I'm delighted with England's draw at the World Cup. There are a lot of people already saying they won't get out of their group, but here are some reasons for hope.
Firstly, England get their major travel out of the way early. It's 4,271 kilometres from Rio to Manaus, where they'll play Italy on June 14, and after that Roy Hodgson's team are only a short flight from their games in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
The Italy game, at the Amazonia Arena, is in the evening local time, so temperatures will not be as tropical as they would be during the afternoon.
England then head south for the games against Uruguay and Costa Rica, with conditions likely to be much cooler and closer to what the players are used to in Europe. Meanwhile, Italy go to Recife and Natal, where the climate could really work against them.
It's also a good thing England finish the group against Costa Rica, nominally the weakest side. Italy will be up against Uruguay, and both sides could potentially be fighting for their lives in that one.
Uruguay are my group favourites, because they're playing on their home continent and will be completely at ease with the climate. Italy are always strong, while Costa Rica cannot be written off. They finished seven points ahead of Mexico in qualifying and will fully believe they can emerge from the group.
I think it's preferable for England to be playing strong sides. At the last World Cup the Three Lions were disappointing against USA, Algeria and Slovenia. England cannot afford to play that badly next summer, and experienced players like Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole should be fully motivated to take on the best in the world.
It will also help that so many of the Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica players will be familiar to Hodgson and his players. Uruguay's front two of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani; Italy players like Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi; and Costa Rican pair Bryan Ruiz and Bryan Oviedo are no strangers to those who step out in the Premier League and Champions League.
Low expectation could be a good thing. Let's let Uruguay be favourites and have people write off England's chances before the team even gets there. It takes the pressure off everybody involved and maybe that will free England up to play as they can do.
Whatever happens in Group D, it's going to be exciting. And England just might surprise a few people.
As for my tournament favourites, I'm going for Argentina.
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