With one current continental champion and another runner-up the first balls to be drawn to Group D, the section was already looking a tough proposition. With Uruguay and Italy watching on intently, a third FIFA World Cup™ winner was added to the mix in the shape of England, following on from Costa Rica, leaving pre-tournament predictions tough to call. Seven times the names of the European and South American sides have been engraved on the World Cup Trophy, and at least one of these former champions will emerge into the knockout phase with their credentials well tested this time around.
With Uruguay as reigning Copa America holders and Italy as UEFA EURO 2012 runners-up, the pair will arguably be seen as the favourites, but England reached Brazil 2014 without a defeat to their name so cannot be ruled out. While Costa Rica will enter as outsiders, those in CONCACAF qualifying will tell you, Los Ticos cannot be taken lightly.
Players to watch
Luis Suarez (URU), Edinson Cavani (URU), Diego Forlan (URU), Joel Campbell (CRC), Brian Ruiz (CRC), Wayne Rooney (ENG), Daniel Sturridge (ENG) Jack Wilshere (ENG), Claudio Marchisio (ITA), Giuseppe Rossi (ITA), Mario Balotelli (ITA).
The crunch match
Italy-Uruguay: Having just met in the third-place match at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, which the Italians won on penalties after a thrilling 2-2 draw, their duel in Natal will be played almost exactly a year later. As part of the final day of Group D, there is every chance this match could be a qualification decider. If they serve up half as good a game as in Salvador in 2013, all watching are in for a treat.
A look back
Uruguay 4-2 England, 26 June 1954, St, Jakob, Switzerland
It will be close to the 60th anniversary of this pair's first-ever competitive meeting when they face off in Sao Paulo this time around, evoking memories of their goal-laden encounter in the quarter-finals of Switzerland 1954. The South Americans were reigning champions, on their way to a third semi-finals in three appearances, but England gave them their first stern test of the competition. Having not conceded up until this point, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney both struck against La Celeste, but it was not enough to stop the South American giants.
Did you know?
Costa Rica pulled off an stunning two-goal comeback in their final group game of their debut World Cup at Italy 1990 to qualify behind Brazil for the Round of 16. Roger Flores and Hernan Medford – who would also appear at Korea/Japan 2002 – got the all-important goals.
The stat 4 – The first four incarnations of the World Cup were claimed by members of Group D, with hosts Uruguay winning the inaugural tournament in 1930, before repeating the effort two decades later. Italy also earned their first triumph as hosts in 1934, before winning the final pre-second world war tournament in 1938.
Tough group...but so what? If we want to win it we will have to play the best teams anyway!!
— Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) December 6, 2013
Have your say
Who do you think will prevail in Group D? Which of the three former champions is best-placed to qualify? Can Costa Rica pull off a shock? Let us know by clicking on 'Add your comment' and giving us your view...