FIFA World Cup, Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica, team guide, preview

Group E consists of Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and Japan and is being termed the ‘Group of Death’ for the Qatar World Cup 2022.

Group E consists of Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and Japan and is being termed the ‘Group of Death’ for the Qatar World Cup 2022.

On paper, Germany and Spain are the two favourite teams to qualify from Group E, for the Round of 16.

The last time Spain and Germany faced off in a World Cup was the semifinal of the 2010 edition where Carles Puyol’s header propelled Spain into the final and the Las Rojas eventually won the World Cup for the first time in their history. In 2014, Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the final to lift its fourth World Cup.

However, the recent World Cups have not been fruitful for Spain and Germany. In 2018, host country Russia pulled off an upset after beating Spain 4-3 on penalties to qualify for the quarterfinals.

For Germany, the 2018 World Cup was one to forget after it failed to make it past the group stage. It was the first time that the Germans failed to make it past the first round in 80 years.

Japan showed its ability to fight in 2018 when it not only qualified from the group stages, winning two matches out of three but almost knocking out Belgium in the Round of 16.

Japan took an unexpected 2-0 lead but could not hold on to it as the Belgians mounted a 3-2 comeback (including a late goal by Nacer Chadli) to break Japanese hearts.

Costa Rica, which will be playing its sixth World Cup, is the weakest team on paper in Group E. However, the country has a history of being giant-killers at the World Cup.

In the 2014 edition, it beat Uruguay and Italy in the group stages and drew with England. It went on to reach the quarterfinals where it was eventually knocked out by the Netherlands on penalties.

Spain

Spain has always depended heavily on its midfielders and this World Cup, it will have exciting players in Pedri (right) and Gavi (centre) in charge of creating chances for the forwards.

Spain has always depended heavily on its midfielders and this World Cup, it will have exciting players in Pedri (right) and Gavi (centre) in charge of creating chances for the forwards. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Spain is one of the favourites to qualify from Group E.

Despite having a poor run at the 2018 World Cup, the Las Rojas, under Luis Enrique, have shown glimpses of the flair-induced football that made them the greatest footballing force from 2008 to 2012 when the country won two Euros and a World Cup.

Spain at the FIFA World Cup
Number of World Cups played: 16, Number of World Cup matches played: 63, Number of World Cup goals: 99
Current FIFA ranking: 7
Road to World Cup: Finished top of Group B in UEFA qualifiers
Captain: Sergio Busquets, Coach: Luis Enrique, Best Player: Pedri

While it will be missing important players like Mikel Oyarzabal and Marcos Llorente, Luis Enrique has the depth in his team to go deep into the World Cup.

Spain is still a work in progress under Enrique, who took over the national side in 2018. It has a good balance of experience and youth.

Spain has always depended heavily on its midfielders and this World Cup, it will have exciting players in Pedri and Gavi in charge of creating chances for the forwards.

In defence, Aymeric Laporte Pau Torres will look to provide solidity while Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati and Alvaro Morata will be in charge of the attack.

Full Spain Squad
Goalkeepers: Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya.
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta, Dani Carvajal, Eric Garcia, Hugo Guillamon, Pau Torres, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba, Alejandro Balde Martínez.
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Rodri Hernandez, Gavi, Carlos Soler, Marcos Llorente, Pedri Gonzalez, Koke Resurreccion.
Forwards: Ferran Torres, Nico Williams, Yeremi Pino, Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio, Pablo Sarabia, Dani Olmo, Ansu Fati.

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Costa Rica

Costa Rica defeated New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff in June to book its ticket to Qatar 2022. 

Costa Rica defeated New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff in June to book its ticket to Qatar 2022.  | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Despite having a shaky start to its World Cup qualification campaign, Costa Rica recovered well collecting 19 out of a possible 21 points and finishing fourth in the table. It then defeated New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff in June to book its ticket to Qatar.

Costa Rica at the FIFA World Cup
Number of World Cups played: 6, Number of World Cup matches played: 18, Number of World Cup goals: 19
Current FIFA ranking: 31
Road to World Cup: Defeated New Zealand in the intercontinental playoff
Captain: Bryan Ruiz Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez, Best Player: Bryan Ruiz

Costa Rica is the weakest team on paper but by no means a pushover. Manager Luis Fernando Suarez has done good work with the team after he was brought on for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Costa Rica will have experience on its side in the upcoming World Cup.

With a solid keeper like Keylor Navas between the sticks and players like Celso Borges, Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz, who were all part of the 2014 team that reached the quarterfinals, Suarez will know that his team has the capability to cause an upset on any given day.

However, with teams like Spain and Germany looking in good touch, another dream run like the 2014 World Cup looks unlikely.

Full Costa Rica Squad
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas, Esteban Alvarado, Patrick Sequeira
Defenders: Francisco Calvo, Juan Pablo Vargas, Kendall Waston, Oscar Duarte, Daniel Chacon, Keysher Fuller, Carlos Martinez, Bryan Oviedo, Ronald Matarrita
Midfielders: Yeltsin Tejeda, Celso Borges, Youstin Salas, Roan Wilson, Gerson Torres, Douglas Lopez, Jewisson Bennette, Alvaro Zamora, Anthony Hernandez, Brandon Aguilera, Bryan Ruiz
Forwards: Joel Campbell, Anthony Contreras, Johan Venegas

Japan

Japan has never progressed beyond the Round of 16 in a World Cup and will aim for a higher finish but Moriyasu knows that it won’t be an easy task given the heavyweight opponents in the group.

Japan has never progressed beyond the Round of 16 in a World Cup and will aim for a higher finish but Moriyasu knows that it won’t be an easy task given the heavyweight opponents in the group. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu raised questions when he left out Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi despite his excellent form and Vissel Kobe forward Yuya Osako, saying he would prefer players with “burning ambition” rather than experience in the upcoming World Cup.

Japan at the FIFA World Cup
Number of World Cups played: 7, Number of World Cup matches played: 21, Number of World Cup goals: 20
Current FIFA ranking: 24
Road to World Cup: AFC third-round Group B runners-up
Captain: Maya Yoshida, Coach: Hajime Moriyasu, Best Player: Daichi Kamada

Japan has plenty of footballers who play at the highest level of European football like captain Maya Yoshida who plays for Schalke, Takehiro Tomiyasu for Arsenal, Daichi Kamada for Eintracht Frankfurt and young talent Takefusa Kubo for Real Sociedad.

The Japanese were undefeated in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup, winning two matches and drawing one.

In the Round of 16, it had taken a 2-0 lead against Belgium and was on the verge of a major upset before the Belgians’ mounted an inspiring comeback.

Japan has never progressed beyond the Round of 16 in a World Cup and will aim for a higher finish but Moriyasu knows that it won’t be an easy task given the heavyweight opponents in the group.

Full Japan Squad
Goalkeeper: Eiji Kawashima, Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Shogo Taniguchi, Miki Yamane, Ko Itakura, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Hiroki Ito
Midfielders: Gaku Shibasaki, Wataru Endo, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Hidemasa Morita, Daichi Kamada, Yuki Soma, Kaoru Mitoma, Ritsu Doan, Ao Tanaka, Takefusa Kubo
Forwards: Takuma Asano, Daizen Maeda, Ayase Ueda

Germany

Germany will like to wipe out every memory from the 2018 edition in Russia before it starts its campaign in Qatar.

For the first time in 80 years, the Germans could not qualify from the first round after losing to South Korea in its final group match of the 2018 World Cup.

Germany at the FIFA World Cup
Number of World Cups played: 20, Number of World Cup matches played: 109, Number of World Cup goals: 226
Current FIFA ranking: 11
Road to World Cup: Finished top of Group J in UEFA qualifiers
Captain: Manuel Neuer, Coach: Hansi Flick, Best Player: Joshua Kimmich

But it is a new era under Hansi Flick who has shown that he has a winning mentality after his trophy-laden stint as manager of Bayern Munich.

Germany has already suffered a setback with the World Cup fast approaching as RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner was ruled out of the tournament with an ankle injury he suffered while playing in a Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk.

With Werner out, Kai Havertz will most probably assume the No. 9 role.

In centre-back, Antonio Rudiger will definitely be a starter.

For his centre-back partner Flick has to choose between Niklas Sule or Dayot Upamecano. Thomas Muller, Ilkay Gundogan and Joshua Kimmich will give midfield solidity while Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry are most likely to operate from the flanks.

Musiala (left), nominated for the 2022 Kopa Trophy, will be one of the players to watch out for, in Germany at the World Cup.

Musiala (left), nominated for the 2022 Kopa Trophy, will be one of the players to watch out for, in Germany at the World Cup. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala will be Bayern’s surprise package this World Cup. The youngster, who was nominated for the 2022 Kopa Trophy, has 10 goals and eight assists for Bayern this season.

Full Germany Squad
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Marc-André ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp
Defenders: Thilo Kehrer, David Raum, Antonio Rüdiger, Niklas Süle, Matthias Ginter, Nico Schlotterbeck, Lukas Klostermann, Christian Günter, Armell Bella Kotchap
Midfielders: Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Jamal Musiala, Thomas Müller, İlkay Gündoğan, Jonas Hofmann, Mario Götze, Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz
Forwards: Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané, Karim Adeyemi, Niclas Füllkrug, Youssoufa Moukoko
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