Group of Death awaits England

Hampshire Chronicle: England will start their World Cup campaign against Italy England will start their World Cup campaign against Italy

England have been drawn in the group of death at next summer's World Cup.

Roy Hodgson's men will open their Group D campaign in Manaus when they face Italy on Saturday, June 14.

They must then head to Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte for their meetings with Uruguay and Costa Rica on June 19 and 24 respectively.

England avoided becoming the European team placed in a special pot, who had to be drawn against a South American top seed, however they ended up in the same group as Italy, who came out of the special pot.

It means Roy Hodgson's team must face the side that knocked England out of Euro 2012 in Kiev, before coming face-to-face with a Uruguay team containing Luis Suarez and PSG star forward Edinson Cavani.

Even the group minnows, Costa Rica, will not be beaten easily given the central American country have shock potential, as they proved by beating Scotland at the 1990 tournament.

The one crumb of comfort is that England face a European side in such a remote and unusual location, 1,777 miles from where they intend to stay in Rio.

Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte are much more accessible. It is just over 200 miles to Sao Paolo and less than 300 to Belo Horizonte.

However, that place has unhappy memories for England as the venue where they lost to the United States in one of the biggest World Cup shocks of all time in 1950.

Hodgson admitted England face a tough campaign.

"It is difficult," he told the BBC. "There is no doubt with Uruguay and Italy we have almost got two number one seeds in our group.

"Italy were very unlucky not to be seeded in the first eight. Of course we know how good they are because we lost to them on penalties in the quarter-finals of the European Championships.

"The good thing is that we know each other and the other thing in our favour is that the game we have got in the north, where the conditions are going to be tough climatically, is against another European team so we are both going to be in the same boat.

"But to be frank there weren't many scenarios where I would have been jumping for joy.

"There were many when I would be thinking this is going to be very tough for us.

"To get one that is a bit tougher doesn't surprise me at all because there is a lot of travelling to be done in most of the groups.

"Our great advantage is being based in Rio means we only have one long trip.

"If we had three games in the north it would have been difficult.

"There is no doubt the climate in the north for European teams is going to be tougher. In some ways we have to regard that as an advantage.

"I have never been to the Amazon. It will be a very interesting experience, not just for me but for the team."

However, Hodgson is refusing to believe qualification will be a purely three-way battle between his own side, Italy and Uruguay, who were beaten in the semi-finals in 2010 but needed to beat Jordan in a play-off to claim their place this time around.

"It is going to be quite difficult to put a positive spin on the quality of our opponents, even Costa Rica might be the least known but they are a very strong team," he said.

"I am still very positive about the whole affair.

"You just never know. You don't look at football matches on paper and think we will win this one, draw this one and lose the other.

"On each occasion it is 11 v 11 and if you are well prepared you have a chance.

"Having at least two of the three games in a climate that might be a bit kinder to us is one of the things I was looking for.

"The most important thing is that we are here.

"We are in an interesting group, there is no doubt about that. We have some top quality opponents so the three matches we play will be very exciting. They will attract big audiences all around the world."

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