2014 World Cup Group D
How they got here: Finished second in CONCACAF qualifying, easily advancing to the World Cup.
2010 World Cup: DNP
Best case: Costa Rica doesn't really have any hope of advancing from the first group in World Cup history with three former champions, so they'll be hoping to nick a famous result against one of the three big teams. A win in this group would be a huge accomplishment for Los Ticos .
Worst case: You can certainly see a scenario where Costa Rica is eliminated from the tournament with three losses and nary a goal scored.
Player to watch: Look out for 21-year-old forward Joel Campbell. The strong and fast forward made his move across the pond at a very young age and has bounced around Europe as he worked towards an English work permit. He now has that permit and could be a big part of Arsenal next year.
X Factor: Costa Rica's one big hope is their world class goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The former Saprissa man took La Liga by storm this season making some jaw-dropping saves this season. At just 27, Navas could be set for a big money move soon.
How they got here: Finished first in their qualifying group one point ahead of Ukraine.
2010 World Cup: Unconvincingly advanced through to the knockout round where they were blown out 4-1 by Germany.
Best case: The Three Lions perhaps have the least pressure coming into a World Cup that we've seen in quite some time and that could play into their advantage. A young team gels together and wins the group setting up a manageable second round matchup against Group C that England wins to advance to the quarterfinal.
Worst case: The experienced England players like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard fail to pull their weight and England crashes out at the group stage for the first time in this World Cup format.
Player to watch: All the reports out of the England camp have been praising Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling. Similarly to FCD's Fabian Castillo, we've seen flashes of greatness from Sterling and at just 19 years old, this could be his world coming out party.
X Factor: Another Liverpool player, Steven Gerrard will go a long way in dictating how this England team does. If the legendary winger and England captain can conjure up one more world class tournament, England has a great shot at advancing. If he looks like the 34-year-old who was inconsistent for the Reds this year, they're going to have to find answers elsewhere.
How they got here: Easily advanced from their UEFA qualifying group 6 points ahead of second-placed Denmark.
2010 World Cup: Crashed out in the group stage without winning a match.
Best case: Italy typically alternates between good and bad World Cups and they're set for a big one in 2014. This is a tough group, but these Italians are experienced and will know what it takes to advance. If the stars align, a semifinal appearance isn't out of the question.
Worst case: The Italians falter in that first game against England and fail to get a result in a tough final group stage match against Uruguay crashing out at the group stage for the second-straight World Cup.
Player to watch: Italian forward Ciro Immobile is set to explode onto the world stage and the 2014 World Cup could be his tournament. After scoring 22 goals in Serie A last year, Borussia Dortmund came in and snapped up the 24-year-old who scored a hat trick in Italy's 5-3 win over Fluminense.
X Factor: Italian defensive mid Daniele De Rossi will have a huge task shutting down the England and Uruguay offenses. If he can find his form, that will free up Andrea Pirlo to work his magic and Italy will be the favorites to win this group.
How they got here: Struggled to qualify from CONMEBOL, defeating Jordan in the inter-continental playoff.
2010 World Cup: Had their best showing since 1970 advancing all the way to the semifinals before falling to Netherlands.
Best case: Uruguay has the talent to make it back to that semifinal spot of 2010, but it's going to depend on the health of Luis Suarez. If he's fit and ready to go, Uruguay playing in their own back yard can pose problems for any country in the world.
Worst case: If Suarez is unfit to play and talismanic players Diego Lugano and Diego Forlan show their age, this is a good enough group to send Uruguay packing after the group stage.
Player to watch: "El Matador" Edinson Cavani will be the man that Uruguay turns to if Suarez can't find full health and he's got the talent at forward to fill some big shoes. He scored 16 goals in his first season in Serie A with PSG and will be a huge force for Uruguay.
X Factor: We keep mentioning him, but Luis Suarez is as big of an X factor for his side that you'll find in the World Cup. If he's fit and healthy, this small country can do big things in Brazil. If he can't hit form, it's tough to see Uruguay advancing past the round of 16.
Uruguay 1st, Italy 2nd, England 3rd, Costa Rica 4th
It's clearly three teams for two spots in group D and this one is a tough call. I'm fascinated to see how this England side does with a squad that faces no pressure, but I just can't see them getting out.
Put me in the camp that thinks Uruguay might be playing a little bit of possum with Luis Suarez as I feel he's going to be ready to go at least by the second game. They'll have no problem with Costa Rica and should be able to get the 7 points they'll need to win the group.
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