Strengths: There are two specific strengths which make England stand out among their fellow finalists. Firstly, their ability to hit the target from long range: almost one in five of the goals they scored came from outside the box, which only five qualifying nations can better. Their productive use of the wings is another differentiator, with only seven nations creating a higher proportion of goals from the flanks than England’s 48%.
Weaknesses: There are however also two significant negatives. Firstly, England poor from set pieces at both ends of the pitch in qualifying, with only three nations scoring a smaller proportion of their goals from dead balls and two of the four goals Roy Hodgson’s men conceded coming from corners. Defending leads is also something that England failed to do as ruthlessly as their fellow qualifiers, with both Poland and Montenegro snatching draws after trailing at half time. Only three of the 32 teams heading for Brazil surrendered a greater share of points from winning positions.
Prospects: This was not a kind draw for England, particularly against sides who can all cause them problems in the air, but each of these matches is winnable. Against Italy, England’s ability from distance and creativity down the left flank both exploit significant defensive weaknesses, although the Italians’ aerial prowess will be a danger at set pieces. Uruguay can also cause England problems from dead balls having scored a third of their goals in this way, but are vulnerable to the early goals England are fond of scoring. Costa Rica also offer a respectable threat from the air, having scored the fourth largest percentage of goals from headers, but are poor at defending their flanks.