The ‘Group of Death’ title belongs to Group E. When Germany and Spain were first drawn in the pool, everyone immediately labeled it the group to watch. Japan and Costa Rica are the other two teams looking to pull off upset wins against the heavyweights.
Nonetheless, with two of the last three winners in the same group, the advantage goes to the two European powerhouse teams.
Let’s take a closer look at what Group E has in store.
Spain: On the Comeback Trai?
Spain dominated international soccer between 2008 and 2012, winning the 2010 World cup and the 2008 and 2012 European championships. This may have shifted in recent years, but a comeback may be on its way. There was a time when clubs from La Liga ruled over European competitions. At Euro 2020, they were only beaten by Italy on penalties after playing better for over 120 minutes.
There’s more room for improvement following their defeat to France in the Nations League final. However, with young star Pedri taking over midfield duties and helping Barcelona fans move on from Lionel Messi’s departure, perhaps he can deliver the same energy that inspired Spanish fans during its dominant years. The 16-time World Cup participants have head coach Luis Enrique at the helm and Sergio Busquets from Barcelona as team captain. As always, we see a roster swarming with talents like Jordi Alba, Marco Asensio, Koke, and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Germany: New Start for the Old Guard
The 2014 FIFA World Cup victors, Germany, have plenty of ground to cover following elimination in the 2018 Russia group stages. This was followed by another early exit from Euro 2022 after losing out to England. That defeat cut Joachim Low’s 15-year run with the squad. New manager Hansi Flick took over in 2021. The former Bayern Munich manager put in motion a 202 victory for the German giants in 2020, including a Champions League Final match that was delayed due to the pandemic. With that, everyone is optimistic about the future of German soccer in the coming years.
Everyone knows that Germany produces some of the finest soccer players in the world. They enter the tournament as heavy favorites to win Group E. But the question is, could new coaching give new life to the team and lead the nation to its fifth World Cup title?
Japan: The Underdogs
The men from the Land of the Rising Sun are a usual sight in the Round of 16. If we follow their trend of the last six World Cups, they are likely to leave the venue before the third round. In 2018, they were 20 minutes away from reaching the quarter-finals when Belgium found another gear and rebounded from two goals down. This year, they join the Group of Death as underdogs but a solid pick for someone who wants a shot at that upset win.
Japan has some influential players working under Hajime Moriyasu’s leadership. The names to look out for include Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino. Premier League star Takehiro Tomiyasu is also playing his debut season at Arsenal, while Daizen Maeda plays with Scottish professional team Celtic and works alongside his countrymen Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate, and Yosuke Ideguchi.
Costa Rica: Dark Horses
The Ticos are excited to make their way back to another FIFA World Cup. They qualified for the 2022 edition of the tournament dominantly, winning seven of nine games this year. It was the best way to bounce back from a testing qualifying run in 2021 where they only won two of eight matches.
Head coach Luis Fernando Suarez has done wonders for the Costa Rica national team since joining in 2021. He put together a talented pool of players with team captain Bryan Ruiz and PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas. A majority of the lineup includes local club players, but names like Joel Campbell play a role in helping the team raise its standards. Ultimately, Costa Rica is a prominent sleeper pick in Group E. But after making the quarter-finals in 2014, there’s an element of surprise that comes with this side.
Spain and Germany are just as formidable opponents, expected to progress easily to the next phase. This renders Japan and Costa Rica underdogs, with little to no chance of progressing beyond the group.
Group E appears to be a simple run-down between two of the best soccer teams and always hidden favorites to win the tournament title this year. However, soccer is unpredictable, and Costa Rica may be able to spice things up a bit going by how well they did in 2014 at Brazil when it qualified from a group with Uruguay, England, and Italy. .