Italy, England in crucial clash
ROME (AP):The result of today's England, Italy clash could well decide the teams advancing from a very tough Group 'D'.
Three former champions in Italy, England and Uruguay, plus unpredictable Costa Rica are in this very tough group.
As European Championship runner-up, Italy are the favourites. But Uruguay are the South American champions and boast a veteran squad. England are hoping to carry over their form from an undefeated qualifying campaign, and Costa Rica have pulled off surprises before.
Italy's intentions will likely depend on the wavering ways of talented forward Mario Balotelli, whose mood swings often get him into trouble both on and off the field.
Balotelli goal average
But Balotelli averages about a goal every two matches in Serie A and with the national team, and nobody seems to have a better handle on him than Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. If the Azzurri are going to match hosts Brazil with their record-tying fifth title, Balotelli will have to both behave and perform at his best.
When Football Association chairman Greg Dyke responded to the December draw with a throat-slitting action that was caught on camera, it summed up England's fears.
The worry in football's home country is that England won't even advance from such a tough group. England have not got past the quarter-finals in their last four World Cups and star player Wayne Rooney failed to score in the last two tournaments.
Few teams can match Uruguay's strength at forward, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani leading the way and veteran Diego Forlan a strong substitute.
Suarez has been one of the main reasons behind Liverpool's resurgence in the English Premier League, and Cavani has been a goal-scoring machine with Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain in recent seasons.
Costa Rica would like nothing more than to repeat their surprise effort from their World Cup debut in 1990, when they beat Sweden and Scotland to reach the knockout round under experienced coach Bora Milutinovic.
PSV Eindhoven forward Bryan Ruiz is the team's creative spark and perhaps their best-known player after his spell at Premier League club Fulham.