thumbnail Hello,

Goal analyzes all the eight groups in this year's world cup. Continuing with our series, we take a look at Group D.

SPECIAL
By Aditya Bajaj


ITALY


Profile

Titles: FIFA World Cup (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), European Championship (1968)
Top Scorer: Luigi Riva (35)
Most Apearances: Gianluigi Buffon (140)


      Star Man: Andrea Pirlo

Appearances: 108
Goals: 13

Formation

4-3-2-1

 

Coach

A former Juventus midfielder, Cesare Prandelli came into prominence as a manager when he transformed Fiorentina into a team that could challenge for a Champions League regularly. Having taken over from Marcello Lippi post the World Cup debacle in 2010, the 50-year old has lent an attacking identity to Italy, historically known for being ultra-defensive. He led the Azzurri to the finals of the European Championships in 2012 raising the bar for the showpiece in Brazil.


How they set up

Prandelli has perhaps the most versatile squad in hand amongst the 32 teams that will compete for world honours in a week’s time. After switching between the 3-5-2 and the 4-3-1-2 during the first few years of his managerial stint, Italy look set to start in 4-3-2-1. Daniele De Rossi could step back into defense while going forward allowing star midfielder Andrea Pirlo to dictate the play with the full backs providing width on the flanks.

Mario Balotelli will lead the line with Andrea Candreva and Claudio Marchisio supporting him from behind.


Key Players

This is a no-brainer as all eyes will once again be on Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo who is playing his last World Cup for his country. The 35-year old has been in sensational form since his move to Turin from Milan in 2011, with age just a number for the 2006 world champion.

In attack, much depends on enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli whose form and ‘mood’ will decide whether the Italians are able to penetrate through the opposition defences.

However, 21-year old Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti could the wild card as Ricardo Montilivo’s untimely injury allows him to share the creative responsibility alongside Pirlo.

Then of course there is the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon guarding the posts with this being his fifth World Cup appearance. 


Strengths and Weaknesses

Unlike old times, Italy’s strength this World Cup lies in their midfield and not defense. A mix of youth and experience, the opposition may find it hard to contain Andrea Pirlo who has several tricks up his sleeves to dictate play despite being closed down by his opponents. Daniele De Rossi’s presence as a holding midfielder and part time center back, allows the full backs to maraud on the flanks while Verratti is supposed to be the backup to Pirlo in the creative department, in case the former Milan player is shunted out in the game.

The defense is well covered with the Juventus trio of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci with Gigi Buffon guarding them in goal.

The major worry for Prandelli is the inability to get results having drawn six of their last seven games. Also, the inexperienced alternatives to Balotelli in attack could pose a few problems for the Azzurri as the Milan striker is known to go absent when things don’t go his way. Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci are able forwards but the big occasion could be too overwhelming for the World Cup debutants. Antonio Cassano makes a return to the squad after two years, but has had little time to assimilate.

Expectation 

The Italians are not favourites for the title but having been perennial slow starts at major tournaments all depends on how they get through a group that also has the likes of Uruguay, England and Costa Rica. They could face either one of Colombia, Greece, Japan or Ivory Coast in the round of 16 (should they go through) so reaching the quarter-finals is a minimum.

However, making it to the top four is a very realistic goal even if winning the World Cup is a long shot. 

Netherlands
ENGLAND

Profile

Titles: FIFA World Cup (1966) 
Top Scorer: Bobby Charlton (49)
Most Apearances: Peter Shilton (125)


Star Man: Wayne Rooney

Appearances: 91
Goals: 39

Formation

4-2-3-1

 

Coach

An experienced campaigner whose former employers include the likes of Inter Milan, Udinese, Fulham and Liverpool, Roy Hodgson was a surprise appointment post the resignation of Fabio Capello as England manager in 2012.

Under him, England at one point rose to third place in the FIFA rankings leading the Three Lions to Brazil with an unbeaten run in the European World Cup qualifiers. 


How they set up

Having traditionally lined up in a 4-4-2 for most part of their history in World football, England are set to line up in a 4-2-3-1 which has also been the norm in the English Premier League over the past few seasons.

With the old guard of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry out of the national scene having served their country for over a decade, the English will depend on the likes of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill who had a good campaign with Chelsea this season in central defence. Leighton Baines will flank the centre backs on the left with Liverpool man Glen Johnson on the right.

Steven Gerrard will mantle the midfield in a Pirlo-like role with club-mate Jordan Henderson in support.

A youthful attack comprises of Danny Welbeck on the left with Adam Lallana on the right with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being the other option if fit.

Hot in form, Daniel Sturridge will look to take his club form to Brazil leading the line with much resting on Wayne Rooney who will be lining up behind him as a supporting striker.  

Key Players

After picking up a young squad with the future in mind, Hodgson will have to depend on the experience of Steven Gerrard in midfield and Wayne Rooney upfront to deliver with much resting on their shoulders.

Frank Lampard’s effectiveness depends much on how he is used as time and again it’s been proved that both him and Gerrard cannot play alongside each other. The Chelsea man will be a good option from the bench while Danny Welbeck has a chance to prove his importance to new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal.

But the man every English fan will be counting on is Daniel Sturridge who scored an impressive 21 goals in 29 appearances for Liverpool this season. It will be interesting to see if the 24-year old can carry his form to the greatest competition in world football for his country.


Strengths and Weaknesses

England’s strength lies without any doubt in its attack and having failed to perform consistently for England, Wayne Rooney has an opportunity to shed all the criticism he has garnered for his past performances for the Three Lions at major tournaments. Youthful presence alongside the Manchester United forward and a plethora of pace all around him, this English side could wreak havoc when on the break.

Steven Gerrard has rediscovered himself this season with Liverpool and the captain has to assert his authority and dictate play along with inspiring the future stars of England in what could be his last World Cup.

However, the major cause of worry lies at the back where the backline is really untested at the biggest stage of football having taken over from greats like Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. The biggest issue for Hodgson is team selection as he has to integrate all his star players.


Expectation 

Never in the past decade, have expectations been so low for England – a country that boasts arguably the best football league in the world. A difficult group where they will need to face the likes of Italy and Uruguay hasn’t helped lift some of the gloominess surrounding their chances at the World Cup.

Getting past the group stages will be the first major test and a successful first round could boost their confidence which could enhance their chances of reaching the last eight.

The first game against a much superior Italian side will most certainly decide their future course in the tournament.


Chile
URUGUAY

Profile

Titles: FIFA World Cup (1930, 1950) 
Top Scorer: Luis Suarez (38)
Most Apearances: Diego Forlan (110)

Star Man: Edinson Cavani

Appearances: 62
Goals: 21

Formation

4-3-3

 

Coach

Also known as El Maestro, Oscar Tabarez has been in charge of La Celeste since 2006, having also managed his country for two years between 1988 and 1990. His crowning moment with the national team was certainly the fourth place finish in the last World Cup in South Africa where Diego Forlan also won the Golden Ball award. In 2011, under his leadership Uruguay lifted their 15th Copa America title giving his country the record of most wins ever in the history of the tournament. His team however, struggled to qualify for Brazil 2014 having just booked a berth via play-offs again Jordan.


How they set up

Uruguay will line up in a 4-3-3 formation with Liverpool striker, Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani leading the attack supported by former Manchester United forward Diego Forlan.

La Liga winner, and Altetico Madrid’s Diego Godin will hold the fort in the heart of defense alongside captain Diego Lugano flanked on either side by Benfica’s Maxi Pereira and Juventus’ Martin Caceres with Galatasary custodian Fernando Muslera in goal.

In midfield former Napoli midfielder Walter Gargano will be held responsible to form the bridge between his defense and attack, supported by Egidio Arévalo in the center and Atletico’s Cristian Rodriguez out wide. 


Key Players

With Oscar Tabarez still sweating over the fitness of his star striker Luis Suarez who is still recovering from a knee operation, much will once again depend on the creative genius of Diego Forlan and the service he provides Edinson Cavani who is today one of the most lethal finishers in the game.

In defense, Diego Godin will look to do what he has done brilliantly for Atletico Madrid this season having helped the Spanish club to the league title and the finals of the Champions League.

Parma midfielder Walter Gargano is an experienced campaigner while the likes of Arevalo and Rodriguez will look to provide more cover in the midfield department. 

Strengths and Weaknesses

Uruguay just concluded friendly against Slovenia was a good representation of both why they are a dangerous side to play against and at the same struggled to qualify for this edition of the World Cup.

They struggled to create chances but eventually the creative genius of Diego Forlan and finishing abilities of Edinson Cavani helped them to the end of the tunnel in what was a comprehensive 2-0 victory.

Forlan may have faded post the 2010 World Cup as far as club football is concerned, but he is still effective for the national team. Liverpool striker, Suarez was amongst the top scorers in Europe this season and his blistering pace as well as his ability to get past players could prove beneficial for Tabarez and co.

However, much depends on how the a relatively weak midfield helps connect the defense with the attack.


Expectation 

Just like Italy, Uruguay are favourites to sail to the next round of the competition from Group D. A quarter-final finish seems very much likely for the 2010 semi-finalists but beyond that anything would be considered as a nation of 3-million people punching above their weight.

Their form in the South American qualifiers has been a cause of worry, but that’s history now and they could yet be one of the dark horses in the competition. 


Australia
COSTA RICA

Profile

Titles: None (Best Finish – Round of 16 in 1990) 
Top Scorer: Rolando Fonseca (47)
Most Apearances: Walter Centeno (137)

Star Man: Joel Campbell

Appearances: 31
Goals: 9

Formation

4-2-3-1

 

Coach

Given the reigns of Costa Rica in 2011, Jorge Luis Pinto Afanador helped La Sele to their fourth World Cup after the disappointment of missing out on the showpiece in South Africa in 2010. This is his second stint with the country, having also managed them briefly between 2004 and 2005. The Colombian has managerial experience of over two decades and managed his country on one occasion albeit to mixed results.
 

How they set up

Costa Rica used the 3-5-2 for much of their qualifying campaign but ever the pragmatist, Pinto is expected to use the 4-2-3-1 with a tough group calling for a strong defense.

Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas who had an impressive La Liga season will guard the goal with Giancarlo Gonzales partnering Michael Umana at the heart of the defense. Mainz full back Junior Diaz will flank on the left side of the backline with Rosenberg full back Cristian Gamboa on the right.

Upfront Olympiakos youngster and Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell with line up alongside PSV Eindhoven’s Bryan Ruiz as the attacking midfielder with Yeltsin Tejeda and Celso Borges the link between them and the defense.

Veteran striker Alvaro Saborio will lead the line with 26-year old Celso Borges completing the attacking third for the Costa Ricans.
 

Key Players

Arsenal loanee who currently plies his trade with Greek side Olympiakos is one of the most important cards for Pinto as the 21-year old winger has enough pace to strike fear in the opponents who will be vary of his quick breaks on the counter.

Campbell came into the spotlight when he scored the second goal for Olympiakos in their famous victory over Manchester United in the second round of the Champions League.

Bryan Ruiz, who is currently on loan at PSV from Fulham is another surprise package for the Ticos who alongside Saborio is expected to keep the score card ticking for the Costa Ricans.

Keylor Navas was one of the best goalkeepers in the La Liga this season helping Levante finish a respectable 10th in the league table and his side will be counting on his brilliant form throughout the European season.


Strengths and Weaknesses

Known for the traditional attacking style, Pinto has led some sort of a balance to his team deeply aware of the opposition that awaits his side in Brazil. Costa Rica’s strength still lies in the attack with the creativity of Ruiz and pace of Campbell crucial to any chance they have of getting through what many have labelled as the ‘Group of Death’.

Eventually it’s the strength of the opposition that could prove to be too overwhelming for the underdogs of this group. Italy, Uruguay and England will look to capitalise and attack as much against the Ticos which could eventually force them to sit back and defend continuously rendering the attackers toothless and devoid of service.
 

Expectation 

Considering the gulf of quality between them and others in this group, securing a single point could be a daunting task, let alone getting past the group stages.

One win against any of their rivals in the first round could make for a successful campaigner and they could surprisingly play a role in denting the chances of the others who would look to secure all three points against them.

Prediction: 1. Italy 2. Uruguay 3. England 4. Costa Rica


Follow Aditya Bajaj on 

How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game

Related