Football

The Bluffer's Guide To The World Cup: Group E

The Bluffer's Guide To The World Cup: Group E

You may only have a passing interest in football, but with the World Cup upon us now is the time to hone your meagre footballing knowledge, if only for the inevitable water cooler chat the day after a big game.

The Bluffer's Guide To Group E

Brazil

Nickname: Selecao

Manager: Tite

FIFA Ranking: 2

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Brazil will be gunning for the World Cup trophy this time around, following their embarrassing exit from the competition four years ago. Tite has a lot of talent at his disposal up front, with Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Philipe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino all great options.

Marcelo and Danilo are good attacking full backs, though the Selecao will miss the experience of Dani Alves after the PSG right back was ruled out of the tournament with an ACL injury.

Brazil will more than likely line up with Casemiro & Fernandinho in midfield with either Paulinho or Coutinho as the more advanced midfielder, but regardless of formations Brazil will lean heavily on their talisman Neymar in order to break down stubborn defences.

Favourites to win the entire competition, it's easy to see Brazil make at least the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Thing to say to make yourself sound clever: They have to move Coutinho out on to the wing in order to get the best out of him, he's lost in midfield.

Meaningless platitude to spout every now and again: Marcelo may be great going forward, but he leaves a lot of space in behind.

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Useless stat to churn out to give a semblance of expertise: Brazil are also the only team to have taken part in every single World Cup since 1930, with Russia 2018 becoming their 21st appearance in as many tournaments.

Costa Rica

Nickname: ‎Los Ticos

Manager: Óscar Ramírez

FIFA Ranking: 23

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Oscar Ramirez takes charge of Costa Rica heading into Group E, with Los Ticos surprising in Brazil four years ago, they may find it hard to repeat the feat this time around.

Notable players in the Costa Rica squad include Sunderland left back Bryan Oviedo, former Fulham star Bryan Ruiz Celtic defender Cristian Gamboa and Real Madrid 'keeper Keylor Navas. Navas is the star of this Costa Rica side, which will give you an idea of the quality of the rest of the squad.

Defender Kendall Watson scored the goal that sent Costa Rica to Russia, but the Vancouver Whitecaps man has fallen out of favour with Ramirez, who will more than likely opt for a centre back partnership of Duarte and Acosta.

Thing to say to make yourself sound clever: It'll be interesting to see what Kendall Watson turns up, or indeed if he'll even play.

Meaningless platitude to spout every now and again: Navas is good, but he's not going to win games by himself.

Useless stat to churn out to give a semblance of expertise: This will be Óscar Ramírez’s first World Cup as a manager, having played every single minute of Costa Rica’s 1990 World Cup campaign; their first ever appearance in the competition.

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Serbia

Nickname: Orlovi - The Eagles

Manager: Mladen Krstajic

FIFA Ranking: 34

Serbia come into this World Cup on the back of finishing 1st in Ireland's World Cup qualifying group, and the Eagles have some good technical players that might just seen them nick second spot in this group.

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Southampton's Dusan Tadic is an assist machine, and the emerging Sergej Milinkovic-Savic promises to be the next great midfielder, with the Lazio man primed to impress in Russia. Aleksander Kolarov should prove dangerous from set pieces and Nemanja Matic will provide cover for the back four. The volatile Alexander Mitrovic will plough a lonely furrow up top, and the Serbs have shown in qualification that they have the steel required to grind out results.

Thing to say to make yourself sound clever: Tadic has definitely been affected by Milinkovic-Savic's inclusion, Krstajic needs to play him centrally to get the best out of him.

Meaningless platitude to spout every now and again: This is a very physical Serbia side, but they are well able to knock the ball around.

Useless stat to churn out to give a semblance of expertise: Serbia are the tallest team in the tournament with an average height of 185.6cm.

Switzerland

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Nickname:  Rossocrociati - The Red Crusaders

Manager:  Vladimir Petković

FIFA Ranking: 6

The number 6 ranked team in the world is peppered with familiar faces in the form of recent Arsenal signing Stephane Lichtsteiner, Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri, Johan Djourou, Granit Xhaka and erstwhile West Ham player Valon Behrami.

The Red Crusaders are not as good as their number six ranking would suggest, and their chances will depend heavily on whether winger Breel Embolo can produce the goods in attack. This is a tricky group for the Swiss and its a toss up between them and Serbia for second place.

Thing to say to make yourself sound clever: Watch out for centre back Manuel Akanji, he could be young player of the tournament.

Meaningless platitude to spout every now and again: It will be interesting to see if this culturally diverse Swiss team can gel into a unit.

Useless stat to churn out to give a semblance of expertise: Since 1966, Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri is the only player to score a World Cup hat-trick entirely with his left foot, doing so against Honduras at the last tournament in Brazil.

 

 

See Also: The Bluffer's Guide To The World Cup: Group A

Eoin Lyons

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