World Cup 2018: Group-by-group analysis E-H

With the draw for the World Cup complete, we have analysed Groups E-H with the help of Opta data.

Neymar (top left), Thomas Muller (top right), Harry Kane (bottom left), Eden Hazard (bottom right)   -  Getty Images

The countdown to the 21st World Cup can now well and truly begin following  Friday's group-stage draw in Moscow.

All 32 teams learned their fate for next year's finals in Russia, and one from those nations will enter football history on July 15 when the final will be contested at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Before we get that far, though, the pool stages must be contested and – with the help of Opta data – we have analysed groups E-H.

 

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

Brazil is the great entertainer and the most successful team in the history of the competition with five victories. A 7-1 humiliation to Germany in 2014 ended its hopes of home success. But Brazil, the only team to have qualified for every finals, coasted through qualifying and many fancy it to win a sixth World Cup. Neymar was involved in five of Brazil's 11 goals at the last finals, with a fractured vertebra ending his competition prematurely.

Read: Tite: 'Brazil favourites for World Cup'

Switzerland boasts the honour of being the only team to have not conceded a single goal in a World Cup tournament (2006), but – despite only losing once in qualifying – needed a play-off to reach Russia. Only once has Switzerland topped its group, while the last time it reached the quarterfinals was 1954. Costa Rica upset the odds to get out a pool including Italy, Uruguay and England in 2014 and was just one of three sides (penalty shoot-outs excluded) to not lose a match. Serbia is appearing as an independent nation for the second time.

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

The pressure is on Germany to end the run of defending champion exiting the next tournament at the group stages, with Italy and Spain doing so in 2010 and 2014. Die Mannschaft's victory four years ago means only Brazil has more World Cup wins than its tally of four. Germany will fancy its chances of adding to a statistic that has seen it finish as the competition's top scorer in the past three editions. Among current players, Thomas Muller is the highest World Cup scorer with 10.

Read: No added nerves for Loew and favourite Germany

Sweden was runner-up when it hosted the tournament in 1958 and has not lost a group match since 1990. Sweden last faced Germany in the World Cup in 2006, where it was beaten 2-0 by the host. Only four teams have made more World Cup appearances than Mexico, but it boasts an unenviable record of having been knocked out of the last 16 in each of the last six World Cups. South Korea's 10 appearances is more than any other Asian nation and it has not missed out since 1986. However, only one of its past 10 World Cup matches has ended in victory.

Read: Lindelof hails Sweden's 'belief' in World Cup dream

Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England

England's greatest hour came at its home tournament in 1966, but since Bobby Moore lofted the Jules Rimet trophy into the air the Three Lions have progressed past the last eight just once in 1990 – a finals where it beat Belgium. Recent World Cups have been particularly disappointing, with England winning just one of its past eight matches. Gareth Southgate's men conceded just three goals in qualifying, though, a joint-best with Spain in European qualifiers. Belgium is living through a so-called "Golden Generation" with the likes of Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku among Roberto Martinez's ranks, and it was the first European nation – other than the host who appear automatically - to qualify for Russia. But its best performance remains a run to the last eight in 2014, where Kevin De Bruyne had a hand in 50 per cent of Belgium's goals.

It is hard to look past England and Belgium getting out of the group, but that will not stop tournament-debutant Panama from dreaming big. Incredibly, Panama reached Russia with a negative goal difference (-1), while no player scored more than twice for it in the CONCACAF section. Tunisia is back for a fifth time, and first since 2006, but has not won since triumphing in its first-ever match in June 1978 – a defeat to England in the '98 group stages included.

Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

On paper, Group H looks the weakest of the pools so it is seemingly all to play for to reach the knockout stages. Poland is the highest ranked of the nations in the group, and Robert Lewandowski will be key to its hopes after the Bayern Munich striker top scored in European qualifying with 16. You have to go back to 1986 for the last time it advanced from the group stages, but Colombia made it to the last eight in 2014 – where James Rodriguez shone to win the Golden Boot. Do not expect to see many draws involving Colombia, with none of its 18 matches ending goalless.

Read: Sakho, Mane star as Senegal books World Cup slot

Senegal lit up the 2002 World Cup, where it memorably beat then defending champion France in the group stages before reaching the last eight. That is its only tournament appearance to date, though. Japan is playing for a sixth time, and has alternated going out in the group stages and the last 16 – if the pattern continues it will make the knockout stages. But to do so, it will likely have to improve of a record of two wins in its past 11 World Cup matches.

Also Read: WORLD CUP 2018: Group-by-Group analysis A-D

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