2018 FIFA World Cup football – Group E preview and betting odds
- Five-time World Cup winners Brazil are clear favourites to top Group E in Russia.
- While Tite’s men should comfortably prevail, the battle for second place may be a lot more hotly contested.
- Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia will all fancy their chances of progressing to the last 16.
- Here is our preview of Group E.
Brazil – It’s no surprise that Brazil have managed to qualify for every World Cup to date. The South-American team have won the trophy an incredible five times, along with seven Copa America’s, and 4 Confederation Cup’s. Their seemingly difficult route to Russia was made to look easy.
Tite’s men scored 41 goals in 18 matches, losing just once, and finishing 10 points clear of second-placed Uruguay. They’ve definitely come a long way since they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the last World Cup. Straight after the sacking of Dunga in 2016, Brazil won nine qualifiers in a row by playing the sexy football that’s associated with them. With so many talented players in their squad, it’s no wonder why they are the pre-tournament favourites.
Brazil are a short 1/4 with Unibet to top Group E, while they are 1/20 to qualify. A lot of people will be backing this star-studded team to lift the trophy, and they can be backed to do so at 4/1 with 888Sport.
Key Player: Neymar Junior – The PSG star has earned the right to be labelled as one of the top three players in the world. The 25-year-old will be able to flourish in this Brazil team alongside Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus. His flair and skill means he is definitely the man to watch.
Switzerland – After their impressive qualification for the World Cup, Switzerland will be confident of causing a few upsets this summer. They may have had to squeeze past Northern Ireland in the playoffs, but prior to that they won nine of their 10 matches – losing to Portugal in the final game.
The Swiss have managed to reach the last 16 in the previous two tournaments, and a quarterfinal place will be seen as significant progress. Manager Vladmir Petkovic likes his team to play a controlled possession-based game, but the side ranked 11 in the FIFA world rankings are certainly blessed with talent. They’ve also got significant physicality in their squad, with the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner, Granit Xhaka, and Blerim Dzemali all available.
Key Player: Xherdan Shaqiri – The pacey and skilful Stoke forward has the ability to pick a pass out from anywhere on the field. The 26-year-old should have freedom to flourish with the support of Xhaka and Ricardo Rodriquez behind him.
Costa Rica – After reaching the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica will be more feared of this time around. A comfortable enough qualification process saw them finish second to Mexico in their group. Now they return to the tournament with a similar, but more experienced squad than before.
In fact, they have the second oldest team heading to Russia, just behind Saudi Arabia. Oscar Ramirez’s team will be highly organised, however, with great technical players and an attacking threat. It’s likely they will line up in a 5-4-1 formation and aim on frustrating their opposition before hitting them on the counter attack. Even though they have no obvious star-man in the final third of the pitch, expect a strong work ethic and belief they can beat anybody.
If you expect Costa Rica to capture people’s hearts across the world, they are 20/1 with Unibet to win Group E, while they are 7/2 just to qualify. Meanwhile, Boylesports have them at a huge 500/1 to lift the trophy.
Key Player: Keylor Navas – The 31-year-old goalkeeper was influential in Real Madrid’s La Liga, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup success in 2017. His superb reflexes mean Costa Rica will always have the chance of keeping a clean sheet.
Serbia – After securing qualification from a tough group that contained Republic of Ireland, Austria, and Wales, Serbia strangely sacked their manager Slavoljub Muslin. Team selection and a defensive mentality was to blame, and Mladen Krstajic, capped 59 times for the Balkan side, was the man put in charge.
Russia will be the 12th tournament that Serbia will be competing in, but disappointingly, they haven’t made it out of the group stage since 1998. Krstajic’s men haven’t got the easiest passage if they want to progress, but they do have a specific playing style. Their defensive work rate and technical level will be high, while they will remain organised all over the pitch.
Even though the team will rely on experienced players, there’s a great mix if youth too, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic leading the attacking line. Serbia are second-favourites with Paddy Power to finish as Group E winners, while they are 5/4 with Betway to qualify. They can be found at 150/1 with William Hill to lift the World Cup.
Key Player: Nemanja Matic – Even though Serbia have exciting attacking threats, Matic will be instrumental if they are to progress. The Manchester United midfielder will give freedom to the other players to go forward and express themselves. With the ability to break down attacks, and a decent shot from distance, he’s easily Krstajic’s key player.