The World Cup draw was never going to be an easy one for England.
Roy Hodgson’s team will face Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the group stages of the competition in Brazil next year, with a game against the Azzurri in the rainforest for their opening fixture.
Uruguay are one of the most dangerous teams in South America. They are ranked sixth in the FIFA rankings, but are behind fellow South American countries Argentina and Colombia in the ranking.
The South American country has the exciting strike-partnership of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and PSG’s Edinson Cavani, who are regarded as two of the best strikers in world football.
Fans of the Premier League will know all about Suarez and his ability, while Cavani was one of the most in-demand strikers this summer before making a mega-money to nouvre-riche French club PSG.
These two strikers will cause any team problems. One comforting thought is the fact that a number of the Uruguay squad are now aging and they are not too solid at the back. The South Americans will however have the edge with weather conditions similar to their own in their neighbouring country.
England also faces Italy in the group stages. Italy knocked the Three Lions out of Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals on penalties and after the Azzurri dominated possession. The Italians are like England some ways in that they are in a slight transitional period.
They have attempted to bring in fresh faces into their squad in the last few years, but a lot of the old faces remain. They still have the skill and intelligence to pass England off the pitch though. One plus for England is the fact Italy also has to cope with stifling weather conditions and the Italians tend to make sluggish starts at major tournaments.
Costa Rica will be the team that is expected to be the whipping boys, as they are slightly unknown to most European football fans. The Costa Ricans finished second in the CONFACAF group behind the USA.
The Costa Ricans squad contains Everton’s current man of the moment Bryan Oviedo, who scored the winning goal for the Toffee’s against Manchester United on Wednesday night. Next year’s World Cup will be Costa Rica’s fourth finals.
England could find it tough to qualify for the knockout stages. The Three Lions had a so called easy group at the last World Cup and struggled. Maybe the fact that they go into the tournament expecting a tough challenge will be better.
England have struggled against fellow major European teams at a World Cup finals and Roy Hodgson’s side will have to change that. England have struggled against the big nations in competition football in particular and Italy will be confident of victory against England, as will Uruguay.
The England squad that goes into this World Cup could be far younger and stronger than the last World Cup. Talented players like Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend and Daniel Sturridge have been added to the squad in recent times.
Those sorts of players have added energy and fresh impetus to the squad. The latest friendly defeats to Chile and Germany show that England has a lot of work to do ahead of next year’s World Cup finals.
The group is a tough one for England, but they have avoided the group of death which contains Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the USA, so it could have been worse for Roy Hodgson and his team. The former-Fulham boss will be hopeful that England will progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The squad that he takes to the World Cup will contain a lot of talented, if not world-class players and some good youngsters coming through into the squad. England can qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup, but they will have to be at their best to make it to the last 16 of next year’s tournament.
Will England qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup?