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Soccer-England will make history if they qualify


By Mike Collett

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 20 (Reuters) - England will make World Cup history if they qualify from the group stage after losing their first two matches.

No team has ever made it out of the first stage after two opening defeats since the model of four-team first round groups playing three matches each was introduced in Sweden in 1958.

The most famous occasion of a team advancing from the group stage after a poor opening phase was Italy in 1982 when they failed to win a match, drawing with Poland, Peru and Cameroon, and only progressing because they scored one more goal than Cameroon, who also drew their three games.

Italy improved dramatically after that and went on to win the World Cup beating West Germany in the final.

England had the chance of advancing in 1958 after failing to win any of their group stage matches following draws with the Soviet Union, Brazil and Austria, but were then eliminated after a 1-0 playoff defeat by the Soviet Union.

Following 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay at this year's tournament in Brazil, England's slim chances will end on Friday if Italy draw or lose to Costa Rica when they meet in their Group D match in Recife (1600 GMT).

England need Italy to beat Costa Rica and Uruguay and then England must beat Costa Rica to have any chance of qualifying for the last 16.

Costa Rica and Italy have three points after one match, Uruguay have three from two games and England have no points from two matches. (Reporting by Mike Collett; editing by Ken Ferris)

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