WORLD CUP PREVIEW – GROUP E
Brazil – Comfortable winners of the South American qualifying group with 41 points in 18 games, only losing once. Highlights included an impressive 3-0 victory over rivals Argentina and a 4-1 defeat of Uruguay. Man City forward Gabriel Jesus top scored with 7 goals.
Switzerland – Switzerland also lost just 1 game in qualifying, winning the other 9 games. Surprisingly, this was only good enough for 2ndplace behind Portugal. The Swiss then defeated Northern Ireland in the play offs due to a dodgy penalty in the away leg.
Costa Rica – In the North American section of qualifying, Costa Rica finished 2nd behind Mexico to seal qualification. The biggest win for Costa Rica in qualifying came against USA as they ran out 4-0 winners with former Arsenal forward Joel Campbell scoring twice.
Serbia – Put into a tight group with the likes of Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria, Serbia came through as group winners only losing once in the process. Aleksandar Mitrovic impressed scoring 6 goals. Serbia sealed qualification with a 1-0 victory against Georgia in their final game.
Brazil – Phillipe Coutinho
With Neymar suffering an injury for a large part of the 2nd half of the season, Coutinho’s role for Brazil may be even more important. The Barca man may be playing in an unfamiliar position on the right hand side for Tite’s men but with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus alongside, Brazil have a formidable attack.
Switzerland – Xherdan Shaqiri
Despite suffering a disappointing relegation with Stoke City, Shaqiri remains an important player for his national side. Having scored more for Switzerland than any other player in the squad with 20 international goals, head coach Vladimir Petkovic will be looking to him to unlock defences in Russia.
Costa Rica – Keylor Navas
Coming up against Brazil in their 2nd game, Costa Rica will no doubt need a stellar performance from the Real Madrid stopper. His confidence should be high on the back of another Champions League win with the Spanish club and he will be hoping to replicate his form from the last World Cup.
Serbia – Aleksander Mitrovic
The Newcastle forward has an impressive strike rate for Serbia netting 16 times in 37 matches. Serbia will need Mitrovic to be on form if they are to have a chance of progressing to the next round. Famous for his hot-headed temper, boss Mladen Krstajic will be hoping it is Mitrovic’s undoubted talent that makes headlines, not anything else.
1st Brazil – Favourites for a reason, I can’t look past anyone other than Brazil to win this group. Manager Tite has got the Samba stars firing as Brazil have shown imperious form to get to this World Cup and I think they will go all the way.
2nd Switzerland – Possibly under rated by many, Switzerland are 6th in the FIFA world rankings for a reason. Winning 9 out of 10 games in qualifying is no easy feat and I believe they will be too strong for Costa Rica and Serbia.
3rd Serbia – They will be looking to get off to a strong start in the opening game against Costa Rica, which I think they will win. Switzerland and Brazil should be too strong for the Serbs however.
4th Costa Rica – In 2014, Costa Rica shocked everyone finishing top of a group containing England, Italy and Uruguay. However, if recent friendlies are any indication, this isn’t the same Costa Rica. Well beaten by England and Belgium, the Costa Ricans have looked poor and I can’t see them doing anything here.
Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Costa Rica – 4/1
Gabriel Jesus group top scorer – 5/1
Brazil to win World Cup – 9/2
– Robert Shiers