Connect with us


World Cup preview: Everything you need to know about Group E

With the 2022 World Cup just days away, we’re taking a deep dive into all eight groups, highlighting the star players to watch, examining the biggest storylines to follow, and offering some predictions for how things may play out. Here’s everything you need to know about Group E, which features Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, and Japan.

Group schedule ?

Spain ??

  • Manager: Luis Enrique
  • Nickname: La Roja
  • FIFA ranking: 7
  • Best World Cup finish: Champion (2010)
  • Betting odds: +800

Player to watch

Pedri. Unusual as it may be for a team with the pedigree and overall talent of Spain, it’s difficult to identify one standout superstar. That’s by design for manager Luis Enrique, who values the collective over all else. Players are selected based on their ability to fit his preferred 4-3-3 system and tactical plan, not the other way around. Luckily, the Spaniards have a 19-year-old midfielder who can flourish in any role and meet the demands of any coach. Pedri, in a word, is a breathtaking footballer, and he has the poise and vision that belie his youth. He’s already vital for Spain and Barcelona at the heart of midfield, keeping both sides ticking with his technique and passing. He’s a special talent who has the composure to handle the biggest stage.

Projected starting XI (4-3-3)

Simon; Alba, Laporte, P. Torres, Carvajal; Gavi, Busquets, Pedri; F. Torres, Morata, Olmo

Enrique’s playing style is non-negotiable. The task for his players, then, is simple. Adapt to the scheme or watch from the bench. Or from home. The 52-year-old is unyielding and believes his singular way of playing is the best way to win. In fairness, he’s often been right. La Roja will dominate the ball and probe for openings, press high up the pitch, and be aggressive for 90 minutes, even if it leaves spaces at the back. Those principles won’t change. “We do not want to play deep. We always want to be in our opponents’ half and take risks,” Enrique said of his approach. “In defense, we want to take the ball off our opponents as quickly as possible. When I am looking for players for the national team, I pick the ones (who) are best at interpreting our tactics.”

Key question

Can the full-backs provide the energy needed to make Enrique’s system function properly? Executing a successful high press requires several elements working in harmony, including indefatigable players on the flanks who can get up and down the pitch all game. Dani Carvajal (30) and Jordi Alba (33) were both excellent at their peaks but may not have the legs anymore. Cesar Azpilicueta, meanwhile, is probably the least mobile of the three. That puts a lot of stress on the central defenders to cover large amounts of open space, and Spain’s center-backs aren’t totally convincing.

Then there’s the opposite end of the field, where the lack of an established, consistent goalscorer looms large. Alvaro Morata will likely continue in the starting role, assuming he recovers from a recent injury. However, he’s long lacked conviction up front when tasked with being the primary scoring threat. The football remains lovely to watch, but this team is likely too flawed to replicate the success of the dominant generation that won three consecutive major tournaments from 2008-12.

Costa Rica ??

  • Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez
  • Nickname: Los Ticos
  • FIFA ranking: 31
  • Best World Cup finish: Quarterfinals (2014)
  • Betting odds: +75000

Player to watch

Keylor Navas. Now 35, the Paris Saint-Germain netminder remains the influential leader and star performer for Los Ticos. The team arguably wouldn’t even be at this World Cup if it weren’t for its talisman. Navas was spectacular in the latter stages of CONCACAF qualifying, where Costa Rica surged up the standings with six wins from its final seven games. He also played well in the intercontinental playoff win over New Zealand that ultimately got the team to Qatar. Navas isn’t getting many opportunities at the club level right now – Gianluigi Donnarumma has started every league match for PSG this season – but he always seems to deliver for his country. Backstopping a team that doesn’t score many goals, he’ll once again be crucial to Costa Rica’s chances of pulling off any upsets.

Projected starting XI (4-5-1)

Navas; Oviedo, Duarte, Calvo, C. Martinez; Bennette, Torres, Borges, Tejeda, Campbell; Contreras

Luis Fernando Suarez, who has crafted a nomadic coaching career, made sweeping changes to the Costa Rican setup when he arrived in 2021, trying to revamp the team by giving debuts to 22 players over a hectic 15-month spell. Due in part to that rapid upheaval, the Colombian manager’s tenure got off to a rocky start. But he eventually righted the ship in qualifying, as Costa Rica rediscovered the stingy defense that has long been the team’s hallmark. Los Ticos don’t score often – they notched just 13 goals in 14 Hexagonal qualifiers – but concede even fewer thanks to Navas and an established center-back pairing of Francisco Calvo and Oscar Duarte. A fastidious line of five midfielders in front of the defense helps create solidity.

Key question

Will Costa Rica feel right at home in this group? Navas and Co. will unquestionably be huge underdogs against Spain and Germany, and Japan will also be favored when the two sides meet. That could play to Costa Rica’s strengths. Los Ticos can sit in their low block with multiple banks of defenders, frustrate the opposition into attempting low-quality shots, and look to hit on the break with exciting teenage winger Jewison Bennette and veteran Joel Campbell in support of speedy forward Anthony Contreras.

Getting out of this group may be too tall an order. But, then again, that’s exactly what everybody said when Costa Rica went up against England, Italy, and Uruguay in 2014 and topped the quartet.

Germany ??

  • Manager: Hansi Flick
  • Nickname: Nationalelf
  • FIFA ranking: 11
  • Best World Cup finish: Four-time champion (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
  • Betting odds: +1000

Player to watch

Jamal Musiala. Though there’s a general sense of malaise around this Germany team right now, it’s still loaded with skill, especially up front. Kai Havertz, Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry, and, of course, veteran stalwart Thomas Muller are all capable of the sublime at any moment. But the most exciting of Hansi Flick’s charges is Musiala, the 19-year-old who has everyone at Bayern Munich waxing lyrical. And for good reason. The versatile forward, comfortable playing several different positions, is the youngest player ever to record 100 appearances for Bayern. Musiala has taken his game to another level this season, scoring nine goals and delivering six assists in just 15 Bundesliga matches. Lively and intelligent, his finishing ability will be key for a team that won’t use a natural No. 9 – at least not to start matches – in Qatar.

Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1)

Neuer; Raum, Rudiger, Sule, Kehrer; Goretzka, Kimmich; Sane, Muller, Musiala; Havertz

Under Hansi Flick, Germany looks to dictate possession and play a more aesthetically pleasing brand of football than in previous years. Flick certainly has the squad to accomplish exactly that. However, Germany has yet to show consistency during his reign, often drifting in and out of games and relying too much on a moment of individual quality to procure results. The manic 3-3 friendly draw with England earlier this year was a microcosm of the team’s ongoing issues. Havertz scored a stunning goal in the match, and the team produced bright passages of play, but there was also defensive vulnerability and large portions where the Germans couldn’t control proceedings. If they put it all together, another World Cup title could be on the horizon.

Key question

Can Havertz adequately lead the line? The same question would have been asked of Timo Werner before an ill-timed ankle injury ruled him out of the tournament. While his absence almost certainly removes any debate over who will start up front for Flick, it doesn’t address the suitability of his top choices to operate as the de facto striker. Havertz, 23, has some of the skills necessary to thrive playing the central striker role. But the angular left-footer is more comfortable and looks more natural playing in the hole just behind, where he can float around, find space, and orchestrate moves instead of consistently being asked to finish them.

Goals will need to come from everywhere if Germany is to reverse its recent trend of faltering at major tournaments and reestablish its reputation as a “Turniermannschaft” – a tournament team – that thrives on the biggest stage. A repeat of the humbling group-stage exit four years ago would be an unmitigated disaster.

Japan ??

  • Manager: Hajime Moriyasu
  • Nickname: Samurai Blue
  • FIFA ranking: 24
  • Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, and 2018)
  • Betting odds: +25000

Player to watch

Daichi Kamada. One of the top scorers in the Bundesliga this season, the Eintracht Frankfurt star has notched 12 goals in 20 matches across all competitions this campaign. That tally is even more impressive considering he plays primarily in midfield for the German outfit. He’ll need to carry that fine form to Qatar. Hajime Moriyasu could ask him to be the central forward and main scoring threat amid a dearth of other options at the position. Strikers Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi failed to impress during the September friendly window, with the latter subsequently being left out of the World Cup squad entirely. A lot is riding on Kamada’s ability to translate his club form to the national team.

Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1)

Gonda; Nagatomo, Tomiyasu, Yoshida, Sakai; Endo, Morita; Kubo, Kamada, Ito; Maeda

Look for Japan to rely heavily on Junya Ito. The lightning-quick Reims winger’s pace has been a constant outlet for the Samurai Blue since Moriyasu selected him immediately upon taking the job in 2018. Japan has technical quality across the pitch, but Ito’s blistering speed on the counter will be key for beating Spain and Germany, two teams that try to monopolize possession. A former defensive midfielder who made 35 appearances for the national side, Moriyasu has faced criticism from fans in Japan, especially for his team selection. He’s consistently received support from the country’s football federation, but a poor showing in Qatar could see that tune change.

Key question

Will this be unlucky No. 7 for Japan? The Asian nation is making its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance, but an unkind draw has tempered expectations. Advancing out of Group E will almost certainly take at least one win over Germany or Spain. That’s a very tall order, even if the current vintage of both those teams isn’t on par with previous versions.

Moriyasu has done an admirable – and important – job in bringing forward a new generation of players to form the core of Japan’s team. The task of taking that group to the next level may fall to his successor, depending on how things go in Qatar.

Predictions ?

Chalk? According to Opta, Spain and Germany each have better than an 80% chance of advancing from Group E. In any other group, Japan would fancy its chances of reaching the knockout stage and perhaps causing an upset once there – the Japanese were agonizingly close to shocking Belgium just four years ago, remember. But it’s hard to pick against the two European powerhouses here.

  1. Spain
  2. Germany
  3. Japan
  4. Costa Rica

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Ranking the 10 best deals of the January transfer window

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

With a quiet January transfer window now complete, theScore ranks the 10 best moves made across the game’s top leagues.

10. Gift Orban ?? Lyon

Isosport/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Details: Signed from Gent for reported €12M fee

There were some concerns when Gent signed Orban in January 2023. His scoring record of 20 goals in just 21 starts was clearly impressive, but that was in Norway’s second tier. Those reservations were soon forgotten as he amassed nine goals and two assists over 10 Belgian Pro League appearances and struck five times in five Conference League outings. His productivity has since slowed, but €12 million for an intensely competitive 21-year-old striker could prove extremely fruitful business for Lyon. Orban’s outgoing personality should also be a welcome addition to the dressing room.

9. Timo Werner ?? Tottenham

Details: Signed on loan from RB Leipzig with reported €17M option to buy

Like many transfers in the January window, bringing in Werner presented a low-risk deal for Tottenham. If it works out, €17 million is an affordable sum for a forward of Werner’s pedigree. The German was largely ineffective over his first two appearances but was much better in his third outing, setting up Destiny Udogie and Brennan Johnson for goals in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Brentford. His incredible work ethic and pace, paired with Ange Postecoglou’s ability to instill belief in his players, could make this a great move for both parties.

8. Said Benrahma ?? Lyon

Details: Signed from West Ham in deal worth up to €20.4M

Lyon fought for this one, and it should pay off. After battling some administrative issues, the Ligue 1 side completed the deal a day later than expected, announcing Benrahma had joined on an initial €6-million loan deal that could become permanent for another €14.4 million. It’s a low-risk move that should enliven Lyon’s struggling attack. Benrahma’s a functional system player who can break games open and change their pace with the flick of a foot. Though he started just five times for West Ham in the Premier League this season, he hasn’t lost those progressive traits.

7. Marcos Leonardo ?? Benfica

Zed Jameson/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Details: Signed from Santos for reported €18M fee

You just know Benfica are onto something here. They always are. Leonardo arrives from Santos in a deal that could look like a bargain in the years to come. Despite playing for one of the worst Santos sides in its 111-year history, the 20-year-old still managed to score 26 goals in 66 league appearances. He’s an old-school striker who loves to hang in the penalty area, and if Benfica can provide him with the right service, he’ll have no issues doubling that goal-scoring return.

6. Tommaso Baldanzi ?? Roma

Details: Signed from Empoli for reported €15M fee

The deal for Baldanzi is perfect in nearly every sense. Roma get a long-term replacement for Paulo Dybala without breaking the bank or running further afoul of Financial Fair Play regulations. The future Italian international also satisfies the club’s long-held preference for central attacking midfielders. Baldanzi even idolized Dybala during his formative years at Empoli. He could’ve waited to go to a club fighting for trophies, but he’ll get far more playing time at Roma, especially if Dybala’s injury issues persist.

5. Adam Wharton ?? Crystal Palace

Details: Signed from Blackburn Rovers for reported initial £18M fee

Crystal Palace are no strangers to fishing in the EFL. They plucked the thrilling double act of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise from the Championship, and it took an impressive loan spell at Swansea City to convince the Eagles to sign Marc Guehi from Chelsea. Wharton is the next to join that contingent. The 19-year-old will bring some much-needed solidity to the midfield, but his admiration of Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, and Rodri hints at how much he treasures possession. He displays so much composure while he instigates attacks from the base of midfield.

4. Valentin Barco ?? Brighton & Hove Albion


Details: Signed from Boca Juniors for reported $10M fee

Tipping a player that Brighton & Hove Albion bought to shine usually works out, right? For a modest fee, the south coast club has acquired a cocksure 19-year-old who can play in any position down the left and also appeared across the midfield for Boca Juniors. Barco is a slippery operator, regularly dribbling past opponents and becoming difficult to track down once he’s wriggled free, and he’s constantly trying to ignite attacks with probing passes. It might take time for him to be a regular in Roberto De Zerbi’s lineup, but this signing should be yet another example of the Seagulls’ South American scouting network striking gold.

3. Jadon Sancho ?? Borussia Dortmund

Details: Signed on loan from Manchester United

Sancho is back at Dortmund – albeit temporarily – after leaving for Manchester United for around €85 million in 2021. The winger had a much-documented spat with Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag, and it’s difficult to envision a route back into the first team while the Dutchman’s in charge. By contrast, Sancho has been given a warm welcome in Germany, with club executives claiming he has no disciplinary issues and is in fine condition after being frozen out at United. It seems Sancho is in an ideal environment to revive his career.

2. Claudio Echeverri ?? Manchester City

Details: Signed from River Plate for reported £12.5M fee

Manchester City continue to bet on young talent during the January transfer window. Highly rated midfielder Echeverri follows in the footsteps of Julian Alvarez as the latest under-23 South American to sign for, if not necessarily join, the Premier League champions in the winter. Like Alvarez, whom City also signed from River Plate, Echeverri has been sent back to his boyhood club on loan for the year, allowing him to continue his development in a controlled environment. He’ll then arrive in Manchester in January 2025. City continue to hit the right note, never panicking while other clubs scramble for that elusive extra oomph to end the season.

1. Arthur Vermeeren ?? Atletico Madrid

Angel Martinez / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Details: Signed from Royal Antwerp for reported €18M fee

At just 18, Vermeeren already boasts plenty of experience. He played more minutes than any other player in Belgium’s top flight over 2023 and even captained Royal Antwerp during this season’s Champions League group stage. The midfielder has already won the Belgian league, cup, and super cup, too. Vermeeren might lack some physicality – and that weakness might not seem ideal when he’s going to play under the combative Diego Simeone – but he has a Koke-esque knack of progressing play while producing more interceptions, blocks, and clearances than the Atletico Madrid veteran. An €18-million deal is a bargain for someone who could become one of Europe’s leading midfielders.

Honorable mentions: Fabio Carvalho (Hull City), Radu Dragusin (Tottenham Hotspur)

Continue Reading


Transfer Deadline Day Live: Breaking down all the major deals, rumors

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

Transfer deadline day is in full swing. We’re providing live, quick-hit analysis of the biggest deals and rumors until tonight’s 6 p.m. ET deadline.

Give Chelsea all of your money

Chelsea are the headline act again at the transfer deadline – but playing a different role entirely. Languishing in 10th place in the Premier League standings and without Champions League football on the horizon, the cash-guzzling Blues desperately need funds to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations ahead of the 2024-25 season. Armando Broja and Conor Gallagher are reportedly up for sale, not because they’re angling to leave but because they offer the juiciest profit margin. Chelsea are raising academy graduates for financial slaughter, having pawned off Lewis Hall, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Mason Mount for tens of millions of pounds in pure profit over the last six months. Fulham are interested in taking Broja off Chelsea’s hands, just not at the quoted £50-million asking price, according to BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty. A loan deal could be a welcome compromise.

Bayern getting instant relief

M. Donato / FC Bayern / Getty

Bayern are closing out the window strong. Signing Sacha Boey from Galatasaray for a reported €30 million solves a crisis at the right-back position, where midfielder Konrad Laimer and left-back Raphael Guerreiro have split time as square-peg-round-hole replacements for the injured Noussair Mazraoui. Further injuries to wingers Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman forced Bayern to bring in 22-year-old Granada winger Bryan Zaragoza six months ahead of his expected move to the Bavarians. The deals give Bayern the depth they need to continue competing on all fronts. Given their sputtering form and a surprisingly sustained challenge from Bundesliga title rivals Bayer Leverkusen, they need all the help they can get.

No place like home for Hojbjerg

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s future at Tottenham Hotspur has been up in the air since Antonio Conte left the club in March 2023 – and it’ll be suspended in motion for a while longer. Hojbjerg, one of former manager Conte’s soldiers in midfield, has made just five Premier League starts under Ange Postecoglou. And while he remains on the periphery of Postecoglou’s plans, Hojbjerg remains committed to the cause. He doesn’t lack options – Juventus, Napoli, Ajax, and Lyon reportedly expressed interest in the midfielder – but still feels part of something big in north London. Credit to Postecoglou for making a player with such limited minutes feel connected to the cause.

Forest keep wheeling and dealing

Nottingham Forest are sticking to their usual deadline-day formula. Having closed out the 2023 summer transfer window with an incredible seven signings, Forest are back to juggling negotiations. They’ve completed the signing of highly rated Portuguese striker Rodrigo Ribeiro from Sporting CP and Gio Reyna on loan from Borussia Dortmund. Forest are also reportedly flying in Strasbourg goalkeeper Matz Sels after abandoning talks with Crystal Palace over shot-stopper Sam Johnstone. They’re allowing some departures, too, with Serge Aurier expected to leave for Galatasaray and Orel Mangala heading for Lyon.

Other deals to watch today …

  • Said Benrahma to Lyon
  • Stefano Sensi to Leicester City
  • Tommaso Baldanzi to Roma
  • Hugo Ekitike to Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Antonio Nusa to Brentford
  • Bryan Gil to Brighton & Hove Albion
  • Enes Unal to Bournemouth
  • Serge Aurier to Galatasaray
  • Thomas Meunier to Burnley
  • Rafa Mir to Valencia
  • Maxwel Cornet to Crystal Palace
  • Matz Sels to Nottingham Forest

Continue Reading


The Best FIFA awards: Follow live as Messi, Bonmati eye more trophies

Find the biggest stories from across the soccer world by visiting our Top Soccer News section and subscribing to push notifications.

World football’s top players and managers of 2023 are being recognized at The Best FIFA Football Awards show on Monday. Below, theScore is tracking all the winners of the various trophies handed out in London.

Best Men’s Player finalists

  • Erling Haaland (Manchester City and Norway)
  • Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)
  • Lionel Messi (Inter Miami and Argentina)

Can Messi get one over on Mbappe yet again? The Argentine will look to retain the honor he won last year when he beat out his former Paris Saint-Germain teammate. The two superstars will face stiff competition from Manchester City striker Haaland for FIFA’s top individual prize, which was inaugurated in 2016 following the governing body’s split with Ballon d’Or organizer France Football. For this year’s award, accomplishments from Dec. 19, 2022, to Aug. 20, 2023, were taken into consideration by voters.

2022 winner: Lionel Messi

Best Women’s Player finalists

NurPhoto / NurPhoto / Getty
  • Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona and Spain)
  • Linda Caicedo (Real Madrid and Colombia)
  • Jennifer Hermoso (Tigres and Spain)

Bonmati can cap one of the most dominant individual seasons in the history of women’s soccer on Monday. The World Cup-winning midfielder, already having captured the Ballon d’Or and various other accolades over the last 12 months, is looking to succeed compatriot Putellas, who won this award in each of the last two years. The qualifying period for this year’s honor was Aug. 1, 2022, to Aug. 20, 2023, the date of the most recent Women’s World Cup final, which saw Bonmati’s Spain defeat England.

2022 winner: Alexia Putellas

Puskas Award finalists

One of the sport’s most coveted individual trophies. This year’s Puskas Award, given to the scorer of the best goal, covers the period between Dec. 19, 2022, and Aug. 20, 2023. Finalists include a long-range strike to conclude an excellent team move, a sensational bicycle kick, and a perfect rabona.

2022 winner: Marcin Oleksy

Best Men’s Coach finalists

  • Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
  • Simone Inzaghi (Inter Milan)
  • Luciano Spalletti (Napoli)

A trio of club managers are vying for the men’s coaching award; though Spalletti is the current Italy boss, his nomination came on the back of an enchanting title-winning campaign at Napoli. The two tacticians who were on the touchline for last season’s Champions League final, Guardiola and Inzaghi, square off once again, with the Manchester City boss considered the favorite after his team’s historic treble-winning season.

2022 winner: Lionel Scaloni

Best Women’s Coach finalists

Valerio Pennicino – UEFA / UEFA / Getty
  • Jonatan Giraldez (Barcelona)
  • Emma Hayes (Chelsea)
  • Sarina Wiegman (England)

A mixture of club and international coaches are vying for this prize. Wiegman and Hayes are the two most recent winners. The England manager has taken the award home on three occasions, more than any other bench boss (male or female). Giraldez, meanwhile, is looking for his first FIFA honor.

2022 winner: Sarina Wiegman

Best Men’s Goalkeeper finalists

  • Yassine Bounou (Al-Hilal and Morocco)
  • Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid and Belgium)
  • Ederson (Manchester City and Brazil)

Bounou helped Sevilla win yet another Europa League crown in 2022-23 before departing for Saudi Arabia, while Ederson backstopped Manchester City to a trio of titles during the club’s record-breaking campaign. Courtois is the only finalist to have won this award before.

2022 winner: Emiliano Martinez

Best Women’s Goalkeeper finalists

  • Mackenzie Arnold (West Ham and Australia)
  • Catalina Coll (Barcelona and Spain)
  • Mary Earps (Manchester United and England)

Three netminders who shone brightly at the 2023 Women’s World Cup will battle for this accolade. Coll helped Spain take home the title, while Arnold and Earps have become cult heroes in their respective countries. The latter, in particular, is one of the most popular footballers in England thanks to her combination of on-pitch excellence and off-field personality.

2022 winner: Mary Earps

Men’s FIFA FIFPro World11

To be announced.

Women’s FIFA FIFPro World11

To be announced.

Continue Reading