Every World Cup draw comes with much scrutiny and a lot of debate. But even better, are the match-ups they produce. There is always one great match within each grouping, but some have more than one, and some create great games each day that group is designated to play. Which leads to the debate about which group is the hardest to get out of. So, which group is the “group of death?”
Upon first glance, I thought it would be Group B, with Spain, Netherlands, Chile, and Australia. The two World Cup 2010 finalists in one group sounded awful, but I think those two countries (Spain and Netherlands) will skate through to the next round easily after they face off against one another.
My next thought was Group G, with Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and the USA. I don’t know if I picked this because I was upset for the USMNT being paired with Germany, or if I was merely listening to the media and their picks, because they all flocked to this group and quickly deemed it the group of death. However, people seem to forget Portugal barely made it into the World Cup, and Ghana is slipping more and more as we approach the Cup. While I do think there is a tough pairing in every game, and every game will be exciting until the very last whistle, I think there is one group that has it worse.
“D” for Death
After some review, and confirmation from the new FIFA rankings, I think Group D is THE “group of death” for World Cup 2014. Uruguay (7th in new FIFA rankings), Costa Rica (28), England (10), and Italy (9) have to beat each other up to advance to the round of 16. Three teams in the top 10 in the world, paired with the underrated Costa Rica squad, is a daunting task for any team. It is hard enough for me to try and pick the overall winner of this group, let alone two teams to come from it.
In the end, I think Uruguay comes away the winner, because of their experience and because of Luis Suarez; he is the best player in the world right now. I think Italy makes it out as the second team because of their defense. Usually, Mario Balotelli shows up for the bigger stages and I would not expect anything different this year. England is the odd ball here, because they always possess the threat to do some damage, but never quite live up to it. They do have defenders that know how Suarez works and that should be a great matchup to watch how England tries to contain him.
For once, it seems England has forwards that can actually score. The probable duo of the powerful Wayne Rooney and the sneaky Daniel Sturridge will be fun to watch, but I don’t think the defense for the Three Lions can carry the team out of pool play. And now we are back to Costa Rica. While this squad looked good coming through a rather weak CONCACAF qualifying field, they seem to be moving in the wrong direction at the wrong time. In their last two tune-up games, Costa Rica lost 3-1 to Japan and they tied a 10-man team from the Republic of Ireland, 1-1.
This certainly is not prime form for a team in a tough group, but with their style of play, never count out Costa Rica. Because Costa Rica holds ten guys, sometimes eleven, behind the ball, their defense is stymie and they only need one solid counter attack to change the fortunes of one nation.
That’s why Group D is the real group of death and any team could emerge the winner of this pool. This pool starts play on Saturday, June 14th. That will be the first time most people will be available to watch with no other work obligations to worry about, and the people should not be disappointed by the soccer they get to see.