   Costa Rica might seem like cannon fodder in this group, but do not underestimate the Ticos. The US has done that plenty and its only won them misery and woe in San Jose. So Costa Rica will take their pretty bad form away from their own friendly confines to this World Cup, but they will do so with swagger and confidence since they do have the ability to pull off interesting scalps. Unfortunately, they will not have Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio who suffered a foot injury, but they still have quality up top with Ruiz, Urena, and Campbell all still capable of causing problems. The defense is also lacking a key piece in Bryan Oviedo, and his replacement Roy Miller (much to the shock of Red Bulls fans) has been playing well in MLS this season, so he'll at least be in form going up against the dangerous attackers of this group. Celso Borges is a key midfielder that can cause problems for everyone, but he's about it in terms of potentially dangerous midfielders. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas will have a lot of work to do to keep his team involved, and if his form at Levante is any indication, he'll probably do a good job of it. But even as much as I talk them up, they're still rooted to the foot of Group D's table, even if they will make each team sweat for their result.

Prediction: The big 3 of this group will duke it out to get out of the group, and while for a good portion of time it seemed that it was Uruguay and Italy to move forward, England's mini renaissance has changed some opinions. There will be intrigue abounding, no doubt.

No comments:

Post a Comment