All eyes on England as they take on three-time champions Italy

2014-06-14 00:00

WE are officially underway at Brazil 2014 and there are no fewer than seven compelling fixtures between now and the end of the weekend.

The big one is undoubtedly tonight’s midnight kick-off where 1966 champions England take on three-time champions Italy in Group D. The hype surrounding England is always overblown by their own press, and it has been no different this time around.

Steven Gerrard is the man tasked with guiding the Three Lions through the group stages and into the knockout phase of the competition, and few could argue that he deserves to succeed on the world’s biggest stage after what has been a glittering and devoted career.

But it isn’t that simple for either England or Italy, and today’s clash bares a startling resemblance to last night’s Spain versus Netherlands match in terms of significance. Starting the group on the back foot would be catastrophic for the losing side, as by the time kick-off comes Uruguay are likely to have racked up their first three points of the tournament with a comfortable win over Costa Rica.

That one of Uruguay, Italy or England will bomb out of the group stage suggests that Group D is about as tough as they come. The South American influence favours the Uruguayans, who are sweating over the fitness of striker Luis Suarez. But with matches against England and then Italy awaiting the winners of the first ever World Cup, Suarez’s role in tonight’s 9 pm kick-off is likely to be limited.

Today starts with a seemingly mundane Group C clash between Colombia and Greece at 6 pm. It may not be the most heavyweight clash on the World Cup menu, but it will have a say in the future of the Ivory Coast in the competition. Fancied to progress through the group, the West Africans tackle Japan in an absurd 3 am kick-off tomorrow morning. Only the most diehard African football fans will be up for this one, but it is a match that is hugely important to the continent’s chances of challenging for honours at the tournament.

Tomorrow there are three games that follow the Ivory Coast, and two of them are expected to be won relatively easy by the favourites. We will get our first glimpse of a Lionel Messi-fuelled Argentina, expected to dispose of Bosnia, while France should do the same to Honduras. Tomorrow’s 6 pm kick-off could be a tighter affair as underrated Switzerland, currently ranked sixth in the Fifa rankings, take on Ecuador.



6 pm - Colombia v Greece

9 pm - Uruguay v Costa Rica

12 am - England v Italy


3 am - Ivory Coast v Japan

6 pm - Switzerland v Ecuador

9 pm - France v Honduras

12 am - Argentina v Bosnia.

The time for talking is over, and now England will have to prove their worth on the field. Tonight’s heavyweight clash could spell trouble for whichever side loses.

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