England now know who their group stage opponents will be in Brazil next summer
England will have a round trip of over 3500 miles from their base in Rio de Janeiro to their first game against Italy in Manuas. A very hot, humid location for the national side to deal with. The game will kick off at 02:00 BST in the morning of Sunday the 15th June 2014.
Obviously Roy Hodgson will know a lot about Italy having been knocked out by them in Euro 2012 on penalties. They then played them in a friendly shortly after the competition. Hodgson has said that with Italy and Uruguay in our group it is almost as if we have drawn two number one seeds. I think the opening match against the Italians will be a tight affair with neither side wanting to commit too much, knowing they have another difficult match against Uruguay to come. The aim will be to ensure Italy don't dominate possession as they usually do, and a lot of the focus will be on Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli.
England v Italy: Draw
The second match for England is against Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday the 19th June, kicking off at 20:00 BST. The result against Italy will have a big bearing on how they will approach this match. It may already be a must win game. Uruguay will be used to these climates and Luis Suarez will especially be up for impressing against the English. He had his troubles with the press in this country, and he will want to ensure he'll give them something to write about this time round. Again another tight affair between two well matched teams. Uruguay have some superb attacking players; Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan, and Ezequiel Lavezzi but let's not forget England have a great team too and we shouldn't put ourselves down too much.
England v Uruguay: Draw
The final group game for England is against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday the 24th June at 17:00 BST. This one finally looks like a game England should win. However they will be under significant pressure, and a win will most probably be needed to give them any chance of making it past the group stages. We saw at the last World Cup in a must win game against Slovakia, that it wasn't easy when under those circumstances. We scraped through that day. Costa Rica shouldn't provide England with too many problems. Fulham's Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal's Joel Campbell are two of the nation's strongest players. England should still win comfortably.
England v Costa Rica: Win
These results would give England five points. I expect Italy and Uruguay to draw too, and also beat Costa Rica meaning there will be three teams all on five points. It could come down to how many goals England can put past the Costa Ricans. It's going to be a very exciting, tight group that's for sure.
image: © drabikpany