Some World Cup comfort

Daily Echo: Greg Dyke Greg Dyke

A throat-cutting gesture from FA chairman Greg Dyke said it all: at first glance England look to be dead men walking.

From a carry on up the jungle in Manaus against Italy, the team that knocked them out of Euro 2012, to a meeting with Luis Suarez's Uruguay in Sao Paulo, Roy Hodgson's England will at least not suffer from a burden of expectation.

Even Costa Rica, the apparent whipping boys of Group D, carry some clout - United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been among those warning against England taking the Central Americans lightly when they meet in Belo Horizonte.

That city has bad memories for England, for it was there that they were humiliated by the then-amateurs of the USA in the 1950 World Cup.

Hodgson was honest enough to admit that England are in effect facing two top-seeded countries: Uruguay are seeded by right but had FIFA used their November rankings instead of October's then Italy would also have been seeded instead of Switzerland.

Furthermore, the change to FIFA's draw procedure saw Italy removed from the group of unseeded European countries instead of the lowest-ranked European side, France.

''There's no doubt with Uruguay and Italy we almost have two number one seeds in our group because Italy were very unlucky not to be seeded amongst the first eight,'' said Hodgson.

''It's a tough group, there's no doubt about that.''

But there are some straws of comfort to clutch at: it could have been worse.

Look at Group G where Germany are up against Portugal, Ghana and the USA: all four teams who made the knock-out stages in 2010.

It would have been tougher, too, for England to have faced a non-European side in the steamy jungle of Manaus, rather than Italy who will have endure a similar acclimatisation challenges, while the other two group venues have weather conditions that will be more familiar, and are relatively close to England's base in Rio.

Uruguay did not have it all their own way in qualifying and had to win a play-off against Jordan to seal their place in Brazil. The South Americans may have been beaten semi-finalists in 2010 and have an intimidating strike duo of Liverpool's Suarez and Paris St Germain's Edinson Cavani, but there is a feeling that the strikers paper over the cracks in what is otherwise an ageing team.

England should show improvements from Euro 2012. Players such as Jack Wilshere, Andros Townsend, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have all become senior squad regulars, and the FA is leaving little to chance in terms of sports science with performance and fitness specialists and psychologists being hired in the build-up to the tournament.

Wilshere for one made his feelings clear on Twitter, stating: ''Tough group...but so what? If we want to win it we will have to play the best teams anyway!!''

Defiant words - but that is the sort of attitude that England will need if they are to prove that Group D does not stand for Death.


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