Group D Preview – England Better Equipped Than Uruguay
World Cup 2014
England have an extremely tough group on paper but when we break it down, is it as difficult as first thought?
Previous World Cup winners Italy, England and Uruguay are joined in Group D by CONCACAF qualifiers Costa Rica. Between them they have seven World Cups to their name, with Italy being the most recent winners back in Germany 2006.
Italy were the most comfortable of qualifiers for this summer’s World Cup, sealing their place in Brazil with two games to spare and without losing a game.
Typically they scored just under two goals per game and conceded less than one per game, on average, throughout their 10 qualifiers. Mario Balotelli was their top scorer, and the top scorer in the group, with five goals.
England’s qualification was a little more taxing, but they were impressive in their professionalism about getting the job done when it mattered. Roy Hodgson’s men won their last two games – against Montenegro then Poland – to secure top spot in the group by a single point from Ukraine.
Wayne Rooney scored seven of England’s 31 goals from 10 games played as the Three Lions finished with 22 points and an identical 6W 4D 0L record to the Italians.
Meanwhile, Uruguay required a two-legged play-off to get their name into the draw. A fifth place finish in CONEMBOL qualification has to be considered a disappointing campaign at a time when Brazil did not participate and there is a strong feeling that Oscar Tabarez’s 2011 Copa America winners are at the end of their cycle.
Finally, Costa Rica make up the quartet after they finished as runners-up, behind USA, in CONCACAF qualification. Jorge Luis Pinto’s men may have harboured ambitions of getting out of the group stages had the draw been kinder to them, but having been drawn alongside three previous World Cup winners they’ll now just be hoping, and are more than capable of, derailing someone’s challenge.
Group D Winner
Italy and Uruguay are joint favourites in this market at odds of 13/8, but England (believe it or not) are my value bet at odds of 11/5. We’re so used to having England’s chances over-hyped ahead of major tournaments and now that everyone is almost writing them off it appears that the markets have reacted the other way.
Roy Hodgson’s side are, in my opinion, a stronger outfit than the Uruguayans and are more than capable of matching Italy.
It may come down to goal difference and who beats Costa Rica by the most goals and that’s where England can nick it.
Group D Qualification
Although Costa Rica can certainly throw a spanner in the works I don’t think they can qualify for the knockout stages at the expense of two other teams in this group, so we can write them off at odds of 10/1 here.
Italy are 4/11 favourites to progress with Uruguay (1/2) and England (4/7) both also odds-on. There’s little incentive to back any of those and perhaps a speculative punt on Uruguay’s ageing team to finish bottom at odds of 10/1 is worth a play instead.