World Cup 2018: your guide to Group E

Pressure is on Brazil to make amends for 2014 while elsewhere it looks very even

Neymar will hold the key if Brazil are to emerge as champions for the sixth time at the World Cup. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Neymar will hold the key if Brazil are to emerge as champions for the sixth time at the World Cup. Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

 

Brazil 4-1
Switzerland 100-1

Serbia 150-1
Costa Rica 500-1

The Contenders

Few teams feel the same pressure and weight of expectation going into a World Cup as Brazil. Put simply, they are expected to win. First things first, Brazil shouldn’t have too many problems qualifying but this group looks to be as even as any when it comes to second place. Ireland fans know all about Serbia and their strengths while Switzerland barely put a foot wrong in qualifying and Costa Rica showed the world just what they can do by reaching the quarter-finals four years ago.

Road to Russia

Brazil breezed through qualifying scoring 41 goals and conceding just 11 in 18 games, becoming the first team to book their place in Russia in the process. While Switzerland won every game bar one in their group, they still had to go through the playoffs where they qualified by virtue of an extremely contentious penalty against Northern Ireland. Serbia eventually emerged on top of Ireland’s group - their win in Dublin proving key - while Costa Rica qualified in the most dramatic fashion of all with a 95th minute equaliser from Kendall Watson in the penultimate game against Honduras.

World Cup Pedigree

Brazil are, of course, the experts in this field having lifted the trophy a record five times. However, the pressure is on them to make amends for the humiliation suffered on home soil four years ago. Switzerland still hold the mantle as the country to host the highest scoring World Cup ever in 1954 with the hosts going out in the highest scoring single game when they lost 7-5 to Austria. For Serbia this will be their first ever World Cup as a fully independent nation while Costa Rica won the hearts of the world four years ago in their run to the quarter-finals, seeing off England and Italy along the way.

The Managers

Tite has been in charge of Brazil since 2016 and has successfully managed to keep his disparate stars happy. For now. Former Costa Rica player Oscar Ramirez will lead his country after taking over from Paulo Wanchope while Mladen Krstajic was handed the Serbia job following the sacking of Slavoljub Muslin just days after they secured qualification.Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of Switzerland since 2014 and will have eyes on the knockout stages after guiding them to the last 16 at Euro 2016.

Star Power

Can Brazil’s superstars click? Can Neymar behave like an adult for the good of his country? After his injury in 2014 you would expect that he is determined to make amends. Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic has been in stunning form since his move to Fulham helped secure promotion to the Premier League and could carry his team while Xherdan Shaqiri will have to overcome the disappointment of relegation with Stoke. Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas will have his work cut out for him in the Costa Rica goal.

The Verdict

Brazil are heavily tipped to finish top of this group, leaving a fascinating tussle for second place between three of the more evenly matched sides in the tournament with very little to choose between Switzerland and Serbia.

Costa Rica

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Switzerland

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