Group E has a clear winner and three teams who are very similar in terms of quality and attributes. Costa Rica had a sensational World Cup 2014, while Switzerland and Serbia both have underperformed on many occasions at the big stage. The battle for the second place promises to be quite interesting indeed.
Brazil is looking strong, really strong under Tite. Since moving to a 4-1-4-1 formation, the team has looked much more balanced, potent in attack and solid defensively. Their strong qualification campaign proved just how good they can be. Although they will be sweating on the fitness of Neymar, the 5-time winners will look at a bunch of other talents to deliver at the biggest stage of them all. Brazil is without a doubt the clearest favorite for the Cup and it is up to the others to present them with a challenge.
History- 5 times World Cup Champions.
Current Form- Amazing qualifying campaign; Won 12, drew 5, lost 1 and finished on top of the group.
Watch out for: Gabriel Jesus- Four years ago, the Manchester City forward was painting the streets barefoot to celebrate the World Cup in his homeland. Then he was just a Palmeiras youth team player. Now he is one of the hottest young striking talents on the planet. Remember his performance at Rio 2016, bagging three goals as Brazil took gold? The 20-year-old scored seven goals for the Selecao en route to Russia and has been equally prolific for the English champions – firing 17 this season.
A sensation four years ago, Costa Rica reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2014 and face the challenge of emulating that feat this year. They are still the second most formidable team in the CONCACAF behind Mexico, qualifying for the World Cup with two games to spare, and possess enough quality to trouble the opponents. Ruiz is the main reference in attack and Borges gives balance in midfield while in Keylor Navas, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the World protecting their goal.
History- Quarter Finalist in 2014
Current Form- Second in CONCACAF round five behind Mexico
Watch out for: Keylor Navas- The star of the 2014 World Cup which earned him a place in the Real Madrid team, Keylor Navas has successfully managed to keep Real Madrid from hunting for a new GK.
Solid at the back, dangerous on the flanks and creativity through the middle. The Swiss ticks all the boxes. After yet another successful World Cup qualifying campaign, the fans have started to ask a bit more from the team than just qualifying, and the Swiss may well deliver for them this time. The only main point- lack of a potent center-forward to lead the line.
Qualification Form- Second in European Group B behind Portugal, then play-off win against Northern Ireland
Watch out for- Xerdan Shaqiri- The ex-Barcelona man suffered the disappointment of relegation with Stoke this season but he was the only player to shine in an otherwise forgettable campaign for the Potters. This talented winger has excellent dribbling skills and a knack for scoring the occasional spectacular goal.
Serbia qualified for their first major tournament for seven years in comprehensive fashion. With only one defeat in 10 matches, they pipped the Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales and Republic of Ireland to first place in their group. The Serbian team is star-studded but play a very tight-knit, collective style of football with their star man Milinkovic-Savic at the heart of every move. With Nemanja Matic and Savic at the spine of the team, this World Cup could be quite memorable indeed for the Serbian team.
Qualification Form- Winners of European Group D ahead of Republic of Ireland
Watch out for: Nemanja Matic- The holding midfielder had an excellent season for Manchester United and will provide the Serbian team with much-needed experience of playing on such a big occasion. Matic will ensure that the talented Milinkovic-Savic can thrive and create opportunities to score.