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FIFA World Cup 2018: Groups E-H

FIFA World Cup 2018 in RussiaRead about groups A-D
Group E
Group E hosts one of the biggest favourites of this tournament. Brazil was disappointing in 2010, adopting a defensive style of play. In 2014 they got hammered by Germany in the semi-final. This time the coach Tite has a full list of superstars to conquer the World Cup again. Neymar is surely the biggest name on the list, followed by the unleashed Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino, technically strong Paulinho, Fernandinho and Coutinho. The defence comprises of names like Thiago Silva and Marcelo, assisted by Casemiro, all very experienced and ready to guarantee stability. Their qualification opponents were only able to score 11 goals against them. The team scored 41 goals, which is the key to the big advantage of this team: everybody can score goals. Brazil will play its first match in Rostov on Don, and the opponent will be Switzerland, which has become a permanent participant of major tournaments during the last years.
As always, the Swiss team is expected to play a very well-organized, defensive play, hoping for creativity from Shaqiri and Xhaka. Vladimir Petkovic’s troop should not be underestimated. Not only the team is experienced, but also most of the team members play in top European clubs. Disciplined and hungry, they have nothing to lose in their opening match against Brazil. In 2010 they defeated European champions Spain in such circumstances. Switzerland’s second match against Serbia may be the decisive one for both of the sides.
Costa Rica and Serbia are the last two teams of the group. Costa Rica won the “group of death” in 2014, leaving former world champions Uruguay, Italy and England behind, becoming the breakthrough of FIFA World Cup 2014. Will they surprise again? It is hard to say, but they will at least not be underestimated this time around. Anyway, Costa Rica plays a very adaptive football and their coach Oscar Ramirez is known for choosing different tactics every time, making his team nearly unpredictable.
Serbia qualified to World Cup as group winners, without really convincing though. The team lacks experience, due to their absence in major tournaments the last years, but they still have big names among them, including Branislav Ivanovic of Zenit St. Petersburg, the former Chelsea star, Aleksandr Kolarov, Antonio Rukavina and Nemanja Matic. The talented team, just like the former Yugoslavia, will have to fight lack of discipline and individual play, if they are determined to have a successful tournament. Serbia will meet two well-organized sides before the big clash against Brazil, so the Balkans will have to prove their high quality right from the start until the end of the group stage.
Group F 
World champions Germany lead the FIFA World Cup 2018 Group F. The titleholders have undergone a lot of changes in their squad since the successful 2014 campaign. The scorer of the winning goal in the final Mario Götze is no longer a part of Joachim Löw’s squad after four years of constant injuries and average performances. Philipp Lahm, the man who was handed the trophy, and Miroslav Klose, the most scoring player in the history of the tournament, have ended their careers. The defending line, consisting of Hummels, Rüdiger, Boateng, Hector and Kimmich, is surely one of the best in the world, assisted by Khedira and Kroos in the midfield. The attack is not as strong as always, especially after Leroy Sane was eliminated from the final bid. Anyway, Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Timo Werner are potentially a big threat for any opponent. The biggest headache of the Germans has been the injury issue. Neuer, Boateng and Özil are not 100% fit. The success of the team in this tournament will depend much on how quick these players will earn their top form.
Germay’s first opponent will be Mexico, traditionally one of the most unpredictable teams. They had a strong qualification campaign, but they currently do not have any players representing the biggest European clubs, which might become a disadvantage for the Mexicans compared to the other group members. Rafa Marquez, Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Chicharito are all experienced enough to organize a good match or two.
The third participant of the group is Sweden, ready to carry on without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedes had an impressive qualification campaign, eliminating giants Netherlands and Italy, so the presence of superstars is not a must for them any more. Janne Andersson’s team is a strong collective, which has become quite good on denying goals. Although it is a tough task to score against this team, Sweden is still quite slow in building up their play.
Sweden’s first opponent is South Korea, which typically introduces physically well-prepared and quick players. The Asians are always a tricky opponent due to their focus on organization, however the team, led by Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, might struggle to be effective in front of the goal. 
Group G
Group G hosts the hottest option for the surprising team – Belgium. Although they have been in the same position in the last couple of major tournaments, the young promising talents have now grown into key players at their clubs, and Russia 2018 might become time of their life. Having stars like Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku in the attack, as well as Alderweireld, Kompany and Verthonghen in the back, Roberto Martinez’s team has no real weak links. If no injuries or expulsions, the Belgians are able to remain in the tournament for a long time.
Panama is a blank sheet to most of us, but it was the same with Costa Rica in 2014. To be honest, it seems very unrealistic for Panama to replay the Costa Rica dream and leave big favourites behind. They surely did deserve a place among the best 32 teams on the planet, however, the main team performers are 32 or older, which might become a disadvantage against young and quick Belgian and English opponents.
It has been a while since England ruled the world of football. Last time they played an important role in this tournament was in 1990, when they reached the semi-finals. Now that there are no Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Terry among the national team players, the hope of the Three Lions lays on young talented players and a head coach; most of them will have their debut at a World Cup. Harry Kane is, of course, the key player of the team, and, if Gareth Southgate finds the right way to build his team around the Tottenham star, the chances for England to mark their presence in Russia will increase.
England’s first opponent is Tunisia, a team lacking big names, but expected to play a technically strong football. The main hope of the team is to gain experience for some of its young talents, to build a better base for more regular World Cup participations.
Group H
There are no clear favourites in Group H. Perhaps Poland can be rated highest due to the experience they gained during the last couple of major tournaments and a solid qualification round prior to Russia 2018. Bayern’s Robert Lewandowksi, who was once again the best striker in the European qualifying campaign, captains Adam Nawalka’s team. Poles are trusted to be one of the dark horses of the tournament. Looking at the list of Poland’s opponents in the group stage, the team has all the chances to build self-confidence before reaching the important play-off clashes.
Senegal is probably the strongest African team in this World Cup. The have several big names in the squad, led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. The only question is whether they will be able to perform as a team or not. Aliou Cisse’s task is to produce something out of a good mix of solid defence and creative offensive players.
Quite similar to Senegal’s is Colombia’s job in the group stage of the World Cup. Having a couple of big names, including the topscorer of the previous tournament James Rodriguez, the team has all the chances to go far in the tournament. However, despite the presence of big stars playing in clubs like Bayern, Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan, the team was struggling in the qualification, occupying the 4th place and scoring only 21 goals in 18 matches. Despite the age of 32, Colombia’s captain Radamel Falcao will have his World Cup debut and probably farewell in Russia 2018.
The last team in the group is Japan, which had an impressive qualification campaign. The Japanese, similar to South Korea, are always a tough opponent, preferring a quick play, but traditionally having difficulties in scoring against stronger sides. The team includes 7 players earning their money in German clubs, as well as former English and Italian champions Shinji Okazaki and Yuto Nagatomo. All three opponents of the Asians set their focus on physically strong football, so it might be difficult for Japan to show the play they are used to in the group stage. 


Physical attributes


Technical attributes

ball control
free kicks
long throws
shooting accuracy
shooting power
slide tackle
stand tackle
aerial control
one on ones
off the area
penalty saving

Mental attributes

tactical awareness
work rate
positioning in the line
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