England's Wayne Rooney, 2nd left, applauds spectators after the World Cup Group H qualification soccer match between England and Poland at Wembley stadium in London, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.
This is the fourth post in a series previewing the World Cup's eight groups. Find Group A here, Group B here, Group C here and check back later this week for looks at groups E, F, G and H.
The 2014 World Cup's Group D is straight-up brutal. Like, cringe-inducing, churn-you-stomach brutal if you support any of its four teams. Getting to the tournament's knockout stage will be a true achievement for anyone from this group, England and Italy included.
Who will eventually emerge victorious? Which players can bring joy to even the most casual soccer fan? What will be the funnest storylines to follow?
All that (and more!) shall be revealed right here in our 10-minute guide to Group D.
The teams (FIFA world ranking in parenthesis)
- Uruguay (6)
- Italy (9)
- England (11)
- Costa Rica (34)
England is truly a soccer-mad country, featuring both some of the game's biggest fans and its top professional league. England is one of just eight nations with a World Cup title to boast of. England is currently ranked 11th in FIFA's world rankings. But England will need a lot of help to make it out of this deadly group.
Wayne Rooney is still a tough-as-nails striker in the prime of his career, but many longtime Lions mainstays like John Terry and Frank Lampard are either old or out of the picture. Meanwhile, Uruguay and Italy bring stacked squads to Brazil. Uruguay is led by English Premier League superstar forward Luis Suárez, while Italy will look to the mercurial goal machine Mario Balotelli and splendid midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Costa Rica brings up the rear in Group D, but the Central American challengers are far from a pushover.
The schedule (all times in ET)
- Uruguay versus Costa Rica, June 14, Fortaleza, 3 p.m.
- England versus Italy, June 14, Manaus, 6 p.m.
- Uruguay versus England, June 19, Sao Paulo, 3 p.m.
- Italy versus Costa Rica, June 20, Recife, 12 p.m.
- Italy versus Uruguay, June 24, Natal, 12 p.m.
- Costa Rica versus England, June 24, Belo Horizonte, 12 p.m.
4 players to watch
Luis Suárez (Uruguay): Suárez made one of the 2010 World Cup's most controversial — and brilliant — plays with an intentional hand-ball to prevent a knockout-stage goal. But, after cleaning up his rough image recently, Suárez should make an even bigger mark scoring goals of his own to lead a strong Uruguay side this year. A classic forward, Suárez simply puts the ball in the net — and after all, that's the point of this game, right?
Andrea Pirlo (Italy): Pirlo is many things — savant midfielder, fearsome free-kicker, Italian legend and amazing autobiographer among them. He helped lead Italy to the 2006 World Cup title, and at 35 years old, this one is probably his last go-round. He may have slowed a bit with age, but his vision and precision are still top-notch. While Mario Balotelli will be counted on to get Italy goals in Brazil, it's Pirlo who will be setting them up.
Wayne Rooney (England): If we're picking just one England player for this primer, it has to be the rascal Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United star is in a strange spot. He's the Lions' unquestioned top scoring threat, and is 12 international goals away from becoming England's all-time top scorer — yet he couldn't find the net for England in disappointing showings at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Will 2014 be more kind?
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica): Navas just finished up a killer season for Spanish club Levante and, at 27 years old, the goalkeeper is worth keeping an eye on for the future. For better or worse, he'll probably get plenty of chances to stop shots in Brazil, thanks to Costa Rica's lethal group.
While no doormats, the Costa Ricans don't have a realistic shot here. That means someone from the high-powered trio of England, Italy and Uruguay is going home heartbroken. Italy is just too good, top to bottom, and will win the group. Led by Suárez and 2010 World Cup revelation Diego Forlán, Uruguay will take down England for second place and move on with Italy to the knockout stage.
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