Odds are that Costa Rica has no chance of advancing, but before the draw, England, Italy and Uruguay were all predicted to advance. Now that only two can, we will look at who is the more likely to prevail.
How they got to Brazil
England - FIFA Ranking - 11 - It wasn't all that easy throughout qualifying, but England showed their class in the second half of the qualifying matches and proved they deserved to be in the WC. Finished first in EUFA Group H and has a 26-19-14 record at the World Cup Finals, while winning the tournament on one occasion.
Costa Rica - FIFA Ranking - 34 - This side may not have been a favorite to qualify in CONCACAF, but they showed everyone they can play with the best in the region by finishing 2nd. However, they are only 3-1-6 all time in the World Cup Finals in 3 tournaments while only advancing past the group stage on 1 occasion.
Uruguay - FIFA Ranking - 6 - Uruguay had a tough time throughout qualifying, but were fortunate enough to play Jordan in the CONMEBOL/AFC playoff, and defeated them 5-0 with ease. They have won the tournament on two occasions, posting a 18-12-17 overall record.
Italy - FIFA Ranking - 9 - Italy, just like England, finished top in their group (UEFA Group B) and have won the tournament on 4 occasions. They carry an impressive 44-21-14 record throughout past tournaments.
Schedule of Games
|June 14 | 3 PM||Uruguay||Costa Rica||Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza|
|June 14 | 4 PM||England||Italy||Arena Amazônia, Manaus|
|June 19 | 3 PM||Uruguay||England||Arena Corinthians, São Paulo|
|June 20 | 12 PM||Costa Rica||Italy||Arena Pernambuco, Recife|
|June 24 | 12 PM||Italy||Uruguay||Arena das Dunas, Natal|
|June 24 | 12 PM||Costa Rica||England||Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte|
Key Players in the Group
Luis Suarez (Uruguay) - Although the cause of much controversy, it's hard to make a list of top players without putting Suarez on the list. He will be fantastic if he plays, but that's not why I put him here. He becomes an even more important player by simply making the gameday roster. With his knee operation of late it's questionable that he will be able to play, but it would be sad to see a player of such talent miss out on such an important tournament.
Costa Rica's Offense - Ok, so I'm cheating a bit here, but we have no idea who will start up top for Costa Rica since Alvaro Saborio has been ruled out of the tournament. It will be up to the manager to find the right person(s) for the job, or Costa Rica's slight chance is done for.
Daniel Sturridge (England) - Although I don't see Sturridge starting the first match, I believe he will find his way into the lineup with a strong first game off the bench. He is a top class player and England could use someone up top with size, strength, pace and power. He is the complete package and could be the player to propel England into the knockout stages.
Andrea Pirlo (Italy) - I don't think I really need to say anything here. If you don't know who he is or how he plays the only why I can describe it is.... He plays the game to perfection. It's beautiful to watch. Pirlo is a Legend.
Game of the Group
For me, the most important match in this group will be on June 24, the final group matchday for group D, and will be a heated fight between powers Italy and Uruguay. I've got a feeling the winner of this game will see promotion into the knockout stages while the loser will seek an early flight home.
Final thoughts and Predictions
I've got a good feeling about how Roy Hodgson has assembles his squad for England and that's why I'm putting them tops in the group. Costa Rica... Sorry guys, you had little chance to begin with, but 0 chance in this group. Italy and Uruguay should both have 3-4 points coming into the final matchday and the winner should advance (assuming it doesn't end in a draw, that would be anticlimactic.) Throw Italy's history out the window, as I just can't see this squad, led by players that are well past their prime, have enough energy to thwart a much younger Uruguay side in their 3rd match in 8 days. England finishes top of the group, Uruguay second, Italy third, and Costa Rica dead last with 0 points.