Posted: Saturday 24th May 2014 at 6:41 am

Brazil 2014: Group D Guide

Adidas Brazuca Ball-Brazil 2014

Adidas Brazuca Ball-Brazil 2014



They have a deadly attacking force in Cavani, Suarez and Forlan, who can all score at free will. Aside from that, do they have what it takes to go all they way? I’m not exactly sure about that.

Uruguay certainly have what it takes to at least reach the last eight but it will take something special to see them match their fourth-place feat in South Africa 2010. Nevertheless, the history books show they lifted the trophy last time in Brazil so keep that in mind!

Uruguay’s usual starting XI Playing style and formation

Style & formation: Technical head Oscar Tabarez opted for an attacking modification of the 4-4-2 system during the qualifying series, with the highly creative and skillful Edinson Cavani leading the offense while his partner in crime Luis Suarez was given a free roaming role behind him.

It is interesting to note that Tabarez has other functional tactical systems as was witnessed in away matches and during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The manager toggled between the 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 formations in order to dominate opposing teams. A varied tactical approach to the game is highly expected in Brazil.

Strengths:  The attacking trio of   Suarez, Cavani and the ageless Diego Forlan is a big plus for the current side as it provides them with tremendous striking selections.

Tabarez has also has transformed and restored the true identity of Uruguayan football, giving his side an inner belief that they are technically and mentally more gifted than all teams they face.

Weaknesses: The most obvious area of weakness for  La Celeste is their ageing defense. As many as 25 goals got past them during the qualifying phase (16 away goals). The experienced central defensive pairing of Diego Godin and skipper Diego Lugano could be catastrophic as they lack the pace they once had, with the tendency of the duo committing infringements once the defensive setup is broken.

Sebastian Coates will certainly be a valuable addition now that he has returned from his his anterior cruciate ligament injury setback he suffered last August that took him out of the game for six months. He is a regular starter for Nacional and it is worth noting that if he can regain his top form as witnessed at the 2011 Copa America tournament it will be incalculably beneficial for Uruguay. Most Valuable Player

Luis Suarez-Uruguay
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, 27, stands as Uruguay’s all-time top scorer with 39 goals in 77 caps; he surpassed Diego Forlan’s previous record during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The very impressive skill set -pace, quick feet, creativity, power and impressive ball control- of the Uruguayan attacker places him on a level above the rest and it comes as no surprise that he is one of the world’s most lethal strikers. He banged in three goals at the 2010 World Cup but he will always be remembered for his infamous handball on the line in the last eight tie against Ghana during South Africa 2010. He underwent a knee surgery on May 22 and is expected to make a quick bounce back before the start of the  Copa Mundial. Player to watch

Nicolas Lodeiro, 25, is a promising left or center offensive midfielder who plies his in Brazil for Botafogo, a move which helped him to get his international career on track. He was the youngest member of the Uruguay team that reached the semi-final in South Africa. He was given the marching orders just 18 minutes into his substitute appearance in his side’s opening game against France. He fractured his foot in the most memorable game of the last finals against Ghana. He has been tipped by connoisseurs of the beautiful game to shine in Brazil. Head Coach

Oscar Tabarez
Oscar Tabarez is a highly respected manager in his native country Uruguay. El Maestro (The Teacher) has turned around the fortunes of La Celeste  and led them to a fourth-place finish at the last World Cup and a Copa America triumph during his second tenure as head coach. He has over thirty years of coaching experience with his resume comprising of teams from Colombia, Spain, Italy and Argentina. He first managed Uruguay for a two-year period spanning from 1988 to 1990. He returned to the helm of affairs in 2006. World Cup record

Uruguay were the first winners in the history of the World Cup in their own backyard in as early as 1930. In 1950, they repeated the historic feat by lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1950 – this marked the first time Brazil hosted the soccer showpiece event. Uruguay have also placed fourth three times: 1954, 1970 and 2010.

FIFA Ranking: 6
  COSTA RICA
Costa Rica National Team Prospects
Los Ticos and La Sele  are they are popularly known is a Central American side with tactical discipline defensively, and make use of a pressing approach with respect to how they attack their opposition. At the offensive end of the field of play, they will need an inspiring performance from the likes of the skillful but inconsistent captain Bryan Ruiz, who plays as an attacking midfielder or a second striker, and versatile Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell who plays as a forward if they are to stand a realistic chance of qualifying to the knockout phase. Most Valuable Player

Keylor Navas
Shot-stopper Keylor Navas makes the most valuable contribution to the current Costa Rican setup and has already chalked an impressive 51 caps at the age of 27. He managed to keep seven clean sheets while featuring in 14 qualifying games. He also pushed his way to become Levante’s first choice goalkeeper in Spain’s Liga BBVA and it’s not surprising to see bigger clubs take a keen interest in him. Head Coach

Jorge Luis Pinto
Jorge Luis Pinto is the manager of Costa Rica, serving in his second time in charge of the side which began in September 2011.  He has definitely performed better than his first spell as head coach in a period spanning from 2004-2005. The 61-year-old Colombian national has focused solely on building a solid team as witnessed with eight players forming the core of the team and featuring for a majority of the last 10 qualifying games. Road to Brazil

They finished easily as the second-placed team in the final group stage, capturing five wins in their own backyard. They only allowed seven goals to get past them in the final phase of the qualifiers, which was remarkable as no other team achieved that feat. World Cup Achievements

They had a wonderful run at the Italia ’90 World Cup tournament where they won in their debut against Scotland, managing to reach the last 16. In subsequent World Cup appearances, they experienced early exits in 2002 (1 win, 1 draw , 1 loss) and 2006 respectively (3 losses).

FIFA Ranking: 34
  ENGLAND
The Three Lions-England Prospects
Expectations are really on the low among fans and pundits of the modern game alike when it comes to England stealing the show in Brazil.  The qualifying campaign had it unconvincing moments but the Three Lions pushed for a strong finish but back-to-back friendly losses at Wembley to Chile and Germany after they punched their ticket for the finals proved there still a lot of work to be done. The left-back position is where England have top-class cover but the introduction of promising young talents like Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Jordan Henderson, Ross Barkley, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling will definitely add some youthful energy and entertainment to the overall game at the tournament as they fill in the various positions around the pitch. Most Valuable Player

Wayne Rooney-England
Brazil 2014 marks Wayne Rooney’s third consecutive appearance at the World Cup and admittedly, he is very well aware that he cannot make any excuses this time around since the previous two campaigns were way off the expectations the fans and connoisseurs of the game set for him. On a brighter note, Rooney finished the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification series as England’s top scorer with seven goals in six games to draw him ever closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s national record of 49. Rooney has scored 38 goals in his 89 caps for the Three Lions.

England will certainly need him to be in his best possible form during this summer’s soccer fiesta in Brazil. It is worth noting that Rooney scored a breathtaking goal against Brazil in a 2-2 draw on June 2, 2013 in the official re-inauguration of the renovated Maracanã Stadium, which was his second goal against the hosts- he scored in a 2-1 win over the South Americans at Wembley on February 6, 2013. This could serve as a positive sign of what is to come for the British star striker. Head Coach

Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson, 66, is the manager of the current England squad, taking over from Italian Fabio Capello on May 1, 2012. He had only one loss to his record after his first 22 games in charge preceding the defeats by Chile and Germany. This is the fourth national team he has been in charge of after Switzerland, who he led to the last 16 at the USA 1994 World Cup, Finland and the UAE. He is England’s 13th permanent manager to be appointed by the FA. 

Road to Brazil
England went through their qualifying campaign with no losses and conceded only four goals. Nonetheless, it took them the final game to punch their ticket to Brazil, in spite of their opposition not being top quality teams. Uninspiring draws against Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro were really tough to watch. World Cup record

The Three Lions captured their only world title in 1966 on home soil, and have managed to reach the semi-final on one occasion- Italia 1990. Their demoralizing 4-1 loss to Germany in the last 16 game in South Africa 2010 served as a reminder of their struggles when paired with world-class opponents. Penalty shootouts can be a discussion for another day.

FIFA ranking: 11 ITALY Prospects
Gli Azzurri (The Blues) of Italy are a team that dwells heavily on passing the ball around while maintaining their sole focus on their vibrant attacking approach to the game. They were entertaining to watch in their 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup run where they placed third after a 7-6 loss to Spain 0-0 draw after extra time in the semi-final. They also lost heavily to Spain by a 4-0 scoreline in the final of Euro 2012. Recent difficulties dealing with crosses and aerial balls are a source of worry however the bookies predict Italy will land a quarter-final berth. Most Valuable Player

23 year-old AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli will be making his first appearance at the World Cup as a more matured performer after having endured a lot of disciplinary actions in his growth as a player. He was inspirational in Italy’s road to the final of Euro 2012, finding the back of the net twice in the semi-final against the Germans. He led the scoring chart in qualifying with five goals. Balotelli has also scored 12 times in 29 games played – and the amazing occurrence is that Italy have never lost a game any time he found his name on the score sheet. Impressive! Head Coach

Cesare Prandelli is the manager of the side and commands a lot of respect in football circles in Italy. He is a master tactician and a disciplinarian on and off the pitch, even as far as voicing his intentions of banning social media while camp is in session for the World Cup to save players like Balotelli from trouble. Road to Brazil

Italy effortlessly booked their place with two games remaining, together with the Netherlands they were the first nation from Europe to secure their spot at the soccer showpiece event. Prandelli surprisingly decided to test the strength of his squad in the last two qualifiers which ended in two draws and valuable points dropped, dashing the hopes of being a seeded team.

World Cup Achievements
Italy have won the World Cup four times- 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006; Brazil  is the only side with more titles (five-time winners). The Italians have been two-time runners up and been to the last four eight times in 18 appearances at the highest stage of world football. As defending champions four years ago, they couldn’t register a single win as they bowed out at the group phase.

FIFA Ranking: 9

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