Let’s get this over with pretty quickly, the answer is no.
So let’s look at something more realistic; can England get out of their group? It’s a tough question, especially as three of the teams in Group D are ranked in FIFA’s top 10. So here goes…
England start against Italy in Manaus, in what could be the most boring game of football since George Graham gave up managing ‘The Arsenal’. Italy and England are both slow starters and Italy won’t want to lose their opening game. Throw in the crazy temperatures and awful pitch in the Amazon and 0 – 0 looks like the most probably result.
Italy have to do it tough this time round, because after England in the jungle, they play Costa Rica in Recife and then Uruguay in Natal – all of their games are on or around the equator. That being said, it takes a brave man to say Italy will struggle to qualify, especially when you consider they went out in the group stages last time, so have a point to prove.
The Azzurri have a proud record, second only to Brazil in the World Cup – 4 wins and 2 runners up is a sign of serious tournament pedigree – and they won’t want another embarrassment. Any team with Balotelli as an option will always be a threat, and when he’s supported by the peerless Pirlo and Buffon in goal, they will be in the mix for Group D.
Every conversation about Uruguay I’ve heard in the last three months goes something like this: “Suarez, Cavani, Forlan”
With two of the finest attacking talents in Europe (and Diego Forlan), any defence is in for a challenging time. It would seem most commentators and fans (and me) don’t know a great deal else about them.
FIFA rankings tell us that Uruguay are the best team in the group (ranked 7 to Italy’s 9 and England’s 10) and they’re playing in more familiar conditions than the two Europeans. Starting against Costa Rica might give them chance to find some rhythm before facing the big guns.
I’m sure Suarez will be spending plenty of time telling his team mates about the challenge of facing Gerrard, Sturridge and Sterling, even if they’re not quite as worried as the English defence will be!
Ranked at 28, they would seem to be outsiders for qualification, which must be a bit of a kick in the teeth for the Costa Ricans. In some other groups, they would be favourites to qualify (see Group C or E).
Starting against Uruguay won’t be easy, then facing Italy who will be looking for a first win and then onto England who will know what they need to do to qualify gives them a tough old run to get out of the group.
England have never met Costa Rica before, which won’t stop England making heavy weather of playing against the “minnows”, even though they should eventually take all the points. If you’re a Premier League fan, keep an eye out for Bryan Ruiz (Fulham) and Joel Campbell (Arsenal)… that’s it really!
Qualification from Group D
So, after the round up, who will qualify? I’ve backed Costa Rica to finish bottom and Uruguay to finish top. The tough bit is England and Italy.
England have the best run of games, with Costa Rica last, and decent venues – Manaus against a European team, then the two South Americans in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte – so should be favourites to go through with Uruguay.
But this is England, man! I’ve been let down by them so many times since first falling in love with the World Cup in 1986. And Italy are the other team. They’ve got a serious record and a point to prove for looking like mugs last time out. Oh, and they beat England to get to the final of the European Championships two years ago. So, with a heavy heart, I think England will be home before their postcards and the group will end up like this:
- Costa Rica
I hope I’m wrong.