Sport | Hodgson headache as England handed tough group in Brazil

England face a fight to qualify for the knockout stages after being drawn against both Uruguay and Italy in Group D.

With manager Roy Hodgson stating beforehand that venues could also play a crucial part in the team’s success, it was a further blow to England’s chances that they will open their campaign in Manaus, which has very high humidity all year round.

In Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, Uruguay boast one of the most fearsome strike partnerships in football and Italy dominated England at Euro 2012, albeit only winning on penalties. Costa Rica make up the group, and while they are the weakest opponents in the group, their flair could prove problematic for Hodgson’s men.

Group A: Brazil, Cameroon, Mexico, Croatia

Verdict: Following their Confederations Cup triumph in the summer, hosts Brazil should top the group and, although the rest of the teams are fairly evenly-matched, I expect Mexico to join them.

B: Spain, Chile, Australia, Holland

Verdict: One of the ‘groups of death’, it features a rematch of the World Cup final from 2010. Chile, recent conquerors of England, have a fight on their hands to finish in the last 16, with Australia likely to finish prop up the table.

C: Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan, Greece

Verdict: Given their misfortune in previous tournaments, the draw has been kind this time around for the Ivory Coast. Like Group A, it is wide open, with Colombia favourites to progress due to the form of star striker Radamel Falcao.

E: Switzerland, Ecuador, Honduras, France

Verdict: France, despite qualifying through the play-offs, will be rubbing their hands together at this draw. Joining them will most likely be Switzerland, with a clutch of talented, but inexperienced youngsters.

F: Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Bosnia-Hercegovina

Verdict: Argentina, with Messi, Higuain and Aguero, should walk this group. After that it is anyone’s guess, but Bosnia-Hercegovina, in their first-ever World Cup, could surprise everyone after their goalscoring record in the qualifiers.

G: Germany, Ghana, USA, Portugal

Verdict: Despite Germany’s excellent form over the last few major tournaments, they have failed to get their hands on a trophy. A Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal will be favourites to qualify from another very tough group.

H: Belgium, Algeria, South Korea, Russia

Verdict: Belgium have been touted as one of the dark horses for this tournament, and they have been handed a relatively kind draw. Russia, led by former England boss Fabio Capello, should also go through.

Alex Bowmer

Image courtesy of The Guardian

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