“D” is for “Death” -- as in Group of Death. One World Cup regular is going home sooner than planned. The question is: which one? Italy, Uruguay and England have won seven World Cups between them. All three have high hopes of advancing to the knockout stages, but there’s only room for two.
Players to Watch
Luis Suarez (URU), Edinson Cavani (URU), Mario Balotelli (ITA), Andrea Pirlo (ITA), Wayne Rooney (ENG), Steven Gerrard (ENG), Bryan Ruiz (CRC), Alvaro Saborio (CRC)
June 14, Manaus: England vs. Italy. A pair of European heavyweights going head-to-head in the heat and humidity of the Amazon region. A game neither side can afford to lose early on may well become a dour encounter, with both teams aiming to avoid defensive mistakes in their opening match.
Sweating on Suarez. There are question marks about the fitness of Uruguay’s goal-scoring machine. Undergoing minor knee surgery so close to the World Cup is not how the Liverpool marksman planned his preparation. Suarez has enjoyed a career season at club level and a nation is praying he’ll be ready to lead his country in similar fashion.
Uruguay, which shares a border with Brazil, will enjoy the nearby comforts of home as the South Americans look to repeat their 2010 run when they upstaged both Brazil and Argentina by reaching the semifinals. Italy against England promises to be a struggle in the oppressive heat. The conditions will suit neither -- but the winner, if there is one, is almost assured of making progress. The Costa Ricans are being cast as the whipping boys of the group.