World Cup: Five things we learned from Group D

There was plenty of controversy when the Europeans were bundled out in the first round, after Uruguay defeated Italy 1-0 and England and Costa Rica played out a nil-all draw. Our blogger Shaun Moran gets his teeth into the drama and names the Top Five things we learned from Group D.  

End of an era

“Super Frank” Lampard appears to have played his final match for the Three Lions. After putting an end to his time with Chelsea, the England talisman will not be picked going forward.

Roy Hodgson’s youth policy combined with Lampard’s move to the MLS signals the end of an illustrious career, which saw him notch up 106 caps.

The 36-year-old failed to win anything with the national side but gave as much as he had at major tournaments in the midfield.

His ability to work alongside Steven Gerrard in the middle of the park was regularly questioned, but what was never under fire was his commitment - a loyal player who will live long in English minds and hearts.

Costa Rica soldier on

Undoubtedly the biggest surprise packets of the tournament, Costa Rica are certainly not done with yet. Finishing on top of the group earns them a date with Greece in the Round of 16.

The plucky Greeks will provide a stern test but will not instil the sort of fear that the likes of Uruguay, England and Italy would have.

The Ticos’ rock solid backline and clinical finishing in front of goal means they will not be a pushover.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas has yet to be beaten from open play, while Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz are leading the line with aplomb.

They find themselves in a very strong position to qualify to the quarter finals stage for the first time in their history with a win against the Greeks in Recife on Monday.

Italy deserve to be bidding arrivederci

Italy never managed to get out of first gear throughout their three matches in Brazil.

Notwithstanding the firepower at their disposal - including the likes of Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli, Lorenzo Insigne, Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile - the Azzurri were slow, listless and importantly lacked any innovation or bite going forward.

In truth, they never looked like scoring against Uruguay or Costa Rica, while they also created very little against England in the match they won. Scoring less than an average of a goal a game at the World Cup just doesn’t suffice.

Cesare Prandelli’s resignation and the retirement of key stalwarts, Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo all add an extra hint of sadness and despair to a nation that will be hurting in the aftermath of another failure.

Ill discipline bites

Luis Suarez’s apparent bite on Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio’s rash challenge were unsavoury moments in what was an ill-tempered affair. The latter in reality proved to be the most decisive.

Prandelli’s men were in full control of the match until the Juventus midfielder had a brain fade and decided to put his studs through Egidio Arevalo Rios and receive his marching orders.

The Italians’ fatigue in matches had been a key talking point in the lead up to this fixture so the last thing they needed, in stifling hot conditions, was to be battling it out a man down, after a day’s less rest than their rivals. They had no choice but to sit back and welcome Uruguay, who eventually struck the telling blow courtesy of Diego Godin.

Luis Suarez ought to pay dearly for his indecent act and will most likely not feature for La Celeste for some time.

European fade-outs

Both teams from the Americas in this group have progressed at the expense of the Europeans.

Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Argentina will all take part in the final 16, while the progression of Ecuador and the USA would mean the Americas are strongly represented at the pointy end of the tournament.