Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 World Cup Draw: Group D Predictions

Haven't done one of these in a while, but we're back! Check out my previous World Cup efforts here

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Well now. This should be intriguing. Remember this headline from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

Clever.
That was England's reaction to drawing the USA and two cream puffs of varying creaminess in Slovenia and Algeria. I wonder what they're saying now?

Right. Ok then.
Anyway, on to the predictions. 

Italy win group, Uruguay second. 

Italy. 

It's pretty clear to me that Italy is the best team in this group. They have all the keys to a successful national side: experienced goalkeeping and defending, a midfield that knows how to play their system and has the confidence to shine on the big stage, and strong, fast, lethal strikers (most particularly Mario Balotelli). 

I think you know why.
(PS: Shout out to Anderson being in that photo - first time I've seen him in about a year and a half).

I can absolutely see Super Mario cementing his place as one of the greatest forwards in world football with a dynamite tournament - when he puts his mind more into scoring goals and less into setting his bathroom on fire, the man is an absolute menace. In a good way.

Uruguay.

Lots of wrist kisses in Brazil.
Every World Cup, a player who toils in relative obscurity blasts onto the international radar, becoming (at least for a week or three) one of the most talked-about people in sports. Four years ago in South Africa, Atletico Madrid and Uruguay forward (and blonde Aragorn lookalike) Diego Forlan was this player. He won the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament, and scored 5 goals on Uruguay's run to the semifinals.

This year's entry won't be coming from Uruguay, that's for sure.

Noted handball aficionado, diving extraordinaire, and family man Luis Suarez will be leading Uruguay. Suarez is rocketing up the "best player in the world" rankings, and currently is sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League goal hunt, his 28 strikes taking him a stunning nine goals clear of his teammate Daniel Sturridge. The strike force of Suarez and Sturridge has worked well for Liverpool, and teaming Suarez up with Forlan and fellow Uruguayan assassin Edinson Cavani should provide more than a few fireworks in Brazil. 

England.

This really is a tough draw for the Three Lions. Prone to hyperbole and premature mythmaking, the English press has created and destroyed more legends than George R.R. Martin in the past 25 years. Beckham, Scholes, Shearer, Owen, Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, and Terry are just a few of the names of top-notch English footballers who have failed to claim a World Cup for the soccer-mad nation. In fact, since 1990, the English haven't even tasted a semi-final match. 

Sadly, this trend will continue for four more years. Not even Wayne Rooney's silly, silly hair can help them escape this group. 

Pictured: Wayne Rooney's silly, silly hair.
It's funny the way football narratives work. I see Italy as a deep, experienced team with a killer young tandem up front in Balotelli and Stephan El-Sharaawy, but I see England as a slow, plodding side filled with last-gaspers like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, even though the English do have some young talents in Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, and United's Danny Welbeck.

The question becomes - will the old guard stifle the youngsters' creativity, or will they act as a safety net to allow the kids to flourish?

Costa Rica.

This game, played in Colorado a year ago, was not the ideal scenario for a Costa Rican football team:

Not even for a Costa Rican football football team.
Never considered a world power, Costa Rica did make a game of it, but ended up losing 1-0. Upon the return visit by the USMNT in September of last year, the Costa Ricans were none too happy.

What does all this have to say about their World Cup prospects? Well, a few things. Like, for instance, the fact that they HATE the cold. So that's a point in their favor, since Brazil in June can get a bit toasty. Also, they're pretty good at the revenge thing. It's too bad this isn't a double round robin tournament, because Costa Rica crunched the Yanks soundly in the September match, winning 3-1. 

Costa Rica is a young team - their oldest player is 31, and depending on call-ups, they might only have two 30-year-olds. They don't have the skills to run with the three big boys here, but watch out for them during the next cycle.

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