World Cup Group E: Germany and Spain the favourites as Japan and Costa Rica face an uphill battle

World Cup 2022 team-by-team guide


Manager: Luis Enrique

World Cup history: 16th appearance. Best result – Winners in 2010

There is a lot to like about Spain heading into the World Cup, qualifying with ease, winning their Nations League group and almost making the Euros final last year. As always, Spain are brilliant in possession but finishing chances remains a concern at the highest level when the profligate Alvaro Morata is likely to be central striker.

Star man: Pedri. Only 19-years-old and in the mould of Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona midfielder shone in the Euros and Enrique appears to trust him enough to make the difference.



Manager: Hansi Flick

World Cup history: 20th appearance. Best result – Winners in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014

It’s been a relatively fallow period for German football, losing in the group stage in 2018, but in 2020 Champions League-winning manager Hansi Flick, Germany have one of the best coaches in the tournament and a talented squad. Their form of five draws in their last seven games can be taken either way, ready to peak or lacking that special touch.

Star man: Manuel Neuer. A goalkeeping great, Neuer took the world by storm in 2014 when he had 19 touches outside the box against Algeria in sweeper-keeper role. Now 36, it could be his last World Cup.


Manager: Hajime Moriyasu

World Cup history: Seventh appearance. Best result – Last 16 in 2002, 2010, 2018

Japan caught the eye in the last World Cup with a brave defeat to Belgium in the last 16, reaching that round this time will require a herculean effort with Spain and Germany in the group. With a choice of players from good European clubs, the Samurai Blue will give the big dogs something to think about.

Star man: Daichi Kamada. A dangerous midfielder that the Germans will know all about, the Eintracht Frankfurt player scored three times as they progressed to the Champions League knockout stages.

Costa Rica

Manager: Luis Fernando Suárez

World Cup history: Sixth appearance. Best result – Quarter-finals in 2014

It’s difficult to see Costa Rica doing much in the tournament given the group, but they were given a group of death in 2014 with England, Italy and Uruguay yet ended up shock group winners. Expect them to play defence-first football and hope PSG’s Keylor Navas saves them time and again.

Star man: Keylor Navas. Easily Costa Rica’s most famous player, the goalkeeper won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid and is one of the best goalkeepers around.

David Gorman

David Gorman

David Gorman is a sports journalist with The Irish Times