10 Key Factors That Will Decide FIFA World Cup 2014 Group D
After two matches apiece, one nation has qualified for the knockout stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup from Group D—but it's one of the former competition winners.
No, it's Costa Rica who are through, having beaten both Uruguay and Italy in their two opening games, guaranteeing themselves passage to the last 16. England, meanwhile, have lost both of their own fixtures—and are already out, while Uruguay and Italy will fight it out for the second spot.
BBC Sport's Ben Smith analysed how Costa Rica fought their way past their group rivals:
"Pinto has modelled himself on Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, basing his side on strong defensive foundations and a swift counter attack. Bryan Ruiz provides the flair, Campbell the power and pace."
Here are 10 factors which could affect how the group pans out on the final day.
Will England Learn Where Uruguay and Italy Fell Short?
Uruguay seemed to start very slowly against Costa Rica, did not have much invention in their game and basically seemed to underestimate their opposition.
Italy would surely have learned from that and played at a greater tempo you'd have thought—but they didn't and had no answer to falling behind.
Will England learn? Will they heed the obvious lessons that Costa Rica have been handing out in Brazil?
Playing for Pride After a Dreadful Tournament
England's two defeats leave them playing for nothing more than obligation in their final match against Costa Rica, who are already through.
That could lead to an improved display with no pressure on England or an even worse one if they feel they cannot set right the wrongs of the past week or so.
What about Costa Rica? How does England's approach sit with them, if they don't have a team attacking them—and thus allowing them to counter-attack in such deadly style?
Are Costa Rica Happy with Having Qualified, or Will They Now Want Top Spot?
Perhaps rather than whether or not England turn up, the question should be whether Costa Rica want to finish top of the pile? If they do, they avoid a difficult draw in the next phase, likely Colombia.
The CONCACAF side need a single point to ensure top spot following their two wins, so sitting back and soaking up whatever pressure England can throw at them not only plays into their regular tactical plan but also to their strengths.
How many they commit forward on the counter could decide whether they end with a perfect record.
England boss Roy Hodgson has a job to do still, but with nothing more to play for, England may opt to offer a swan song of sorts to some of their elder midfielders, particularly Frank Lampard who will finish international football after the World Cup.
Captain Steven Gerrard may also end his international career, while other squad members may be forced out whether they want to or not.
They might be going all-out for a final positive note and play particularly well—or show why the team hasn't performed at the finals and allow Costa Rica to run over them.
Cavani and Suarez
Moving on to the other game, Uruguay face Italy as the two look to take the remaining last-6 place.
Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani have both already netted at the World Cup, the latter netting a penalty against Costa Rica, while Suarez beat England with his two goals.
How those two combine, and the service they receive, will dictate much of Uruguay's ability to win the game, with manager Oscar Tabarez hailing Cavani's impact against England in particular, as per football-italia.net:
We played very well and Cavani played a very important role to counter that. Gerrard couldn’t play his game because Cavani was stopping him, so today they had more difficulties than normal. I think that was the key to the game. England are a wonderful team and are dangerous opponents, that’s why we’re so pleased to have won.
For the Italians, Mario Balotelli has operated as the lone striker in both matches so far.
He scored with his only chance of the game against England, winning the match with his header, but he spurned a great opportunity to net against Costa Rica when he mishit his lob over Keylor Navas.
Will Mario fire or fail in the deciding game?
Uruguay have a decision or two to make in defence.
Maxi Pereira was sent off in the first match and missed the England game through suspension as a result, while Diego Lugano was absent through injury.
Jose Gimenez, in particular, excelled after coming into the side as a result, so does boss Oscar Tabarez keep things the same, or does he revert to the original plan?
Which Italy Turns Up?
Italy have played two very different games: composed and controlled, technical and inventive against England; slow, unambitious and predictable against Costa Rica.
A win and a defeat, respectively, in those matches basically got Italy exactly what they deserved each time.
They certainly have the ability and the players to turn it on again and take a second win if they play well...but will they? Form cannot be turned on and off as required, and they'll need to start much quicker against Uruguay.
Changes to Change the Game
Who has the better options on the bench? Man for man, you might say Italy do.
The likes of Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile and Antonio Cassano have all come on as substitute for them so far at the finals, but they have all been similar replacements in the same system. Italy's defenders of course let them shift to a back three, but in the final third we are yet to see any significant tactical changes from them.
Uruguay have brought the likes of Nicolas Lodeiro and Christian Stuani on in their games, players who allow the boss to switch formations at will from 4-4-2 to a diamond, while they can also play a back three without trouble.
Uruguay Need the Points, Italy Can Take the Draw
Perhaps the most important aspect of the game is that Uruguay cannot afford to let Italy dictate the entire game, as they need the win.
Trailing Italy on goal difference, a draw will not be enough to send the South American nation through to the knockouts.
Italy can afford to see how Uruguay set up and then develop their own game plan from there, but an early goal for the European team would make it a long road back indeed for Uruguay.
Then again, this is the comeback World Cup.
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