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Group E – FIFA World Cup Preview and Predictions


World in Sport highlights group E at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Brazil has been revealed as the group E favorite to advance to the round of 16. Neymar is hopeful to return from injury, after having to leave the 2014 World Cup to an injury in Brazil.

Switzerland and Serbia appear to be headed for a battle for the second spot in group E. The two will square off on day 2 of group E play, with the result weighing heavy towards progression in the tournament.

Let’s reveal the four teams that will be competing in group E, as well as the schedule.
**All times listed in local Russia time, with the UTC and Eastern Time Zones included**

Brazil – Costa Rica – Switzerland – Serbia

Odds to Win Group E (Bwin.com):

Brazil -350
Switzerland +600
Serbia +700
Costa Rica +1400

Match-by-match schedule for group E:
17 June 2018 (Match 1)
16:00 SAMT (UTC+4) 8 A.M ET
Costa Rica Vs Serbia @ Cosmos Arena, Samara

17 June 2018 (Match 2)
21:00 MSK (UTC+3) 2 P.M ET
Brazil Vs Switzerland @ Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

22 June 2018 (Match 3)
15:00 MSK (UTC+3) 8 A.M ET
Brazil Vs Costa Rica @ Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg

22 June 2018 (Match 4)
20:00 KALT (UTC+2) 2 P.M ET
Serbia Vs Switzerland @ Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad

27 June 2018 (Match 5)
21:00 MSK (UTC+3) 2 P.M ET
Serbia Vs Brazil @ Otkritie Arena, Moscow

27 June 2018 (Match 6)
21:00 MSK (UTC+3) 2 P.M ET
Switzerland Vs Costa Rica @ Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod

Quick notes about the history of each team at the FIFA World Cup.

Brazil is the only nation on Earth to have played in all 20 World Cup tournaments. This year will mark appearance number 21 when they begin group E play on June 17 vs Switzerland. Canarinho has hoisted five World Cup trophies along the way, setting the bar for supremacy on the biggest stage football has to offer.

Switzerland will be making their fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup in 2018. The
Schweizer Nati escaped group stage in Brazil at the last edition of the World Cup, but fell to Argentina in the round of 16.

Serbia has a wild history at the World Cup, having been here under five different distinctions. The break-up of Yugoslavia played an integral role in the creation of a handful of teams that exist today. We explained the Yugoslavia history in our group D profile, as Croatia was part of that as well.

Costa Rica enters the World Cup with the lowest expectation from the odds makers, listed at +1400 to come out of group E. This is a squad that navigated their way to the quarterfinals in Brazil, only to lose on penalty kicks to The Netherlands.

Brazil Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Brazil team page.

An injury to Neymar might have cost Brazil their chances of hoisting the World Cup as hosts in 2014. The PSG striker suffered another recent setback during Ligue 1 action, and he has been doing nothing but trying to get healthy for Russia.

Brazil Head Coach Tite will bring four other strikers with him to Russia, either to aid Neymar, or to carry the club regardless. Not the most experienced bunch, Douglas Costa, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Taison carry 64 combined International caps with them to the World Cup in Russia. Neymar has 83 caps of his own. easily leading the squad in appearances for Brazil.

This is an entirely different squad for Brazil than the one we watched when they hosted the 2014 event.
Gone are experienced names like David Luiz, Dani Alvez, Julio Cesar and Hulk, to name a few.

Many argue that with a healthy Neymar, this team has a better chance to win in Russia than they did hosting the 2014 event. Granted, they’re not the outright favorites to win the 2018 World Cup like they were on home soil. This time around, however, there is not the same pressure in front of home fans to win every second of every match.

It was evident in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying that Brazil put their humiliating exit in 2014 behind them. Brazil suffered one loss from their 18 qualifying matches, easily clinching an automatic entry to Russia in 2018. That +30 goal differential sure looks nice on paper, with 41 goals scored and only 11 allowed.

The emergence of goalkeeper Allison has aided the cause tremendously. The AS Roma net minder had a spectacular season with his Serie A club, helping La Maggica go deep in Champions League this past campaign.

We can expect to see two of Neymar’s teammates at PSG on the Brazil back line. Thiago Silva and Marquinhos have combined to make 93 caps with Brazil, and throw in Marcelo, who just helped Real Madrid clinch another Champions League title on May 26.

Barcelona midfielders Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho, will play along side Casemiro from Real Madrid and Willian from Chelsea.

With the battle likely being for the second spot in group E, which of these three can join Brazil to the knockout round? Let’s see which provides the strongest challenge from group E.

Switzerland Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Switzerland team page.

Swiss Head Coach Vladimir Petković has been with the team since 2014, and has accumulated a 24 – 6 – 8 record thus far. After two season’s with Lazio in Serie A, which included a Coppa Italia win in 2013, the Sarajevo native took over the Swiss team upon their exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Switzerland was one of eight second place teams in UEFA W.C qualifying that had to endure a playoff round to advance to Russia. They met Northern Ireland in a two-legged playoff, and took a 1 – 0 aggregate win en route to landing in group E.
Amazingly, Switzerland was an outstanding 9 – 0 – 1 in UEFA World Cup qualifying group stage. Unfortunately, they had Portugal in their group, who had the exact same record. It came down to goal differential, as both Portugal and Switzerland won the home legs of their two meetings by exact 2 – 0 scores.

Team Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner led the team in scoring through the qualification rounds with 3 goals. His leadership, along with his time at Juventus, has certainly made him an asset with the Swiss Team. He’s been with Juventus for the last seven Serie A campaigns, and all they have done is won the league title in all seven years. We call that the Scudetto in Lega Calcio. He is not asked to go out and be the featured player for Juventus, like he will have to be for Switzerland in Russia.

Although it is good that he found the net three times in qualifying, he is a defender, and we all know that your leading scorer should not be playing on the back line.

That’s not to say that they have weaknesses up front, because the scoring came from everywhere during UEFA qualifying. Switzerland had 13 players account for the 23 goals scored in their 10 qualifying matches. To put that in perspective a bit, Ronaldo scored half of Portugal’s total goals in qualifying.
Technically, Johan Djourou was credited with the only Own-Goal against Portugal in qualifying, so he makes it 14 players who found the net. Although that is not the best way to make it on the score sheet, it is just paperwork, after all.

in all, Switzerland features six players who play at club level in Italian Serie A, Valon Behrami being the most experienced out of that group. Behrami has 77 caps for Switzerland, although he just scored his first two goals with the team during qualifying. Fellow midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri leads all Swiss players with 20 goals to his credit from 68 caps.

Among the four forwards that manager Petković has taken to Russia, Haris Seferović leads the crew in caps (49) & goals (11).

Josip Drmić could reach the double-digit mark should he find the net just once in Russia. His nine goals have come from 27 caps, and 21-year-old Schalke product Breel Embolo hopes to have an impact at his first World Cup.

The line setters have placed Switzerland and Serbia as equal secondary favorites in group E, but only one can progress to the round of 16. Listed at +600 and +700 respectively, whomever progresses out of group E with front-runners Brazil, the second place team, will carry some betting value with them.

Let’s see if Serbia could be that squad, and preview what they are bringing to the dance.
Serbia comes in to the tournament ranked 35th in the FIFA World Rankings. Costa Rica is ranked 25th, but yet Serbia has been given better odds to advance out of group E.

Serbia Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Serbia team page.

In the grand scheme of things, one might call the group that Serbia won in UEFA qualifying relatively easy. Wales, Austria, and Northern Ireland were part of their group D UEFA qualifying draw, while Georgia and Moldova watched the four of them compete. As sarcastic as it sounds, Georgia and Moldova went winless in group D play, and basically let the other four compete for Russia.

Regardless, the work had to be done and here is Serbia competing at their second World Cup in three tries. Serbia’s first appearance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa resulted in a last place finish in group D.

Serbian Manager Mladen Krstajić represented Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup as a player. Serbia and Montenegro separated after the tournament, and we now see them as two separate teams who take part in European qualification.
If you recall that 2006 Serbia & Montenegro team, they plowed through UEFA qualifying to arrive in Germany. What will always be referenced as ‘The Famous Four”, he led a back line that only allowed a single goal in qualifying.

As it stands, and from what we know, Krstajić is only signed through the World Cup. We can assume an early exit or a deep run will impact his future with the team going forward.

Defensemen Branislav Ivanović has appeared in the most games for Serbia, having been a part of the team since 2005. He made his first cap before the 2006 World Cup, but was not asked to join the squad to Germany that year. He did, however, play every minute of the team’s outing in 2010 in South Africa.

Team Captain Aleksandar Kolarov was part of AS Roma’s run in this year’s UEFA Champions League. Before his time in Rome, he helped Manchester City take two Premier League titles and an FA Cup win as well. He has been with the squad since 2008, giving he and Ivanović 176 combined caps.

Midfielder Adem Ljajić also spent time in Rome, and is now playing for Torino in Serie A. Everyone seems to be waiting for Ljajić to reach another level, but he is still not quite there yet.

Dušan Tadić is the team’s most capped midfielder, having 51 caps and 13 goals on his International ledger with Serbia.

Goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković brings a mound of experience to the team, and he recently won the 2017 Serbian Footballer of the Year. He has earned 79 caps with the Serbian squad and is also the last  remaining link to the 2006 World Cup team, although he was a backup and never saw the pitch in that event.

Costa Rica Team Page
For the team roster and other highlights, check the Costa Rica team page.

Only 3 nations are awarded automatic bids to the World Cup out of North America’s CONCACAF Federation. Costa Rica, Mexico, and first-timers Panama took those spots in 2018, with much made about the Unites States being unable to appear in Russia.
Honduras earned the half-bid out of CONCACAF, but lost to Australia in the Inter-Continental Playoff.

On a side note, when FOX purchased the rights to air the World Cup in United States, they were obviously hoping they would have the USMNT to promote at the sports’ grandest event. Failure to advance means Mexico is now being heavily promoted by FOX in North America.

That will not effect this Costa Rican club in the least, hoping their story goes beyond group stage.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas just got done helping his Real Madrid club win their third straight Champions League title on May 26. His efforts garnered him a spot in the Champions League Squad of the Season.

If experience counts for anything, Costa Rica should have a starting XI that is close to 29 years old. That will put them among the leaders of the tournament, as far as age matters.

Bryan Ruiz captains the squad, carrying 109 caps and 23 goals in his time with the team. Ruiz scored three of the team’s goals in qualifying, and took home CONCACAF Player of the Year honors in 2016.

Midfielder Celso Borges is another player in the triple digits with caps, sitting at 108 appearances to date. His 21 goals are second on the team behind Ruiz, but the production from the midfield as a whole could be a concern.

Forwards Joel Campbell and Marco Ureña have 138 combined caps, with 29 goals scored between them.

Manager Óscar Ramirez is a Costa Rican native who spent 13 years on the National Team as a player.
Ramirez wasn’t originally hired to be the head-man for Costa Rica, and he found quite a way to inherit a job. A week after he was signed as an assistant under Paulo Wanchope, Wanchope had an encounter in Panama that led to his leaving the team. Ramirez was handed the job, and has been manning the side lines since.
Naturally, they were hoping for a little more grooming before handing him the reigns, but no one can predict the future.

The future now rests on three matches in group E, in which Costa Rica are heavy underdogs for all three contests. That experience better produce a Russian miracle or two, if they hope to be remembered for anything.

Group E World Cup Predictions

Group E is obviously Brazil’s to lose, but even a second place finish is enough to move on to the round of 16.

From a betting perspective, if you are prop betting pre-tournament, the call one needs to make is who finishes in second place to Brazil.

Brazil/Switzerland to advance is listed at +180 at BWin, and there is certainly some value there. Did anyone fall asleep on the fact that Switzerland is ranked 6th by FIFA in the World?

Brazil/Serbia to advance is listed at +220, so there is your dilemma, unless you know your second place finisher, obviously. We think we do, so expect this to be your finish in group E at the World Cup in Russia.

Brazil 1
Switzerland 2
Costa Rica 3 (Tie)
Serbia 3 (Tie)

Costa Rica and Serbia will tie for third place, putting Brazil and Switzerland in to the round of 16.

Expect a relatively low-scoring performance overall from this group, with goals coming few and far between. Check those totals for some Under plays from the six group E fixtures. As long as the lines are reasonable, look towards the totals as group E plays out.


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