The 2022 World Cup is finally here, and VSiN's soccer handicapper Nigel Seeley has picks, predictions and best bets for every group as part of the VSiN World Cup Guide.
Here is his Group E preview for Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica:
Odds to win Group E
Costa Rica 50-1
The Spanish head into this tournament at +850 to be crowned World Champions. They are in good form heading to Qatar, losing just one game in their last 10.
Their last competitive fixture was an impressive 1-0 win against Portugal with Morata scoring the only goal in the game in the 88th minute. That win should have them brimming with confidence.
Although Italy won Euro 2020, Spain was the team that impressed me the most. Now two years on, the Spanish will be a lot better prepared for this World Cup than they were for the European Championships.
Luis Enrique’s side is much better than its seventh in the FIFA rankings, and I would expect them to match that expectation with a quarterfinal at least. Spain has a lot of young talent with players such as Pedri and Gavi getting better. Both of those are in my thoughts for players of the tournament. These new potential superstars are ready to burst on the World Cup stage and usher in a new era for Spanish football.
Pedri is just 19 and already is the first name on the team sheet for both club and country, which tells you a great deal as both have quality options in his position. For club and country, Pedri is beating Frenkie de Jong, Frank Kessie and Thiago Alcentara for that center midfielder spot and will only get better as he develops. It is almost frightening to think he is still a teenager, and he has the world at his feet.
Rodri, at 26, is one of the best players in the EPL and a major part of the Manchester City team. That the esteemed Pep Guardiola holds him in is a massive clue in itself to what a special talent he is. Rodri has played more than 33 Premier League games every year he has been at City and will continue that streak whenever he remains fit. Rodri has played 113 times with 12 goals, not bad for a central defensive midfielder. Rodri only got his first cap for Spain in 2018 because Sergio Busquets has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the world for the last decade. Busquets was virtually impossible to dislodge, given his standing in the game. For this World Cup, I believe that it is now Rodri’s position to lose.
Spain will top this group and will become a major force as the tournament progresses. This team is better equipped currently than the Germans to win this tournament and I will invest in Spain to justify -122 favoritism and win Group E.
2018 World Cup: Group Stage
They say, “You can never write off the Germans,” but I am going against that theory and I am writing off their chances this tournament.
The 2014 World Cup winner heads to Qatar as the 11th-ranked nation. The Germans suffered a shock exit in the last World Cup, losing to South Korea in the group stage. That was only the second time in World Cup history that Germany failed to reach the knockout stages.
Germany has a much younger squad now with players such as Jamal Musiala, Kai Havertz and Rudiger impressing in the last year. Germany has lost just one of its last 10 games and go into this tournament in good form. The Germans are now without the goals of striker Timo Werner, who is ruled out through injury. Because of his omission, I can’t see them hurting the big nations. Werner is a huge loss and a huge blow to their chances of winning this World Cup.
The England-born German international Jamal Musiala has been by far Bayern Munich’s best player this season, appearing in 11 games and scoring seven goals. The 19-year-old is a certain starter for the Germans and will show the world how good he is at this World Cup. England had the opportunity to play him, but he chose to play for Germany instead and he could turn out to be one of the stars of the tournament. Will England see him as the one that got away?
Neuer is now 36 and has been one of the most consistent players in the world for the last decade. A hugely successful career has seen him winning one World Cup, 10 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League titles. His great goalkeeping rival Ter Stegen has been brilliant for Barcelona this season, but the captain Neuer will still be the No. 1 going into his last World Cup.
It’s no surprise that the betting for Group E is dominated by Spain and Germany. I expect this to play out exactly the way that the bookies see it with Spain topping the group and Germany in second place. Germany is not as strong a team as Spain and will have to settle for second place.
World Cup 2018: Group Stage
I feel a bit sorry for Japan being drawn in the same group as Spain and Germany as I thought they would be capable of a few surprises in Qatar. This draw against two European powerhouses makes it tough.
The 24th-ranked side goes into the tournament on an unbeaten run, but that will come to a quick end when it runs into Spain and Germany.
Japan has qualified for the World Cup on the last seven occasions with their first appearance coming in 1998. In the last World Cup, Japan suffered heartbreak, just missing out to Belgium on a 94th-minute winner. The Japanese will be well organized and tough to beat, but the big two will be too much and we will see them eliminated at the group stage.
The Arsenal defender is Mr. Versatile for club and country being good enough to play in a back 5, back 4 or back 3 playing in every defensive position.
The 26-year-old Kamada has played 11 games for Frankfurt in the Bundesliga with seven goals from the central-attacking midfield spot. His fine form has made himself a target for Premier clubs with Everton keen on signing the Japanese international. His ability to get forward and be an attacking threat running from midfield will be key to Japan’s chances.
Whilst I think they are too good to be embarrassed in this group, I do think Germany and Spain will be too strong for Japan. I have Japan beating Costa Rica for third.
Costa Rica has qualified for the World Cup an impressive six times, which is more than any country in Central America.
The Costa Ricans have had mixed fortunes in the tournament, but their highlight was in 2014 when they beat Italy, Uruguay and drew with England. Pura Vida was the cry that year, but this team lacks the stars of that vintage and it will struggle to replicate anything like that fantastic performance of eight years ago.
The three-time Champions League winner was No. 1 for Real Madrid until Courtois signed. The goalkeeper left to join PSG and now he has also lost the No. 1 jersey there to Italy’s Donnoruma. The 35-year-old has no concerns with his country as he will always be Costa Rica‘s No. 1 and most important player. That will be until the day he retires, which may be at the end of this tournament. What a fantastic career at club and country level he has had, but he may have some busy final few games.
This is not the greatest squad Costa Rica has ever sent to a World Cup. I fear they are going to be outclassed and are a confident pick to finish at the bottom of Group E.
Group E best bets
Spain to win Group E at -110
Costa Rica to finish bottom of Group E at -200