For those of us who love the beautiful game and all it has to offer, Group E contains the team who are the World Cup, Brazil. When the draws are made for these competitions the first team we all look out for are the Brazilians and what group will have the pleasure of samba football. This year Brazil have been placed in a group with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. It has the making of a very good group and there will be bundles of skill on show. The Brazilians should qualify as the winners of the group but the second place is wide open, it really is a toss up between the other three. The games in this group will be much anticipated and all the fans who love beautiful football will have the three Brazilian games already pencilled into their diary.
Brazil qualified for this years competition by winning the South American group which had all the big guns in it, including the likes of Argentina and Uruguay. Qualifying for the finals this year has kept up their record as the only team to have qualified for every World Cup, an unbelievable achievement when you consider the talent of all the other teams in the world. Their record of winning the competition five times and finishing runners up twice tells us why they are so loved around the world. Over the years they have produced world class players like Pele, Jarzinho, Gerson, Garrincha, Romario, Ronaldo, Bebeto and Ronaldinho a list of some of the stars that have given us so much pleasure over the years. Two players to look out for as we go into the competition are Manchester City,s Gabriel Jesus and Barcelona,s Phillipe Coutinho. Jesus has scored six goals in the campaign and was joint top scorer with Neymar, he has the knack of knowing exactly where the goal is and I would put him down as one of the favourites to be the top goal scorer. It will be very interesting to see how Couthino gets on in this tournament after his domestic season, it was a season for him that was very disruptive with his transfer move from Liverpool to the Catalan giants been the highlight. The stage is set for him now to go and have a great tournament and let us hope he does not disappoint. I know one thing for certain is that Brazil will play in this competition with no fear and could go very close to winning the trophy for the sixth time.
This World Cup will be Switzerland's eleventh appearance at the finals, a magnificent achievement for a nation that would not considered to be a real force in international football. They had a magnificent qualifying campaign and only lost out in the last match to Portugal for the top spot. They had to come through the dreaded play offs and controversially they beat Northern Ireland one nil over the two legs, the only goal of the tie was a hotly disputed penalty awarded to them when the referee had adjudged that an Irish player had handled the ball. The referee has since come out and said he got it wrong, but these things happen in football and when your luck is in you tend to get those decisions going in your favour. Manager Vladamir Petkovic who was born in Sarajevo has done a magnificent job with the players at his disposal and he has created a team that are very hard to beat and they do play some nice attractive football. Two players to look out for when the tournament starts are Stoke City,s Xherdan Shaqiri and new Arsenal defender Stephan Lichtsteiner who have 150 caps between them. Shaqiri who is midfielder who can also get you goals and so far he has netted twenty for his country. Lichtsteiner is one of the best right backs in the world and has already played in two World Cup final campaign,s this sort of experience will be vital to the Swiss because the man is a winner. Switzerland can possibly get out of this group and if you take Brazil out of the equation their game against Serbia will probably decide their faith.
Costa Rica will be appearing in their fifth World Cup finals and they will hope that they can go a little further than they did in 2014 when they had a magnificent tournament when they reached the quarter finals. They had a tough group in 2014 but they were magnificent and they actually topped the group which included England, Uruguay and Italy, a tremendous outcome for The Ticos as they are known. It just goes to show us that on any given day they can be a real threat. They qualified for Russia by finishing second in a group that also contained Mexico, Panama, Honduras, USA and Trinidad and Tobago. Two players who will be well worth keeping an eye on during the tournament are Vancouver Whitecaps player Christian Bolanos and Bryan Ruiz of Sporting Lisbon. Bolanos was joint top goal scorer on the road to Russia. This will be his third World Cup and his experience from the previous two will be invalid, he has also appeared at the Under 17 World Cup in 2001 and the 2005 FIFA World Club Cup. Ruiz is Costa Rica,s captain and has played more than 100 times for his country. He famously scored the winning goal in a one nil victory over Italy in the 2014 finals. Bryan is the man to get the goals and if his team mates put in a better than average performance in the three group games they could get on a roll again like 2014.
Serbia have qualified for the finals for the fourth time after they topped one of the toughest groups on the road to Russia. They topped the group they were in by two points and it also included Austria, Wales, Georgia, Moldova and the Republic of Ireland. Their one nil victory in Dublin was the game that swung it for them as it was Martin O' Neill,s side they finished ahead of. Manager Mladen Krastic only took up the reigns after qualification for the finals were complete, he has previous managerial experience with Partizan and German side Werder Bremen and has won a few trophies with both clubs. The squad are a very tight knit group of players and not only are they a team but twenty three friends if you are to believe the reports. Two players from that group to keep an eye on during the tournament are Nemania Matic of Manchester United and Alexsandar Kolorov of Roma. Matic will be the anchor man in midfield and he will allow the play maker to go and do his stuff. If you have seen him play for Chelsea and then Manchester United you will know how central he is to any team he is playing for. Kolorov is one of the fastest players to go down a wing I have ever come across, I often wonder what training he does to get the miles into those legs of his. At club level he has won trophies with Lazio and Manchester City and his move to Roma has given him a new lease of life and he plans to stay around for a while yet. If the real Serbia turn team up in Russia they could get out of this group and they could be an interesting team in the knockout stage.
Costa Rica v Serbia 17/6/2018
Brazil v Switzerland 17/6/2018
Brazil v Costa Rica 22/6/2018
Serbia v Switzerland 22/6/2018
Switzerland v Costa Rica 27/6/2018
Sebia v Brazil 27/6/2018
By David Meier