Five-time World Cup winners Brazil head into this summer’s tournament as 4/1 favourites, somewhat unsurprising considering their history in the competition. However their recent tournament performances have been far from the Brazil of old having reached the last four just once since they were last victorious in 2002 as well as suffering embarrassing Copa America exits in their last three challenges since 2011. Qualification showed they may finally be back firing on all cylinders having qualified with four games to spare, form they will hope to continue as they be undoubtedly be keen to exorcise the German ghosts of four years ago.
Expect…a tricky route to the final following straightforward progression from the group.
Key Player: Neymar
Group Prediction: 1st
Stage of Elimination: Runner Up
Best Bet: Brazil to Reach the Semi-Final (11/10)
Switzerland earned their trip to Russia with a controversial 1-0 aggregate win over Northern Ireland via the play-offs. However their main group qualifying campaign was near flawless, having earned 27 points from a possible 30, only to miss out of goal difference to Portugal following a final game loss, which was their first defeat in World Cup qualification since 2008 (28 matches). They have escaped the group stage in three of their last four attempts and while they’ve been handed a tough task in Group E it’s no more than they’ve overcome in the past.
Expect…Xherdan Shaqiri to score a contender for ‘Goal of the Tournament’ from 30 yards.
Key Player: Xherdan Shaqiri
Group Prediction: 2nd
Stage of Elimination: Last 16
Best Bet: 3-4 Inclusive Group E Points (23/20)
Costa Rica are appearing for the fourth time in the competition and were one of only three unbeaten teams (before penalties) in Brazil 2014 after shocking the footballing world and topping their group consisting of Italy, England and Uruguay. The draw they have been given in Russia is aurably less of a challenge on paper however while the core of the national team remains from four years ago, young blood is scarce with 18 of their 23 man squad 28 or older.
Expect…inconsistent performances without the quality to avoid an early flight home.
Key Player: Keylor Navas
Group Prediction: 4th
Stage of Elimination: Group Stage
Best Bet: Under 2 Group E Points (11/10)
Serbia topped their qualification group, beating of the likes of Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria to secure an automatic place in the finals, suffering just a single loss along the way. They boast some regulars within the Premier League past and present, including Man Utd’s midfield marshall Nemanja Matic, Southampton’s creative spark Dusan Tadic and Crystal Palace’s set-piece wizard Luka Milivojevic. The individual talent is clear however shock managerial changes and captaincy switches in recent months may have unsettled the squad dynamic heading into their first World Cup since 2010.
Expect…an uninspiring defensive playing style and heated on field arguments between themselves.
Key Player: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Group Prediction: 3rd
Stage of Elimination: Group Stage
Best Bet: Not To Qualify from Group E (4/6)
Group E Fixtures
June 17 | Costa Rica v Serbia (13:00)
June 17 | Brazil v Switzerland (19:00)
June 22 | Brazil v Costa Rica (13:00)
June 22 | Serbia v Switzerland (19:00)
June 27 | Serbia v Brazil (19:00)
June 27 | Switzerland v Costa Rica (19:00)
Group E Forecast
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