World cup: Not all doom and gloom


GROUP A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon


Brazil and Mexico

Croatia looked quite poor going into this World Cup; certainly weaker than the last few years. Mexico will be at ease because they're not too far from their home climate.

It was always going to be tough for England.

It didn't matter which World Cup group they were drawn into, this is an England team who will struggle against most teams they face.

Thrown into Group D, alongside Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, it's obviously going to be more than just tough.

It's a huge challenge.

Frankly, it would be a fantastic achievement for Roy Hodgson's charges if they qualify for the second round.

Breaking it down game by game, however, I believe England can do it.

The key is having Italy as their first opponents.

England would not have wanted Costa Rica for their group opener, because upsets tend to happen in your first match of a big tournament.

Instead, the Costa Ricans are England's final group opponents and you would expect the Three Lions to win that one if they have to.

In any major tournament, you simply cannot lose your first game.

If England lose to Italy, it's really game over, because then they would be under severe pressure against Uruguay in their second match, and chances are, they'll get beaten.

You really have to worry about Uruguay, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani leading their line.

Yes, they qualified for Brazil through the backdoor (via the play-offs against Jordan), but they are a very decent side nevertheless.

Italy have improved over the past few years. The Serie A has stepped up, and the national team look a much stronger, settled side now.

England will face them with extreme caution.

Hodgson is good at that approach; he will be as negative as possible against the Azzuri to ensure England don't lose. And I think he'll succeed.

You can throw out the argument about humidity.

Hodgson had publicly expressed his reservations over the heat and humidity of Manaus, the Amazon World Cup venue for England's group.

The Italians will suffer just as much.

It's all mental really - how you acclimatise to the weather. You can't ask an Englishman to get used to it, but he can deal with it for a moment of time.

If England beat or draw with Italy, the group will be wide open.

It may even come down to goal difference, and effectively, who scores more against Costa Rica.

Referring to the history books, England have always qualified from the group stages of the World Cup.

You simply cannot ignore that statistic. So I'm going to pick Uruguay and England for the second round.

*Paul Parker is a former England and Manchester United defender who won two EPL titles and earned 19 caps for his country. He is currently a football pundit with Fox Sports.

GROUP B: Spain, Holland, Chile, Australia


Spain and Chile

This is the real Group of Death. I'm certain Australia will finish bottom. I'm going for Chile because I liked how they played against England at Wembley last month. Holland always seem to have inter-squad problems at big tournaments.

GROUP C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

HIS picks:

Colombia and Ivory Coast

Colombia did very well in qualifying. They are playing close to home, and are an unknown quantity - not many people are talking about them. I pick Ivory Coast to join them in the next round because they will power their way past Japan.

GROUP D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

HIS picks:

Uruguay and England

(See main report above)

GROUP E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

HIS picks:

France and Switzerland

I'm going for the two European sides here. The Swiss always do well at big tournaments, and they have a fantastic coach in Ottmar Hitzfeld. I like how France saved their best for last in qualifying. After that performance against Ukraine, they can go on to surprise a lot of people.

GROUP F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

HIS picks:

Argentina and Nigeria

I suspect Iran will upset either Nigeria or Bosnia. Whoever gets caught by them will get knocked out. I reckon Nigeria have more experience.

GROUP G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, US

HIS picks:

Germany and Portugal

I like US and how much they've improved over the years. But this is simply too tough a group for them. Portugal have the best individual player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo, while Germany are the most complete national team in the world. I'm actually picking Germany to reach the final.

GROUP H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

HIS picks:

Belgium and Russia

Russia have an experienced coach in Fabio Capello, who is doing a much better job there than he did with England.

Belgium have quality individuals, but as a group, we will have to see where they stand on the highest stage.



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