World Cup - Preview Group E
FIFA World Ranking: 2nd FIFA World Cup Appearances: 20 Best Place: Winners in Sweden 1958, Chile 1962, Mexico 1970, USA 1994, S.Korea / Japan 2002. Record 5 time holders. Possible XI: (4-4-2) Alisson (GK) Fagner (RB) Marquinhos (CB) Miranda (CB) Marcelo (LB) Paulinho (CM) Casemiro (CDM) Augusto (CM) Coutinho (RW) Neymar (LW) Gabriel Jesus (ST)
Tite (BRA) Age 56 The heart-break of the 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014 still haunts this Brazilian side who will want to avenge those demons at Russia 2018 and Tite is the man with that job. He took over this Brazil team when a third of the qualification had already got underway where the team sat in 6th position. 10 wins, 2 draws and 30 goals later Tite had got this Brazil side playing free flowing football not see for many years and added confidence in Brazil’s style of play again. He usually deploys a 4-3-3 system with a front three of Neymar, Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus as the attacking threat although Tite does give them defensive responsibilities and the formation can look like a 4-5-1 when on defence. He is well versed in European football and uses these ideas when managing his teams; he took over as Corinthians coach winning the Brazilian League, Copa Libertadores, and the Club World Cup in 2015 with his ever changing tactics and compact defences. He still looks for that style and flair from the likes of Neymar and Gabriel Jesus who has developed into an outstanding player for both club and country. Needing to change tactics if games turn is important, it is something Tite’s predecessor was criticized for.
Neymar (83 caps / 53 goals) Age 26 He became the world most expensive player when he made his move from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain for a reported £222m last summer and although he got off to an excellent start to the season with 19 goals 14 assists in his first 20 Ligue 1 games, 6 goals and 3 assists in the Champions League before a metatarsal injury on February 25th ruled him out for the rest of the season. He was the standout player during Brazil 2014 until, again, injury against Colombia in the quarter finals ruled him out for the remainder of the tournament. He will want a good run in Russia and will hope to spearhead the attack and lead the team all the way to the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow with an ever watching Tite making sure his star player is in check. With all the talents the former Santos striker possess he can be prone to indiscipline and missed 4 World Cup qualifying games due to suspension. He made a scoring return from injury in a 2-0 friendly win against Croatia and he looks all set to start in Brazil’ s opening game.
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Gabriel Jesus (15 caps / 9 goals) Age 21 The youngest player of the side and some would say the most important as the 21-year old will most likely be Brazil’s front man in a three man attack this summer over the more experienced Roberto Firmino. A breakout star when he helped Palmeiras win the Brazilian national cup and Championship in 2016 he made his move to Manchester City soon after in a £28m deal, and he has certainly made up for the price tag helping them to the Premier League title scoring 13 goals and making 19 starts in the process, his performances being highlighted almost every other game. In qualifying for Russia 2018 he played 10 games and scored 7 goals to become the top scorer in the continents' qualifying competition. He has a good relationship with Neymar and Coutinho and the chemistry on the field works well considering how young he is. A very technically gifted youngster with pace and a mature style of play, he still has his best years coming and his importance to the team and system of play is up there with the likes of Allison, Casemiro, and Coutinho.
It is no doubt that Brazil has probably the most talented of all the teams at the World Cup and they will be feared no matter who they play. The will want to put the disappointment of Brazil 2014 behind them with positive performances and of course doing their upmost to win the trophy. The way they qualified was impressive sealing their path to Russia with 4 games left of the campaign and the new direct football Tite has instilled since his arrival, has been a turning point for this side. It is almost as if the pressures of playing for their national side have lifted and they are playing with freedom and it is a joy to watch when they get into top gear. I think they have enough in them to win the whole tournament outright but that 7-1 defeat will always sick out in the minds of both the players and the fans. They want redemption and you wouldn’t bet against them this time around becoming world champions.
Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Manchester City), Cassio (Corinthians).
Danilo (Manchester City), Fagner (Corinthians), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Thiago Silva, Marquinhos (both Paris St-Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan) Pedro Geromel (Gremio).
Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Paulinho (Barcelona), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea), Douglas Costa (Juventus).
Neymar Jr (Paris St-Germain), Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool).
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 10
Best Place: Qtr Finals in 1934, 1938, and 1954.
Possible XI: (4-2-3-1) Sommer (GK) Lichtsteiner (CB) Schar (CB) Djourou (CB) Rodriguez (LB) Behrami (CM) Xhaka (CM) Shaqiri (RW) Dzemaili (CAM) Zuber (LW) Seferivic (ST)
Vladimir Petković (BOS) Age 54
Takes control of one of the best squads the Swiss have ever taken to the world cup, the influx of families’ that arrived from the Balkans I the 90’s mean that these children have now in their 20's and at the peak of their footballing powers. His side were a goal away from reaching the quarter finals of Euro 2012 and a better display is needed from them this summer given the wealth of talent never before seen in Switzerland. Prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation with Shaqiri and Zuber on the wings who cut inside allowing for full backs Lichtsteiner and Rodriguez to boom down the line looking to cross balls into the box. They will hope to do better than reaching the last 16 after decent performances in Brazil 2014 and Germany 2006.
Shaqiri (68 caps / 20 goals)
Known as the “Alpine Messi” in some circles, the Stoke winger started to make headlines at the 2009 FIFA Youth Cup when he scored the winning goal in the final after coming on as a substitute. Soon after things began to change for him as moves to FC Basel, Bayern Munich and Inter were hampered by muscular problems and he didn’t look 100% until he arrived at Stoke in 2015 in a £14m deal. He only scored once in qualifying and was hampered by calf injury throughout. He’s likely to leave this summer following their relegation into the Championship. Shaqiri is still the Swiss main man and the fans have always been fond of him, he will vital if the Swiss are to progress out of the group stage.
No doubt their biggest scalp oat the start of qualifying was to beat Portugal, this went a long way for them to make it to Russia and improving on what they had achieved in Germany 2006 and Brazil 2014 is a must. The talent pool the Swiss are currently producing is impressive for a country not known for this. Despite the youth involvement there are still those players with enough experience for club and at international level as there are at least 6 players how have at least 50 caps for the team. I think they have capabilities of going into the last 16 but that may be as far as they go.
Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund), Yvon Mvogo (Leipzig), Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), Johan Djourou (Antalyaspor), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Lang (Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Jacques-Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodriguez (Milan), Fabian Schar (Deportivo La Coruna).
Valon Behrami (Udinese), Blerim Dzemaili (Bologna), Gelson Fernandes (Eintracht Frankfurt), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Steven Zuber (1899 Hoffenheim), Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach), Breel Embolo (Schalke), Mario Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Haris Seferovic (Benfica).
COSTA RICA FIFA World Ranking: 23rd
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 4 Best Place: Quarter Finals; Brazil 2014. Possible XI: (5-4-1) Navas (GK) Gamboa (RB) Acosta (CB) Gonzalez (CB) Duarte (CB) Oviedo (LB) B.Ruiz (RM) Tejada (CM) Borges (CM) Colindres (LM) Campbell (ST)
Oscar Ramirez Age 53
'Los Ticos' got through a group that included three former winners of the 2014 World Cup and reached the heights of a quarter-final stage, a feat no one could have expected from them. They are now under the guidance of Ramirez after a failed experiment in hiring Paulo Wanchope, there for his name rather than credentials. Even so Costa Rica have achieved great success in reaching Russia , qualifying was indifferent as Ramirez saw his side beat USA 2-0 and 4-0 but failed to win over Mexico, Honduras and Panama home and away. An advantage they have is that the side has not changed much in the last four years; their knowledge of each other’s play and tactically too, this can bring negatives too as the squad is ageing, almost every payer is over 28 years old and the manager will have to tinker with substitutes to make the most of his 23 men.
Keylor Navas (76 caps) Age 31 By far the highest profile player in the team the 4 time Champions League winner goes into his second world cup. He moved from Saprissa in his homeland to Spain in July 2010 when he signed for Albacete in La Segunda Division as first team keeper but his team were relegated and was subsequently sold to Real Madrid, via 2 seasons at Levante, when a buyout clause of £10m Euros was met after Brazil 2014. He inherited the number 1 spot when Iker Casillas hung his boots and has cemented his place as their first choice ever since. Calls for Madrid to sign De Gea seem to be a yearly thing but he has held on winning many accolades and trophies at the Bernabeu.
WATCH OUT FOR…
Joel Campbell (76 caps / 14 goals) Age 25
As I’ve mentioned the age of the side kind of makes it hard for me to introduce you to an ‘up-and-comer’ so I’ve chosen my pick from the last world cup in Brazil, Joel Campbell. I watched him while reporting on the U20 World Cup 2011 and he stood out, a live wire with a sweet left foot. Nowadays he doesn’t have the same pace but his trickery although acceleration helps him carry the ball into dangerous areas setting up either himself or others around him. He struggled to impress at Arsenal and was moved around on loan to Lorient, Real Betis, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Sporting. He is still under contract with Arsenal but will move on this summer. Can be deployed either on the wings or as a centre forward, he could light up Costa Rica’s campaign this time around.
They shocked everyone four years ago to reach the quarter finals, especially as they were in a group with 3 former winners of the coveted trophy. They play some really good stuff when they are in their flow and can feel confident they can get out of this group, the Swiss and Serbians although good, can be complacent and the utmost concentration is needed from Ramirez and his men to keep tight and take opportunities when it falls to them. Gamboa and Oviedo will be important in the full-back role, with Borges holding in midfield. I think they can do it, staying strong at the back is necessary, quarter finals was great last time out but I think the road will end by the last 16 stage at most.
Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (Liga Deportiva Alajuelense), Leonel Moreira (CS Herediano).
Cristian Gamboa (Celtic), Ian Smith (Santos de Guapiles), Ronald Matarrita (New York City), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Johnny Acosta (Rionegro Aguilas).
David Guzman (Portland Timbers), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne-Sport), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), Randall Azofeifa (CS Herediano), Rodney Wallace (New York City), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon), Daniel Colindres, Christian Bolanos (both Deportivo Saprissa).
Forwards: Johan Venegas (Deportivo Saprissa), Joel Campbell (Real Betis), Marco Urena (Los Angeles FC).
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 11 (formerly Yugoslavia)
Best Place: Semi-finals in Uruguay 1930.
Possible XI: (4-3-2-1) Stojkovic (GK) (RB) Basta (CB) B.Ivanovic (CB) Kolarov (LB) Matic (CDM) Milivojevic (CDM) Tadic (RW) Milinkovic-Savic (CAM) Kosic (LW) A.Mitrovic (ST)
Mladen Krstajic (SER) Age 44
Former Werder Bremen and Schalke centre back who represented his country at the 2006 World Cup has been thrust into management of the Serbian national side. A newcomer to the game he was asked to take over from sacked boss Slavoljub Muslin in October 2017. Muslin had got his team playing with a back four with wing backs, it may have looked quite defensive but a return of 20 goals with 10 against served them well to finish top of their World Cup qualifying group. A power struggle ensued and the Serbia FA replaced him with Krstajic, a former Serbian international who had never managed before. He immediately caused tension when he stripped Branislav Ivanovic of the captaincy and handed it to Aleksandar Kolarov, and his 6 friendlies in charge have been disappointing.
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Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (caps 4 / 0 goals) Age 23
The up and coming star in Serbian football, an attacking midfielder who representing his country at U19 and U20 level winning a Euros and Youth World Cup respectively, at senior level he has only earned 4 caps. Spent a season in the Belgian league with Genk before being shipped off to Lazio for a fee of £10m. He had a great standout 2017/18 season becoming one of the teams most important players ending the campaign with 12 goals and 4 assists. Has been touted about as a potential £75m target for Manchester United with other clubs monitoring his situation, he is very good in scoring situations and is strong on the ball, I am looking forward to seeing him in action at the World Cup.
They have a talent collection of players with both experience and youth, including the manager. This tournament will be their first major one since 2010 World Cup in South Africa, there they finished bottom of the group and want to show an improvement this time around despite the cynicism surrounding them from fans and media alike at home. They will look for players like Matic and Ivanovic to lead with Tadic and Zivkovic on the flanks looking for the fiery Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Fulham loanee last season is known for his strong physical play and after so much talk about his potential this summer is a good test. Although I do believe they have enough to get out of the group defensive frailties may crop up especially depending on the system the new boss uses, it hasn’t worked in the friendlies, I doubt it will work in Russia, group exit for me.
Vladimir Stojkovic (Partizan Belgrade), Predrag Rajkovic (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Marko Dmitrovic (Eibar).
Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma), Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit St Petersburg), Dusko Tosic (Guangzhou R&F), Antonio Rukavina (Villarreal), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade), Uros Spajic (Krasnodar), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina).
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Marko Grujic (Liverpool), Adem Ljajic (Torino), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Filip Kostic (Hamburg), Andrija Zivkovic (Benfica), Nemanja Radonjic (Red Star Belgrade).
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK Salonika), Luka Jovic (Benfica).