2018 World Cup: Group E Preview

In less then 10 days, the 2018 World Cup takes place in Russia. In this blog, we go over the teams in Group E. Group E is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Brazil, who bombed in the 2014 World Cup, shows up as a huge -400 favorite. The Brazilians will look to make amends for a disastrous World Cup in their own country.

Second, the 3 of the 4 teams in Group E offer less than +1000 odds. The 3 teams are:  Brazil -400, Switzerland +600, and Serbia +800. Do the Swiss and Serbs have any shot of taking down the great Brazilian National Team in Group E?

I attempt to answer that question along with a few others in my 2018 World Cup Group E Preview.

2018 World Cup:  Group E Preview

Brazil                             -400

Brazil’s gigantic failure at the 2014 World Cup could be nothing but an afterthought with a World Cup victory in 2018. Brazil made a key move in 2016 that makes them again one of the very best in the world. The Brazilians shuttled their previous football manager for the well known Adenor Leonardo Bacchi. Hiring Bacchi, commonly referred to as Tite, immediately paid dividends.

The Brazilians secured their World Cup Russia bid by finishing atop the South American standings. With Tite at the reigns, Brazil has been close to unbeatable. Since he took over as manager, the Brazilians have 16 victories, 3 draws, and a single loss in 20 international matches. The goal difference between Brazil and their opponents since Tite took over is unreal. Brazil has scored 44 goals in 20 matches. They’ve yielded 5.

Switzerland                +600

It took some luck for Switzerland to make it to the 2018 World Cup. The Swiss beat Northern Ireland 1 to 0 in an aggregate playoff after Ricardo Rodriguez hit a first leg penalty. The Swiss had gone undefeated during World Cup Qualifying, including beating Portugal, until facing Portugal a second time. Portugal ended up winning the rest of their games in Group B. That led to Portugal getting the nod while the Swiss had to win a playoff.

Switzerland won the playoff. Led by manager Vladimir Petkovic, their are no stars in Switzerland’s eyes. Their goal is to beat Serbia and Costa Rica in Group E. Once they march into the Round of 16, their likely opponent will be Germany. The Swiss will fight hard versus Germany, but they know that, more than likely, their World Cup run will end there.

Serbia                           +800

During World Cup Qualifying, Serbia beat Georgia 1 to 0 to win Group D. Winning Group D was a big achievement for Serbia. Now, they must battle their way in Group E at the 2018 World Cup. The goal for Serbia, like it is for every team not named Brazil, won’t be to actually win Group E, but to move on to the Round of 16.

With that being written, the Serbs lack international experience. That could be the reason the Swiss are favored over Serbia to win the Group. What they lack in international experience, Serbia makes up in a strong attack. Serbia boasts an exciting offense that could do just enough to get it past Switzerland and Costa Rica for the Round of 16 bid.

Costa Rica                   +1800

Costa Rica punched their ticket to the World Cup by absolutely dominating the U.S. 4 to 0 in one of the most lopsided losses the U.S. has had in around 20 years. How did the Costa Ricans do it? They played excellent defense and then took the opportunities when the U.S. began to push much harder than they should have.

Now, Costa Rica will look to shock the soccer world. Los Ticos has done it before. The Costa Ricans lost in the quarter finals to the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Does Brazil Bounce Back in the 2018 World Cup?

It’s hard to say. Although on paper the Brazilians look close to unbeatable, World Cup soccer matches aren’t played in video games or on paper. They’re played on real pitches in front of real fans. The Brazilians have been unbeatable since Tite became their manager.

However, Tite’s awesomeness comes with a big question mark. Brazil hasn’t faced top teams since Tite became the head dude. Will his brand of soccer translate versus the very best international teams at the World Cup?

With that being written, there are few teams, maybe none, in the 2018 World Cup that’s as talented as Brazil. Neymar is one of the very best strikers in the world. This past season with Paris St. Germain in Lique 1, Neymar scored 19 goals in 20 matches played. The year before with Barcelona he managed 13 goals in 30 games even though he played alongside both Suarez and the great Messi. In 14 games with Brazil during World Cup Qualifying, Neymar dropped 6 goals.

However, Neymar isn’t the only beast in this lineup. Willian and Coutinho make up the 3 man second line that could devastate opposing defenses. The talented Gabriel Jesus, who’s gotten love to win the Golden Boot this World Cup, is the man at the top. Willian, Coutinho, Neymar, and Jesus should force opponents to throw their hands up in disbelief in most matches.

If Brazil can handle the better competition, they might just make amends and win the 2018 World Cup after the disaster that was World Cup Brazil.

Why is Switzerland at Lower Odds than Serbia to win Group E?

The Swiss are at lower odds than Serbia to win Group E because up until losing to Portugal the second time around, they had gone undefeated in Group B play. Granted Group B wasn’t that deep after Portugal. Still, the Swiss appear better suited to handle the rigors of the World Cup than Serbia is.

But…are they? Are the Swiss more capable than Serbia? Switzerland boasts a decent midfield (second line) led by Xherdan Shaqiri. At only 26-years-old, Shaqiri had 68 international caps before the pre-tournament friendlies. He’s experienced. He’s also a talented attacking midfielder. It’s important that Shaqiri plays well for Switzerland because Haris Seferovic, although capable, hasn’t been in his best form this year.

Switzerland’s starting striker, Seferovic scored 4 goals in 12 World Cup Qualifying matches. He must be in his best form, or Shaqiri must control the flow of matches, for the Swiss to have any shot of beating both Serbia and Costa Rica in Group E.

How Will Serbia Perform in the 2018 World Cup?

Per ESPN, Serbia has a midfield that can challenge any in Russia. The midfield must come to play if Serbia hopes to advance to the Round of 16. ESPN lists Serbia’s star player as striker Aleksander Mitrovic. Mitrovic is a good player. He most likely won’t be the reason that Serbia performs well at the 2018 World Cup, though.

If Serbia performs well at the 2018 World Cup, it will be because Milinkovic-Savic plays up to par. He’s the talented midfielder that must step it up for Serbia to get past Switzerland and Costa Rica. If he does, Serbia could make it to the Round of 16. If he excels further, and he and Mitrovic develop a strong 2-man game, who knows? Serbia’s midfield is talented enough for them to possibly upset Brazil if Brazil doesn’t take things seriously.

Does Costa Rica Have Any Shot of Taking the Group?

Costa Rica has no shot of taking Group E unless Brazil doesn’t take things seriously. But, the Costa Ricans do have a decent shot of beating both Serbia and Switzerland in Group E and advancing to the Round of 16 where they’re likely to face Germany. Just getting out of Group E would be a huge accomplishment.

Why does Costa Rica have a shot? Goalkeeper Keylor Navas might be the best in the world. Manager Oscar Ramirez knows this. That’s why he employs a 1-4-4-1 formation. Giving Navas as much help as possible is the way Costa Rica plays. Surprisingly, it’s worked. The reason is because opponents, like the U.S., make a mistake after the frustration becomes too much to handle.

2018 World Cup Group E Picks

It’s difficult to see any team beating Brazil for the Group E victory. Brazil is too talented, and too motivated, to not at least move to the 2018 World Cup Semifinals. I like Brazil. For second, my money will be on Costa Rica.

Lost Ticos isn’t as talented on offense in 2018 as they were in 2014. But, Navas is the best goalkeeper in the world. Ramirez knows what he must do to keep Costa Rica in the game until their opponents make a mistake. That type of play could lead to wins over both Serbia and Switzerland.

Win:  Brazil

Second Place:  Costa Rica

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson