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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group D Picks (June 14-24)

I'm from England so you can imagine the fascination that has been placed in Group D as not many over here know exactly what to expect from this tournament. A young squad that is vastly changed from the Euro 2012 one will travel to Brazil to take on 2006 World Cup winners Italy, 2010 Semi Finalists and two time former Winner Uruguay and Scotland's nemesis in 1990, Costa Rica.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group B picks will be made here

Group C picks will be made here

Group E picks will be made here

Group F picks will be made here

Group G picks will be made here

Group H picks will be made here

Saturday 14th June
Uruguay v Costa Rica Pick: When you take a look at Group D, it is clear that Costa Rica look the team that the other three nations will all be looking at as the weak link. Italy, England and Uruguay are more closely matched than many may initially think and there is every chance that goal difference is going to separate two or even all three of those teams by the time the Group comes to an end.

That puts Uruguay in a strange position really as they will know the first three points from an opening game is a very strong start to the competition, but may also feel they will need to score a few goals to really give themselves an edge over Italy and England and put pressure on both of those teams who will kick off in the next game.

It is where the absence of Luis Suarez would be most costly- the Liverpool striker is likely not to be risked for this game, but Uruguay will hope they can still score a couple of goals and put together a strong win.

I hate disregarding any team that has qualified for the World Cup, but Costa Rica have lost three key players before the tournament began in Bryan Oviedo, Rodney Wallace and Alvaro Saborio and they do look like a team that will struggle to get any points on the board from this Group.

Japan and Chile recorded some thumping wins over Costa Rica in friendly games over the last nine months since the latter qualified for the World Cup and while I don't think Uruguay will reach the four goals that Chile scored, I do think they will win a little easier than the layers are imagining.

The game is being played in the north of the country which could sap some energy, but Uruguay to win by a couple of goals and give themselves a strong platform for the Group is my pick.

England v Italy Pick: As soon as the schedule was released for the World Cup, the fact that England and Italy had been set to meet in the Amazon in Manaus has dominated the headlines, especially in England. The heat and humidity of that area has been a concern from day one and it will be physically and mentally taxing.

There hasn't been much of a mental improvement with rumours of the pitch being in disarray and that the stadium has resorted to spray painting in green to ensure the dry, brown grass is not seen.

Neither team will be looking to make excuses with both having to play on the same surface, but it might affect the game as much as the heat does and I have been set on the draw for some time.

Both Italy and England will know the importance of not losing this first game in the Group with games against Uruguay and Costa Rica to come and it is arguable that both will see the other as the biggest obstacle in the Group. Of course, both managers will certainly be talking up their intentions to go forward and score the goals to win the game, but there is also a real feeling that both will 'settle' for a draw if that is the scoreline with half an hour or twenty minutes to go.

The conditions both with the humidity and the playing surface will make it much harder for the quality attacking football for both to play, although neither defence really strikes me as being impenetrable. However, physically it will be tough at times and I do think the draw is the most likely result, although it will only take one goal to settle this one way or the way in my opinion.

Even with that in mind, I think there is something to be said about playing the 'no goalscorer' option in this game- that would also be a winner if there is only an own goal scored and so makes a little better sense than picking a goalless draw with that in mind.

I'd recommend keeping that pick for a small interest as all it will take is one deflected strike to find its way to the back of the net, but the 0-0 draw certainly makes most appeal if the game ends with the points shared as I am expecting. Both may see that as a positive point, and everything is pointing to a tight game in the Amazon jungle.

Well, well, well, the Costa Rica win over Uruguay in the first round of games in Group D certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons- many expected the 'Group of Death' to see the exit of one of the three teams that currently occupy the top ten in the FIFA World Rankings, but the Costa Rica win puts the potential for two of those teams to pack their bags for home.

The Group was expected to be a fight between Uruguay, England and Italy for the top two spots and a place in the Second Round, but instead we have a 'must win' game for the former two teams in the second set of games.

England were beaten 2-1 by Italy to open their World Cup campaign which essentially means the losing team in the match with Uruguay will virtually be sent home regardless of what happens in the Italy-Costa Rica match which is played the day after.

That should be a very exciting and tense game on Thursday, while the Italians can give themselves a platform for another bid to win the World Cup by beating Costa Rica and putting one foot into the next round as winners of Group D.

Uruguay v England PickPrior to the first set of results in Group D, England were the outsider in this game and as big as 2.88 to win the match, but that has all changed after Saturday and they are now a strong favourite to earn the three points that will give them a decent chance of making it to the Second Round.

Both teams are going to be desperate for the win and that is where I think the pace of the England forward line, particularly through Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge are going to have a lot of success. The Uruguay defence is not the best and they don't have a lot of speed back there so counter-attacking them shouldn't be a problem especially if England can get their noses in front.

A similar display to the one against Italy will give England those chances and I also believe Wayne Rooney may have the chance to silence a few of his critics despite his less than stellar displays in World Cup matches to date.

On the other hand, Uruguay will be boosted by the likely return of Luis Suarez, but I can't help feeling the Liverpool man is not going to be at full health- he has only had four more days than the one against Costa Rica and Uruguay would have needed his services for that one but he wasn't fit enough to even come off the bench, so playing from the start seems a big risk.

The service to Suarez and Edinson Cavani can be predictable at times for Uruguay and I have a feeling they know the loss to Costa Rica is likely to be terminal to their chances of qualifying. With that seed of doubt, England can take control of the match and produce a win that would put them in a great position to reach the Second Round which would constitute a mini-success from a tough opening section.

My only disappointment is the poor odds for the England win as they do look short, but I also feel that is the most likely outcome of this match. However, the value may be placed in England to win a high-scoring game which could come about with an early goal, especially as both teams will be desperate for the three points.

Italy v Costa Rica Pick: Costa Rica are the underdog in the Group and will likely approach the game in the same manner as they did in the Uruguay game and will hope to counter attack Italy. A draw wouldn't be the worst result in the world for two teams that have won their first game as they would have control of their own destiny, but I think there is a wider gap between the qualities of the two teams.

Italy can play up and down depending on the opposition and they have to make sure they don't take Costa Rica lightly and end up on the wrong end of a surprise result. The win over Uruguay has given Costa Rica real belief that they can match their best result at the World Cup, but it may also have opened the eyes of Italy and England to what they can do and that makes it more difficult for them in my opinion.

There is an energy in the Costa Rica ranks that will cause problems, but I have a feeling Italy will show the experience and know-how that is so often associated with them and that will lead to a single goal margin of victory for them.

I'd be surprised if I would need more than my pair of hands to count the number of people that expected Costa Rica to have booked their place in the Second Round without the need to play their third game of the Group. On paper, it was Costa Rica that most would have been expecting to be heading home at this juncture, but they have every chance of winning Group D as long as they avoid a heavy defeat against England in a game where both managers will be making changes.

That might be a 'dead rubber' but the game between Italy and Uruguay will be a knockout game between two nations that had big expectations heading into the tournament and will lead to questions for the losing nation.

Costa Rica v England PickBoth managers are expected to make a number of changes to their first teams for differing reasons- Jorge Luis Pinto is preparing to rest players for the Second Round match they have this weekend, while Roy Hodgson wants to give some of the players that haven't started an opportunity before England head home.

That makes this an unpredictable match, but the fact that neither has anything to lose should bring out the attacking intentions from both teams. However, the changes can also stunt some of the positive play between players that are perhaps not as sharp as those in the first team.

I have to say that Roy Hodgson is being harshly treated by the English media after the two losses the side suffered, especially as he has been let down by some of the defending, particularly in the Uruguay game. Better finishing from Wayne Rooney would have set England up for the win in the second game, while Steven Gerrard has to hold his hands up and take responsibility for the killer goal from Luis Suarez, even if both centre backs also were in poor positions.

This game does give England the opportunity to at least end the tournament with a smile on their face, even if it is only a wry one thinking of what could have been, and the World Cup has produced a host of attacking football. I see no reason why both Costa Rica and England won't want to get forward in this one and goals looks a decent shout in a Group that has produced plenty already to this point.

Picking a winner is more difficult considering the expected changes, but over 2.5 goals looks the call.

Italy v Uruguay Pick: Just take a quick look at the odds and you can see how close these two nations are in terms of what the layers think and I honestly think it is going to be as close as advertised.

As exciting as the World Cup has been, this is the first really 'big' game in terms of what it means to two nations that would have expected to go deep into the tournament. The team moving through will feel they have dodged a bullet and playing with house money the rest of the way, which makes them very dangerous, while the team going home will do so with a lot of questions to be asked about where it went wrong.

Italy and Uruguay have had similar results to this point- both recorded 2-1 wins over England, perhaps a little fortunately, while both were outplayed and deserved to lose their games against Costa Rica.

Luis Suarez definitely gives Uruguay an edge up front, but he is not at 100% full health and I don't think the Italians will defend him as naively as England did in the last game. A lack of pace through the middle of the park may clog up this game, although I haven't been impressed with either defence either.

The tournament has produced so many goals that it is crazy to think about the under 2.5 goals option- some of the defending has made that number look low as attacking play has dominated, but you have to think both teams will be more cautious in this one. An early goal changes the whole outlook of the game, but if this is goalless by the half hour mark, nerves and the importance of not conceding could take over the mentality of both teams.

Whoever does score first is unlikely to really push on for the second and I think the under is the right call, although this World Cup will probably produce a 6-6 thriller.

GROUP D PICKS: Uruguay - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.45 Pinnacle (2 Units) versus Costa Rica
England-Italy No Goalscorer @ 6.50 Coral (1 Unit)
England Win and Over 2.5 Goals Scored @ 3.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Italy to Win by One Goal @ 3.50 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Costa Rica-England Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Unibet (2 Units)
Italy-Uruguay Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.97 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Group D Update: 1-5, - 6.06 Units (10 Units Staked, - 60.60% Yield)

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