ENGLAND have been given a tricky World Cup draw into Group D with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.
Roy Hodgson’s team will begin their participation in the 2014 World Cup with a game against Italy in Manaus on June 14th, followed by a game against Uruguay in Sao Paolo three days later.
Group D concludes with a game against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on June 24th, although it is not a great omen for England that the city was the sight of their infamous defeat to the USA in the 1950 World Cup.
The draw was made in a lavish ceremony earlier today (December 6th).
This will be a big test for England, with top seeds Uruguay featuring Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and Italy still featuring the players that beat them in Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
Costa Rica look, on paper, like England’s easiest test, but nothing can be taken for granted in what promises to be a tricky group for the Three Lions.
Hodgson’s worst fears of travelling long distance have also come to pass. No games take place in the team’s base city of Rio de Janeiro, although they will be able to make shorter journeys to Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte, which are in shorter travel distance from England’s main city.
Their worst travel is saved for the opening game. England will open their 2014 World Cup campaign in the city of Manaus, which is located deep in the Amazon rainforest in a region that features 99% humidity, a 40% chance of thunderstorms, tropical heat and an average daily high of 31 degrees centigrade even in June.
It will be particularly uncomfortable for Hodgson as well after he said Manaus was the place to avoid.
This drew angry comments from the city’s Mayor Arthur Virgilio, who said: “We would prefer that England doesn’t come. We hope to get a better team and a coach who is more sensible and polite. He’s one of the few people in the world who is not curious about the Amazon, who doesn’t want to know about Manaus.”
Italy are well known about to England, after the meeting with the 2006 World Champions in the Euro 2012 Quarter Finals. The Italians were superior for most of the contest but struggled to land a breakthrough. Ultimately, it required yet more penalty shootout heartache for England’s exit.
England’s 2nd game sees them take on Uruguay, and the familiar foe of Suarez. The Liverpool striker is currently top of the scoring charts in the Premier League and is touted as one of the potential stars of the tournament. Hopefully it’ll be for the right reasons – his main contribution to the 2010 World Cup was his Gordon Banks-esque save on the line that denied Ghana a semi-final place.
PSG striker Cavani is also a big gun and although Uruguay needed a play-off against Jordan to reach the finals, they will not be an easy ride.
Costa Rica is largely seen as England’s easiest shot, but they will not be easy. Having missed the South Africa tournament, they bounced back in style to beat both Mexico and the USA in qualifying and they qualified with two to spare. Such good results don’t make them such convincing pushovers.
If England can somehow squeeze their way out of this, they will take on one of Group C – Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan.
It promises to be an interesting tournament for England. It also promises to be an interesting one for the nation’s fans – having landed the tournament’s only 2am kick-off time, it means a lot of people may well develop nocturnal sleeping patterns to fit this game in.