In the midst of group E stand the bookies favourites Brazil facing some very tough tough European opposition in Serbia and Switzerland along with fellow South Americans Costa Rica.
It wouldn’t be right to start a group overview involving the bookies favourites without Brazil, the most successful team in world cup history. The team that they’re bringing to this years tournament is going to be catching the attention of every single neutral with their fast flowing, skillful football. Brazils’ attacking outlets in Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino offer a multitude of threat. Neymars quick flicks and ability to get past a player is something to be very wary of, the Brazilians are also coming into this tournament on the back of a qualification group where they topped the group for points, goals and least goals conceded.
The defensive solitude of Marquinhos and Thiago Silva is fantastic, with the duo playing their club football together in Ligue 1 for PSG. You simply cannot forget to mention the midfield versatility either, with Fernandinho, Paulinho and Casemiro who are all capable of scoring a goal and all perfectly fine with putting a strong tackle in for their team. There’s absolutely no reason why this Brazil team couldn’t win their 6th world cup trophy, with the bookies making them a 9/2 favourite with bet365.
Predicted group finish: 1st
Tip in the betting market: Brazil to get exactly 9 points in the group stage currently 5/4 with bet365.
Staying in South America we move to Costa Rica who in the 2014 world cup caused a real upset whilst in the group with England coming top of the group with 7 points. They came 2nd in their group in the qualification this year with some very cagey affairs averaging barely 2 goals a game. The safe hands of Keylor Navas [Real Madrid] will be a pivotal part of the South American side who will be hoping to concede less goals than they did in groups [0.8 a game]. The Costa Rican’s line up in a 5-4-1 formation and will be relying on the wingers of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell to provide enough attacking threat along with their solo striker Marcos Urena.
The two wingers are very different in their style of plays with Joel Campbell being a conventional quick winger with skill and the ability to score, whereas Bryan Ruiz is a taller player who will prefer to be on the ball and distribute it there and then. Despite not being able to completely write of this obviously dangerous side, this group seems way too much for them to handle but that is exactly what people said coming into a group with Uruguay, Italy and England in 2014.
Predicted group finish: 4th
Serbia are a very different side to the aformentioned Brazil and Costa Rica as their team is full of big powerhouse style players such as Alexsander Mitrovic. The striker has been on loan in the Championship from Newcastle this season and fired Fulham to promotion in a fantastic season that saw him reach double figures in only half a season there. The powerhouse style team doesn’t end in the midfield where you’d bump into Nemanja Matic, the Manchester United midfielder has a fantastic range of pass and can slow down the play whilst dispossessing the opposition and refreshing the attacks.
The real man to watch for the Serbians would be Sergei Milinkovic-Savic, the young midfielder has attracted a lot of attention from the worlds biggest clubs after a fantastic season at Lazio. The tall Serbian scored 12 goals this season in a box-to-box role and has the style of play that is hard to compare to any other current footballer nowadays. The Serbs will have a struggle getting points against some very attacking sides with their defence being the aging downfall. If they can consistently bag goals then they definitely have a good chance of making it out of this tough group.
Predicted group finish: 3rd
Lastly in group E sees Switzerland. The Swiss are coming into this tournament after finishing second in their groups only on goal difference to a highly rated Portugal side. Switzerland have brilliant utilisation of their full backs, Stephan Lichensteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, the experience of the two and the attacking threat will undoubtedly cause an issue for this group. Ricardo Rodriguez will be anticipated to bag a few goals from left back as he’s the designated penalty and free kick taker and has a wand of a left foot. Moving forward to Switzerlands two attacking midfielders Xherdan Shaqiri and Breel Embolo, the two attacking forwards both offer moments of excellence.
Shaqiri has time and time again shown in the premier league that he can carve opportunities out of absolutely anything and his left foot and low centre of gravity allows him to turn a defender whenever he likes. Embolo has the power and pace to break through any teams backline if he has got the service he requires, which Rodriguez could very well offer seeing as they play on the same side of the pitch. The alarming factor of this Swiss side is the unpredictable Granit Xhaka, he had a good second half of the season at his club Arsenal but that is relying fully on his discipline. The central midfielder could be vital for Switzerland if he manages to keep his discipline in check.
Predicted group finish: 2nd
Example group standings:
1st: Brazil :9 Points
2nd: Switzerland :4 Points
3rd: Serbia :2 Points
4th: Costa Rica :1 Point