World Cup Draw (featuring my group stage predictions) : England face Italy in tough group at 2014 World Cup

England will face a very tough group at the World Cup.

England have been drawn into a ‘group of death’ at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.The Three Lions will face four-time winners Italy, last-time semi-finalists Uruguay and Costa Rica.

It’s bad news for England it more than one area – not only will they have a struggle to get out of their group football wise, they also face a long journey and some tropical temperatures in the huge country. Their game against Italy will be 1,777 miles away from their base and has a 30 degree plus temperatures and high humidity.

Away from England, there seem to be three tough groups in the World Cup. England’s group D is very tough, with the sixth (Uruguay); seventh (Argentina); thirteenth (England) and thirty-first (Costa Rica) ranked team in the world. Group G is also very hard to qualify from, with a brilliant seeded team in Germany and a Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal. They also have the second-best African team in Ghana and the best team in north and central America, USA.

But probably the worst group is group B. It has a re-run of the 2010 final as Spain will face the Netherlands. The group also has Chile, who are one of the best sides in South America. To finish the group off, Australia will also try to fight their way out of the toughest group of death.

Here are the groups and my predictions for who will progress into the round of 16 from each group:

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.

My Group A verdict: I think hosts Brazil will be happy with their relatively easy draw. I’m sure they will win the group miles in front of the others. However, there could be a fight to second place between all three teams. I think Croatia will edge it, but Mexico will give them a run for their money. 1. Brazil 2. Croatia 3. Mexico 4. Cameroon.

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.

My Group B verdict: This is a group of death, but there are definitely clear favourites in this group. Finalists in 2010 Spain and the Netherlands will almost certainly be going into the second round. I chose Chile as my surprise of the tournament but after the draw I’m afraid that qualification does look beyond them. However, I have a strange feeling that one of the top two sides will slip up, which could give Chile a passageway. 1. Spain 2. The Netherlands 3. Chile 4. USA.

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

My Group C verdict: I really don’t know where Colombia have come from. Just two years ago they were in the mid-50’s in the world rankings, similar to Wales – now they are fourth. Yes, they do have world-class players (take Monaco duo Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez for instance) and yes, I’m not an expert on South American football, but surely there’s something slightly weird about a team who’s last World Cup appearance was in 1998 being above teams like the Netherlands and Brazil?

Anyway, back to group C. If Colombia are as good as they’re supposed to be, they should do well. Even if they aren’t worthy of a fourth position in the rankings, they will probably get through with this group. Japan impressed me in 2010, and I think they could do well again here. Ivory Coast have been unlucky with very bad groups at the last two World Cups, but that won’t be a problem here. It’ll be a close battle, but I’m going for Japan. Didier Drogba’s now 35, after all! 1. Colombia 2. Japan 3. Ivory Coast 4. Greece

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.

My Group D verdict: Aah, so now we get onto England’s group. FA Chairman Greg Dyke made a cut-throat motion as the name was called out – and he’s probably right. England struggled to get out of a group containing USA, Algeria and Slovakia in 2010, so it seems like Greg Dyke’s portrayal is correct. Italy and Uruguay have many world-class players; Gigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and of course the infamous Mario Balotelli for Italy, and the amazing attack of Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani and Diego Forlan for Uruguay.

England could still do it. But I remember Roy Hodgson saying that nobody new would be in the World Cup squad, and for me that will just squander their chances. They lost to Chile and a second-string Germany, and Uruguay and Italy are at similar level. For that reason, I’m afraid that I don’t think that England will get into the second round. 1. Uruguay 2. Italy 3. England 4. Costa Rica

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

My Group E verdict: Apparently Switzerland are seeded – like Colombia, I couldn’t believe it. They’ve never won a major trophy, and failed to qualify for Euro 2012. They had quite an easy group for World Cup qualifying, and I’m not sure that they would’ve qualified otherwise. Anyway, they are probably quite good if they were seeded, even if it was only by the skin of their teeth.

France had a terrible time in 2010, but I don’t think that the same will happen this time. Ecuador’s only big name is Manchester United star Antonio Valencia, and I don’t think they’ll be able to get through the group. 1. France 2. Switzerland 3. Ecuador 4. Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

My Group F verdict: Argentina have been fortunate with this draw. In fact, three of the top four ranked teams in South America have been handed ‘easy’ groups – and a case can be made for Uruguay.

Anyway, I have no doubt that if they perform to the best of their ability, Argentina can quite easily top this group. Bosnia-Herzegovina (spelt it right first time!) do have a formidable striker in Edin Dzeko, but this is their first major tournament since their formation, and they may just simply not have enough experience to go far in the competition.

Nigeria had a impressive qualifying campaign and are one of the strongest teams in Africa. I think it could be a struggle between them and Bosnia for second place in the group. However, I am going for Bosnia, who have done very well in 2013, to clinch it. 1. Argentina 2. Bosnia-Herzegovina 3. Nigeria 4. Iran

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States

My Group G verdict: This is a tough group. Still, I think Germany will win it quite easily. The Germans have been impressive for a long time, and I think they can definitely go very far in the competition.

Portugal got here via the play-off, so you might think that they would go out soon. However, you can’t rule a team with Cristiano Ronaldo out, and he could prove the key for their qualification from this group.

Ghana were horribly unlucky at the 2010 World Cup. Luis Suarez handballed it on the line before Asamoah Gyan blazed it over the crossbar. They were so close to victory. I really hope that they’ve put that behind them, and they could finish second in this group. And don’t forget, the USA is the best ranked team in north and central America! 1. Germany 2. Portugal 3. Ghana 4. USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

My Group H verdict: Belgium have a host of amazing Premier League players. They could field a whole team of stars who play in England. And their ranking is brilliant – eleventh, but they were seeded in the draw. This is by no means a tough group – they could win it with ease. 1. Belgium 2. Russia 3. Algeria 4. South Korea

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