By Rob McDonald

URUGUAY

What We Know:
The best bastards about and marshalled by one of the best coaches going in Oscar Tabarez, we know Uruguay well after their strong performances in recent competitions. With, arguably, the most potent attacking threat in the tournament and some absolute gits in midfield, who will stay compact to protect a less-than-dynamic defence, expect Uruguay to be very difficult to beat. Tabarez is a brutal pragmatist who knows what he has up front.

What They Could Be:
They could bully their way to triumph. For all the attacking quality they have, it’s the experienced midfield that makes Uruguay so strong. Well organised and wonderfully cynical, Uruguay will look to Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to provide the goals, their full backs to provide the width, and the rest of the team remain compact and just dead, dead hard.

What They’ll Probably Be:
All of the above. With England under Roy Hodgson and Italy unable to beat Luxembourg and no idea what formation to play, Uruguay should walk the group stage and have a, relatively, easy second round. After that, they’re strong enough to beat any opposition over 90 minutes.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Luis Suarez. Who wouldn’t want to talk about Luis Suarez?

ITALY

What We Know:
Anyone watch them against Luxembourg or Fluminese? I actually had to stop following James Horncastle on twitter because of this team. There are only so many formations I want to hear about in 90 minutes, thanks lads. Lots of talent. Lots of potential. No idea how they put it together. No wingers, barely any forwards and a fragile defence…

What They Could Be:
This is the exact kind of team that gets to the final just to spite me. Never underestimate Italy. It’s not like these are particularly new problems to the Azzuri and they are still a squad filled with talented individuals. Experiments in trying to accommodate both Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti may not have worked so far but it wouldn’t surprise anyone for them to figure it out.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Probably? In competition with England for who can be the least deserving team to qualify from the group stages. They could feasibly find a route of least resistance into the semi-finals though with a potential line up of Colombia and then Brazil or Holland. All teams with weaknesses.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Antonio Candreva, the Lazio midfielder, probably won’t get much game time in this tournament but probably should.

ENGLAND

What We Know:
The most talented squad in years with the least expectation in years but also the single worst manager in the history of all of the football. There is an alternate world where Harry Redknapp leads these lads to the final. I’m not joking.

What They Could Be:
Given how open they’ve seemed in friendlies it seems that Roy Hodgson is trying to implement a more progressive style – which would obviously suit his best players – but so far it hasn’t looked particularly pretty. Still, it could click. Jettison Rooney and trust the youth and England could become a very exciting team.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Dead in the water. Crap win against Costa Rica, amenable draw with Italy and defeat to Uruguay and England go home talking about a tough group stage and the exciting youth.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Raheem Sterling, the best young player in the world.

COSTA RICA

What We Know:
Not a lot. Tor-Kristian Karlsen insists there are some rough gems in this team, though and he knows what he is talking about. He’s written about twenty million articles about hidden potential, if you turn on the internet you’ll probably stumble into one eventually.

What They Could Be:
The Northampton Town of international football.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Defeated three times and happy to have been there.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Uhm…

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