World Cup 2014: Reasons for English optimism

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Finding perspective regarding the England national football team is a bit like trying to catch smoke with your hands. With this in mind, however, I'm going to try.

Let's begin with the obvious: England aren't going to win World Cup - but neither is there reason to think the trip to Brazil is going to be a disaster.

The consensus of the World Cup draw is that England will struggle to qualify, with Italy and Uruguay odds-on favourites to beat them. This is an exaggeration.

Yes, the draw could have been easier on paper but there are reason to think that it isn't as bad as Greg Dyke's cutting his own throat gesture would suggest.

So, let's look at England's opponents.


Much of the 'Abandon hope all ye who have entered Group D' has focused on playing Italy in the first game in the high humidity of Manaus.

Yes, it could be better but there is reason to think that it is not as bad an initial reading would suggest.

Firstly, Italy are going to be just as unused to tropical climate of Manaus. Imagine if England had been playing the South Americans Uruguay in Manaus. Then things would look much worse.

Secondly, Italy are typically slow starters at tournaments. They often do just enough to get through the group stages. The Azzurri will go into this game thinking that a draw against England is a perfectly acceptable outcome. They wouldn't think this if we were playing them in the knock out rounds or later on in the group with them needing a win. The best possible time to face Italy is in the first game.


In the worse case scenario it is in England's second game that the coup de grace will be delivered. Needing a victory after losing to Italy the three lions will be tamed by a rampant Luis Saurez.

This might well happen but a quick look at Uruguay suggests that they are perhaps the weakest seeded side other than Switzerland.

Los Charrúas squeaked into the qualifying playoffs after a truly dismal season and its not hard to see why. Uruguay's team is a poorly decorated Christmas tree with a fantastic angel on top (although angel might not be apt with Saurez) and patchy decorations everywhere else.

Uruguay have two fantastic forwards. Saurez and Cavini are genuine world stars and potential Golden Boot winners but the rest of the team is not up to the same standard. In the World Cup qualifying campaign Uruguay conceded 25 goals or just over 1.5 per game.

Compare this to Ecuador who finished one place above Uruguay in qualifying. They only conceded on average one goal a game. England's averaged 0.4 goals a game and Italy averaged of 0.9 per game. You can get a sense that as good as Uruguay's attack is defence could be their undoing. Uruguay should be respected but not feared.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica are England's last opponents in the group.

The great fear seems to be that after playing Italy and Uruguay England could go into this game with nothing to play for. For those of us with memories of the last World Cup the nightmare scenario could be England going into this game needing a win to qualify. I can almost feel my stress rising just thinking about it.

Still, the simple fact is if England cannot beat Costa Rica then they don't deserve to qualify for the second round.

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