From an England perspective, a lot of people put a negative spin on our group draw. This is not to say it’s going to be easy, I just feel England can surprise people. We all seem to think our national side is useless, but England fans should be optimistic ahead of the Brazil 2014.
Admittedly the media prey on the fact we won’t be used to the conditions and we’re in a group with two previous winners. Yes the conditions will be difficult but conditions it’s not like we’re the only ones. Acclimatisation programmes will of course help and in Manaus we are playing another European side in Italy, who will find the conditions equally uneasy. In Japan and South Korea 2002 a lot was made of the humidity, but it didn’t seem to affect us as much as the media made out.
Looking at the Italy team and our previous encounter with them at the Euros, people will clearly think they’d be favourites. However we did take them to penalties then by putting in a plucky performance. Yes they passed us off the pitch, but they didn’t score. Hodgson had only just come into the job at that point and was yet to implement his style. I feel our ball retaintion ability has improved since he has been in charge. I feel our opener will be a little cagey, because Hodgson will want at least a point going into the Uruguay game. A draw will be a good result and I think we’re more than capable of getting a point.
Uruguay seems like a force that will be hard to stop. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will be a handful, but Uruguay tends to have a set style of play which England should be able to deal with. They sit deep and soak up pressure rather than committing too many men forward. They tend not to play too many attacking players; instead they like to use destructors in the middle of park a la Walter Gargano and Arevalo Rios. Technical players playing a fluid passing style of football will be harder to stop, just look at what Chile did to us at Wembley. Uruguay will be difficult to beat and if they get an early goal it’ll be difficult, but they are not unbeatable. I think we can maybe snatch a win in this game, but a draw will look like the most probably outcome.
As for Costa Rica, they are a bit of an unknown. They may seem like the whipping boys of the group, but they had a decent qualification campaign finishing second behind USA, who they beat 3-1 at home. Bryan Ruiz has showed in the Premier League that he’s inconsistent, but a talented dribbler who can be difficult to stop on his day. As well as Ruiz, they have flying fullback Bryan Oviedo and Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell who are all technically gifted individuals. They’ll be no pushovers; however we should have the experience and firepower to see them off. It’ll surely come down to this game for England to win and I think we will put in a decent performance.
If we progress, we should have a decent draw for the second round as we will play one of: Ivory Coast, Japan, Colombia or Greece. If we can avoid Colombia then I can see us getting through to the quarters. Colombia will be difficult to deal with due to them being accustomed to the climate and their style of play will cause us problems. Anything after the second round is hard to predict, if we’re in the quarter finals anything can happen.
Our squad seems to have a fresh, invigorating look to it now. Players like Lallana and Barkley look set to have a chance at playing in Brazil, who adds attacking flair to our team which we have lacked for a while. I may be asking a lot of players with very little international experience, but in-form player like this have to be included as they could be an element of surprise to the opposition. Andros Townsend has put in some refreshing displays, along with the likes of Walcott and potentially Oxlade-Chamberlain, we have some seriously exciting options on the flanks.
Hodgson knows how to play tournament football. His preparation will be good and tactically he knows how to play against teams. He knows how to defend against teams and if he can find the right balance in our midfield, I’m sure we can go far. I have faith in Hodgson as England manager, he won’t be one to gamble, but he’s got the experience and tactical nous to get the best out of England.
I feel it’s a lot more exciting playing the big teams instead of World Cup 2010′s EASY (England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks) group. It’ll be competitive right from the start; the players will be up for it and England seemed to step up for the big games when it matters. With a draw against favourites and Confederations Cup winners Brazil in their own back yard, anything possible, right?!
By Phil Turbitt