England face a tough group in the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, facing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in their three group D matches. According to FIFA’s rankings, Italy are the 6th best team in the world, with Uruguay only just behind them ranked 7th, whilst Costa Rica are 31st, 2 places above Scotland. So not an easy group for Roy Hodgson, with plenty of challenges ahead of him this summer.
But whilst we have a 6 month wait for the competition to kick off, with the Three Lions facing the Azzurri on the 14th June in Manaus, we can look at England’s record against each team, and how well we have faired in the past. Will history repeat itself, or will a new chapter be written in the FA’s record books?
A fierce rival, England were knocked out of their last international competition by Italy, leaving Euro 2012 at the quarter-finals stage on penalties. It was a miracle England lasted the whole 120 minutes in all honesty, as the Italians outplayed Roy Hodgson’s new side all evening, but couldn’t find the back of the net. England were ahead during the shootout too. Italy midfielder Montolivo put his effort wide, while Rooney smashed his shot in to give Hodgson’s men a 2-1 lead.
But then came the match changing moment. Andrea Pirlo stepped up, and audaciously chipped the ball down the middle of the goal, showing an incredible display of ability and composure. The same can’t be said about Ashley Young, who smashed his shot against the bar, before Ashley Cole’s miss left Alessandro Diamanti to tap home and send Italy through.
England’s record against Italy is incredibly tight. The two nations have faced each other 24 times, with the Lions winning eight matches, drawing seven and losing nine. Some comfort Hodgson can take is that England are much better on neutral grounds, winning three of their five meetings and losing just once. Their last win at a neutral ground was just under two months after their Euro exit, in a friendly in Berne, where Phil Jagielka and Jermain Defoe scored.
England have only played Uruguay twice in a World Cup Finals, once in 1954, where they lost 4-2, and the second time during the 1966 finals at Wembley, in a game that finished goalless. The Lions have played La Celeste 10 times in all, winning three, drawing three and losing the remaining four. England have averaged a goal per game against Uruguay, who have scored 13 times in the 10 fixtures in the past.
Anfield was the venue when the two last played, as Sven Goran-Eriksson’s side stole the glory late on. Omar Pouso scored a stunning 30-yard volley for the visitors, but a Peter Crouch header levelled the scores, before Joe Cole tapped home the winner in the dying seconds. The Chelsea midfielder had a great game, reaching fine form ahead of the 2006 World Cup, where he scored a stunning 35-yard goal against Sweden.
Costa Rica have never played against England since their first international back in 1921, ahead of only their fourth visit to the World Cup Finals. It means a trip into the unknown is waiting for Roy Hodgson and his England faithful, with a new experience set for the final group match. Currently the 31st best team in the world, Costa Rica were actually ranked 17th back in 2003.
Only once have Costa Rice progressed out of the group stage from their three previous World Cups, when a 1-0 victory over Scotland helped them reach the Round of 16 in 1990. Czechoslovakia knocked them out of the competition with a 4-1 win. So will their first meeting be a crucial win or bust fixture, or will England already have qualified for the last 16?