So the wait is over, Roy Hodgson can finally start preparing for the World Cup, now he knows who he will be facing. The draw, which happened on the 6th December, left a lot of English fans, and the press, slightly concerned about the difficulty of their group. The Three Lions were drawn against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, all battling for two places in the last 16 of the prestigious tournament
England were in pot 4, and so could watch the groups form before they were drawn out. Twitter was awash with fans and pundits sharing which group they wanted to be drawn in, and which they were desperate to avoid. Group D certainly wasn’t on the list of groups that fans wanted.
But at the end of the day, were there many groups that would have been better for England? Starting at the beginning, with Group A. Croatia were drawn into the group instead of England, and joined Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon. The hosts were always a team that Roy Hodgson wanted to avoid, and I don’t think fans would be too confident about playing Mexico and Cameroon. With the greatest of respect to Costa Rica, they should be easier than Cameroon on paper.
Group B was another place England didn’t want to be, due to current champions Spain being drawn. Chile and Australia were joined by the Netherlands, leading to a repeat of the 2010 final between the Spanish and Dutch. Again, England fans surely would fancy their chances more against Italy and Uruguay than Spain and Chile, especially after the latter beat the English at Wembley just last month. Two groups down, and so far two avoided for England.
England may have been tempted by Group C, where they would play Colombia, Ivory Coast and Japan. While the African club would provide a new test for the Three Lions, some of the country’s recent talent would have left some fans unsure over their ability. All in all, a group Hodgson would have wanted, even though it means playing the 4th best team in the world according to FIFA. Instead, Greece will play Falcao and company, not England.
Group E looked tasty for the Three Lions, yet it still has its complications. The French got a fantastic draw against Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras, a group that England surely would have topped. But the French will have to travel roughly 400km more than England have to, and will feel the effects of two different climate changes. They play Honduras in Porto Alegre, where temperatures don’t normally reach more than 19 degrees in June and July. But their next game is in Salvador, where temperatures can often hit 26. This temperature change could easily affect their training and fitness, midway through the group stages.
Bosnia joined Argentina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F. The threat of Messi and Aguero make the Argentines a team nobody wants to face, and England would be glad they missed them. But while the group comes with Argentina, the possibility of playing Iran and Nigeria would have been tempting for England fans. Go back to 2002, when England faced Argentina and Nigeria, strangely, in group F. The Three Lions qualified ahead of the pair, but below Sweden. It would take something pretty special for Argentina not to qualify this time out. But England would be favourites against Nigeria, so maybe F wasn’t too bad an option.
Group G has been dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ by many, as Portugal join Germany, Ghana and the USA. England couldn’t defeat USA at the last World Cup, with Rob Green’s goalkeeping howler levelling the scores at 1-1. And after losing a recent friendly to Germany, Hodgson wouldn’t be too confident about playing Joachim Löw’s men. Ghana will be optimistic this tournament too, scoring the most goals in the CAF qualifying stage, on the back of an impressive performance four years ago, where they were knocked out on penalties by Uruguay. England would have had to travel over 1000 miles further for the three games too, meaning the group was certainly one to avoid.
The final group was completed when Russia joined Belgium, Algeria and South Korea. This was possibly the best group for the Three Lions, despite drawing against Algeria four years ago in of the dullest internationals ever seen! England would have had to travel just over 2000km, over 1000 less than what they will do in group F. While Belgium have potential, Hodgson would certainly fancy his chances, while South Korea and Algeria surely wouldn’t cause too many issues for England. This looks to have been the best group England could have got.
Many fans winced when they were drawn into Group D and even FA chairman Greg Dyke was caught on camera making a throat-cutting gesture. But looking at the draw in full, were there many attractive groups? With England so unpredictable at tournaments, it’s difficult to really know what is best for them. In 2010, they struggled to get past USA, Algeria and Slovenia in the group stage, as once again the Three Lions faltered against teams much lower than them in the rankings.
Could maybe a difficult group lower everyone’s expectations, and ease the pressure of the players? It would have taken a lot of luck for Hodgson and Dyke to get a group that everybody believes is easier, so maybe a challenge early on is what England need.
Hodgson had a tough group at Euro 2012, yet finished top, above France, Sweden and Ukraine… but were of course knocked out when they faced our group mates Italy! Time for revenge!