England is led to a WC by an English coach for the first time since the days of Glenn Hoddle in the 1990sReuters

Group D has been dubbed 2014 World Cup's "Group of Death", with the pool consisting of England, Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.

Though there are not much expectations on England to triumph in the competition, the young team will be keen to win a place in the last 16 at least. The Three Lions have failed to make it out of the group stages of the World Cup only on two occasions - 1950 and 1958.

Now that England are being led by a local coach for the first time since the days of Glenn Hoddle in the late 1990s, the pressure is on Roy Hodgson as he tries to deliver the holy grail in the modern day Mecca of football.

The Three Lions have a pretty decent squad on paper, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who have all found success with their respective clubs.

The skills of these players were thoroughly tested when England needed to secure a win in their final qualifying game against Poland. Strikes from Rooney and Gerrard sealed their place in Brazil at the expense of Ukraine, who were unable to qualify following their dramatic loss to France in the play-offs.

Now England, who laboured against small teams like Ecuador and Honduras in the recent pre-World Cup friendlies, will have to come up with their best performances, if they are to qualify to the knockout phases.

Uruguay is hoping to take the 2014 World Cup by stormReuters

Uruguay, who were very impressive in the 2010 World Cup - finishing fourth behind Germany, Netherlands and champions Spain, have not been the same this time round. They barely managed to qualify this time, and had to beat Jordan in the intercontinental play-offs to book their place in Brazil.

Still, Uruguay, who won the World Cup twice - in 1930 and 1950, will be hoping to do much better in the finals.

Uruguay's strength is their ability to stifle opponents on the counter. With Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Liverpool's Luis Suarez (who has recently begun training after recovering from a knee injury) leading their attack, La Celeste can turn their defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

Coach Oscar Tabarez is also known to use a variety of formations, including 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 4-3-3, depending on the situation.

However, Uruguay's back line, except for Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin, is not so strong as most of their defenders are over 30 and do not possess speed or agility.

Italy has not managed to register a win in their last seven international fixturesReuters

Italy, who regularly make it to the final stages of the World Cup, have not been looking good of late as they have not managed to record a win in their last seven games.

Despite easily qualifying for the World Cup, topping Group B with two matches to spare, Cesare Prandelli's side has not done well since, drawing with the likes of Denmark, Armenia, Germany, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg, and losing to defending champions Spain.

Still the Azzurri, who were the runners-up at the 2012 European Championship and third-place holders at the 2014 Confederations Cup, will certainly be contenders for the World Cup.

Italy, who prefer playing possession-based football, have many talented forwards - Mario Balotelli (AC Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli) - who can come on and change the game.

Azzurri's defence consists of the Juventus trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorigo Chiellini, who are known to be very miserly, giving nothing away.

The midfield with players like Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio (both Juventus), Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti (both Paris St-Germain) and Daniele De Rossi is also very strong, with a mixture of experience and youth.

Italy, who have won the World Cup four times - 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006, will be looking to get their act together, before their first game against England on 14 June.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica is looking to cause an upset in the World CupReuters

Although Costa Rica has a strong side this year, they have been very unlucky, having been drawn in the Group of Death.

They are the clear underdogs, despite their squad having many Europe-based players, including goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Levante), defenders Oscar Duarte (Bruges) and Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg), midfielders Celso Borges (AIK) and Christian Bolanos (Copenhagen) and forwards Bryan Ruiz (Fulham) and Joel Campbell (Arsenal).

However, the absence of forward Alvaro Saborio, who has scored 32 goals in 93 games for the country, and Everton full-back Bryan Oviedo has come as a big blow to the Central American side.

Costa Rica, who comfortably qualified for the 2014 World Cup after finishing in second place behind USA - with five wins, three draws and two defeats in the CONCACAF fourth round, will definitely be keen to upset one or two so-called big teams in the Group of Death.

Key Players

England: Manchester United striker Rooney will definitely be England's key player, having shone at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup. Despite enduring a difficult campaign with the Red Devils last season, the 28-year-old still managed to score 17 and assist 10 goals in the Premier League. Also, the former Everton man scored six goals in seven games during the qualifiers for England.

Uruguay: Suarez is undoubtedly the most important player for Uruguay, having netted 39 goals in 76 games for his country. The 27-year-old was lethal in the last season for Liverpool, winning the Golden Boot after scoring 31 league goals from 32 appearances. However, Suarez, infamous for his handball controversy in the 2010 World Cup, is a doubt for the first game against Costa Rica.

Italy: Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo is still Azzurri's main player, despite being 35. Pirlo is still a master when it comes to delivering perfect passes. Although he only managed to score four goals and provide six assists in the Serie A, Italy will still count on him to deliver the magic once again.

Costa Rica: Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navasis probably the key player for Costa Rica as he has already earned 50 caps for his country, despite just being 26 years old. Also, he managed to keep seven cleansheets in 14 matches for Costa Rica during the qualifying phases.


14 June 2014: Uruguay v Costa Rica, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza

14 June 2014: Englandv Italy, Arena Amazonia, Manaus

19 June 2014: Uruguay v England, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo

20 June 2014:Italy v Costa Rica, Arena Pernambuco, Recife

24 June 2014:Italy v Uruguay, Arena das Dunas, Natal

24 June 2014: Costa Rica v England,Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte

Prediction: Italy will top the group, with Uruguay in second place, followed by England and Costa Rica.

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