As Russia prepares to open the festivities for this year’s World Cup, we’re going to preview each group and discuss the exciting match ups to come. Here’s group E.
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Perennial favourites Brazil has once again entered the finals, for the nation’s 21st consecutive appearance at the tournament. Brazil has never missed qualification, having won the tournament five times, most recently in 2002. Can the explosive Neymar Jr. find his stride to lead this nation to a 6th victory? Neymar’s ability to create, and maintain composure, will be instrumental in Brazil’s offensive success. With a supporting cast including Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Barcelona’s Paulinho, Brazil hosts a cast of world-renowned stars with unmistakable talent. Under the new guidance or Adenor Bacchi, commonly known as Tite, Brazil was able to put forward a strong qualifying run, winning the CONMEBOL round-robin with one defeat in 18 matches. Brazil is expected to challenge Switzerland for the top of the group.
Switzerland is considered by many as the leaders of Group E. The Swiss should be a team at their peak, with the majority of their main core reaching their prime and performing at an elite level. Up and coming star Xherdan Shaqiri looks to make a statement and display his offensive abilities, while they will rely on Yann Sommer who has taken over in goal. Granit Xhaka will need to be strong in midfield, and control the middle of play in order for Switzerland to find success. Switzerland is a legitimate threat, showing up for a 6-0 destruction of Panama, and managing a draw against a strong Spanish side. After going undefeated in their games leading up to the event, the Swiss look prepared for their opening match against a strong Brazil team looking to move up in the world rankings.
Costa Rica looks to repeat the performance they put forward during the 2014 games in Brazil. Making their way through to the quarterfinals, the Costa Ricans battled the Netherlands to a 0–0 draw through extra time but ultimately fell in penalty kicks. With many of the same players from Brazil’s campaign making the roster, Costa Rica will see some stability while they lean on Keylor Navas to provide some much-needed confidence in the goal. Joel Campbell, the Arsenal forward on loan to Real Betis, is a big question mark, as injuries and poor form have seen him struggle as of late. After a difficult qualifying round, including a surprising 2-0 win over the US, Costa Rica starts their World Cup finals with some questions regarding their consistency and their quality of play in certain positions.
The Serbian team seems to have beaten the odds to emerge as winners of their qualifying group. With a draw against the Republic of Ireland and a victory against Wales while down to 10 men, the Serbian side was able to clinch their berth in the 2018 finals with a 1-0 victory over Georgia on their final qualifying match day. Despite clinching top spot in the group, and a spot in the Finals in Russia, head coach Slavoljub Muslin was fired and replaced with Mladen Krstajic. Krstajic, a surprising choice, has no previous head coaching experience. Serbia will need to see a strong performance in net by Vladimir Stojkovic to keep them in contention while the offense starts with Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic. Mitrovic had a strong run in qualification scoring 6 goals and this type of performance will be key in Serbia being successful in the group round.