World Cup Group E Preview

By Samuel Fuller
Jun. 04, 2018

BRAZIL

Best XI:

GK: Alisson, 25, AS Roma (Italy)

LB: Marcelo, 30, Real Madrid (Spain)

LCB: Thiago Silva, 33, Paris SG (France)

RCB: Marquinhos, 24, Paris SG (France)

RB: Danilo, 26, Manchester City (England)

CDM: Casemiro, 26, Real Madrid (Spain)

LCM: Paulinho, 29, Barcelona (Spain)

RCM: Fred, 25, Manchester United (England)

LW: Neymar, 26, Paris SG (France)

ST: Gabriel Jesus, 21, Manchester City (England)

RW: Philippe Coutinho, 26, Barcelona (Spain)

Analysis: This squad is ridiculously good. It's almost impossible to pick half the starting attackers and midfielders, as I had to leave Roberto Firmino, Willian, Douglas Costa and Fernandinho on the bench. Most of this Brazil squad is returning from the infamous 7-1 embarrassment to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, and with the world's best Left Back in Marcelo and arguably the world's third-best player overall in Neymar, it's hard to see Brazil falling short of reaching the Semifinals once again.

COSTA RICA

Best XI:

GK: Keylor Navas, 31, Real Madrid (Spain)

LWB: Bryan Oviedo, 28, Sunderland (England)

LCB: Oscar Duarte, 29, Espanyol (Spain)

CB: Giancarlo Gonzalez, 30, Bologna (Italy)

RCB: Francisco Calvo, 25, Minnesota United (United States)

RWB: Cristian Gamboa, 28, Celtic (Scotland)

LCM: Celso Borges, 30, Deportivo Coruna (Spain)

RCM: David Guzman, 28, Portland Timbers (United States)

LM: Bryan Ruiz, 32, Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)

RM:Joel Campbell, 25, Arsenal (England)

ST: Marcos Urena, 28, LAFC (United States)

Analysis: To be blunt, a team doesn't have good odds at advancing if at least three starters play in Major League Soccer. Keylor Navas is an incredible goalkeeper who can keep Costa Rica in most matches, but he's the only star on this team. The average starting age is 30, and while some see this as an experienced group familiar with playing together, it also means they're an aging bunch who teams know exactly how to scout. However, really good team play, especially if they try to "park the bus" to win points, could help them as a dark horse for the #2 spot in Group E. I'd never put money on Costa Rica advancing over Serbia and Switzerland though.

SERBIA

Best XI:

GK: Vladimir Stojkovic, 34, Partizan (Serbia)

LB: Aleksandar Kolarov, 32, Roma (Italy)

LCB: Dusko Tosic, 33, Besiktas (Turkey)

RCB: Branislav Ivanovic, 34, Zenit (Russia)

RB: Antonio Rukavina, 34, Villarreal (Spain)

LDM: Luka Milivojevic, 27, Crystal Palace (England)

RDM: Nemanja Matic, 29, Manchester United (England)

LAM: Adem Ljajic, 26, Torino (Italy)

CAM: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, 23, Lazio (Italy)

RAM: Dusan Tadic, 29, Southampton (England)

ST: Aleksandar Mitrovic, 23, Newcastle (England)

Analysis: Serbia has flown under the radar throughout World Cup qualifying, and they have some really talented gems. Nemanja Matic is a great defensive midfielder, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is wanted by every giant club in the world. In addition to their already talented midfield, Andrija Zivkovic and Filip Kostic are studs coming off the bench. Their defense, while solid, is rather old. Striker Aleksander Mitrovic, although talented, has been inconsistent in international play. Serbia didn't advance past the group stage in 2010, but if rising star Milinkovic-Savic and the rest of the squad hold their own, they have a decent chance at ousting Costa Rica and Switzerland for #2 in Group E.

SWITZERLAND

Best XI:

GK: Yann Sommer, 28, Monchengladbach (Germany)

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez, 25, AC Milan (Italy)

LCB: Manuel Akanji, 22, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

RCB: Fabian Schar, 26, Deportivo Coruna (Spain)

RB: Stephan Lichtsteiner, 34, Arsenal (England)

LDM: Granit Xhaka, 25, Arsenal (England)

RDM: Denis Zakaria, 21, Monchengladbach (Germany)

CM: Blerim Dzemaili, 32, Bologna (Italy)

LW: Xherdan Shaqiri, 26, Stoke (England)

ST: Haris Seferovic, 26, Benfica (Portugal)

RW: Breel Embolo, 21, Schalke (Germany)

Analysis: Switzerland has the pieces to succeed, it's just a question of how they fit together. Yann Sommer is a fantastic keeper, Xherdan Shaqiri is a dangerous winger on both sides, and they have three rising Bundesliga stars in Manuel Akanji, Denis Zakaria and Breel Embolo. Striker is a question mark, with Haris Seferovic currently starting over Josip Drmic, but both players have had difficulties converting chances for the national team. Valon Behrami, Remo Freuler and Steven Zuber are all good enough to see starting time over Blerim Dzemaili. Switzerland has the collective talent to go head-to-head with Serbia for the #2 spot, and they'll certainly create enough scoring chances to beat both Serbia and Costa Rica, but actually converting scoring chances into goals is the deciding factor between a 2014 finish (earning the #2 spot) and a 2010 finish (elimination in the group stage).