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Analysis of Group Stage


Tough tests in group of champions
With one current continental champion and another runner-up the first balls to be drawn to Group D, the section was already looking a tough proposition. With Uruguay and Italy watching on intently, a third FIFA World Cup™ winner was added to the mix in the shape of England, following on from Costa Rica, leaving pre-tournament predictions tough to call. Seven times the names of the European and South American sides have been engraved on the World Cup Trophy, and at least one of these former champions will emerge into the knockout phase with their credentials well tested this time around.

The teams
With Uruguay as reigning Copa America holders and Italy as UEFA EURO 2012 runners-up, the pair will arguably be seen as the favourites, but England reached Brazil 2014 without a defeat to their name so cannot be ruled out. While Costa Rica will enter as outsiders, those in CONCACAF qualifying will tell you, Los Ticos cannot be taken lightly.

Players to watch
Luis Suarez (URU), Edinson Cavani (URU), Diego Forlan (URU), Joel Campbell (CRC), Brian Ruiz (CRC), Wayne Rooney (ENG), Daniel Sturridge (ENG) Jack Wilshere (ENG), Claudio Marchisio (ITA), Giuseppe Rossi (ITA), Mario Balotelli (ITA).

The crunch match
Italy-Uruguay: Having just met in the third-place match at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, which the Italians won on penalties after a thrilling 2-2 draw, their duel in Natal will be played almost exactly a year later. As part of the final day of Group D, there is every chance this match could be a qualification decider. If they serve up half as good a game as in Salvador in 2013, all watching are in for a treat.

Uruguay

Last World Cup: Semifinalist Nickname: La Celeste/Charrúas Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez Star man: Edinson Cavani Tournament best: Winners 1930, 1950 T...

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Costa Rica

Last World Cup: Did Not Qualify Nickname: Ticos Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto Star man: Bryan Ruiz Tournament best: Last 16 1990 Seized upon Mexico's struggle...

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England

Last World Cup: Round of 16 Nickname: The Three Lions Coach: Roy Hodgson Star man: Wayne Rooney Tournament best: Winners 1966 England are still looking f...

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Italy

Last World Cup: Group stage Nickname: Gli Azzurri (The Blues) Coach: Cesare Prandelli Star man: Mario Balotelli Tournament best: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2...

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