It was a floor bearing moment. Little did Sir Geoff Hurst know when he selected the mini Brazuca from pot 4, that moments later England would be drawn into what is one of two true Groups of Death of Brazil 2014.
In case you’ve been stripped of human interaction of late, England have been drawn against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica – who are no mugs, with USA and Mexico being late victims of the Los Ticos.
FA Chairman Greg Dyke didn’t offer the most supportive body gesture subject to the draw; miming a throat slit – not filling England players and fans alike with the upmost confidence. Though, to be fair, past statistics don’t exactly pose England as group favourites.
England have never beaten Uruguay, Italy or Costa Rica at a major tournament. Before questioning the credibility of the stat or how relevant to the current day it is – it is a stat that will have to be broken if England are to progress to the knockout stages.
The Group of Death is sometimes a loosely used term, said to outline the reason why England didn’t win the World Cup, the European Championships, or anything else we can stamp with our proverbial labeller on. Yet this time, we can be forgiven and even justified in identifying England’s group being one of the grim reaper’s concoctions.
Due to some free time and a desire to discover the toughest group at Brazil next year, I took the current FIFA World Ranking of each team of every group, added the numbers together and divided by four – giving me the average ranking number for the group. Here are the results.
The whipping boys meet in the form of Group H. The lowest ranked seed (Belgium) lock horns with Russia, Algeria and South Korea – a team that is not what it once was. The average ranking number of the group is 28, closely followed by Group F which averages the ranking of 26; with Argentina clear favourites in a group containing Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran.
Hosts Brazil find themselves in a group of moderate ease (average ranking 24) which they should emerge from with 9 points, facing Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in the process. The next lowest ranked group finds our jammy neighbours France as unseeded favourites, in a group averaging a ranking of 23. Les Bleus face the seeded Switzerland (no, that’s not a typo) along with Honduras and Ecuador – whose qualification was mainly down to their high altitude stadium.
The fourth toughest group include the two finalists of the last World Cup; Spain and Holland. They are joined by Chile and Australia, making a Group of Death in its own right, with the average ranking (21) only brought down by Australia – the lowest ranked team at the competition. Surprisingly, coming in at number three is Group C, containing Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. Not the most thrilling collection of footballing nations, yet it strikes me as one of the most evenly contested groups of the competition.
In second place is (really, really long pause) Group D. Unfortunately, once again, the Group of Death can’t truly be used to excuse a weak England showing come June, with the average ranking number being a high-quality 14. Therefore, the actual Group of Death this World Cup is, as it stands, Group G. The truly powerful group (averaging a ranking number of 11) contains tournament-performers Germany and Portugal, along with the ever-developing USA and Ghana who so nearly became the first African team to reach the semi-final of a World Cup of it wasn’t for the hand of Luis Suarez, back in South Africa.
So there you have it, England have drawn the second toughest group of the competition, with the Brazil escapade kicking off against Italy on June 14 and ending June 15, which I’m sure is the first England game to span over two days!
It’s only a matter of time before the mighty England take on the actually mighty Italy and the mightier Uruguay, and the might-they-beat-us Costa Rica. Can we get out of the group? We just might.
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