Brazil to Blitz Group E

With the World Cup starting soon, Emabis takes a look through Group E and believes Switzerland are overrated.

Group E features Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica.

Brazil

Brazil have lifted the World Cup five times; more than any other nation.  But despite their storied history, Brazil arrive in Russia with more to prove than ever before after suffering a very humbling 7-1 exit to Germany on home soil in 2014.  An initial hangover from the World Cup saw Dunga shown the door with Tite appointed in his place.  And Tite's appointment has proven to be a substantial upgrade as Brazil's run of ten wins and two draws from ten qualifiers under him shows.

Notably for me, I’ve never seen a better Brazil squad in terms of quality across the entire pitch.  As always with Brazil, they boast the very best of attacking flair from the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho, Willian and Roberto Firmino.  But unusually for Brazil, their defensive framework is now also a thing of beauty starting with two top-class goalkeepers in Manchester City’s Ederson and Liverpool-target Alisson of Roma.  Brazil also have an array of top-tier European defenders including Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Marcelo, Miranda and Filipe Luis alongside defensive midfielders such as Casemiro, Fernandinho and Paulinho.  Multiple high-quality options to choose and rotate from.

Switzerland

This will be Switzerland’s fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup finals and their eleventh in total.  They ensured qualification as runner-up to Portugal in Group B (on goal difference) – ahead of Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra – followed by an aggregate 1-0 playoff win against Northern Ireland.

The politest way to describe Switzerland is functional.  Switzerland’s limits are neatly summed up by their reliance on players like Granit Xhaka of Arsenal, Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke and Admir Mehmedi of Wolfsburg to perform.  With four goals in twelve games, Harris Seferovic was their top scorer in qualification but it’s hardly a prolific return.  And when the next closest teammates are both defenders (with three each), its clear that goals could be a major issue for Petkovic’s side.

Serbia

Competing as Yugoslavia until 2003 and Serbia & Montenegro until 2006, this is Serbia’s second World Cup experience in their own name after they exited at the group stage of South Africa 2010.  Serbia reached Russia after qualifying top of Group D ahead of Ireland, Wales, Austria, Georgia and Moldova.  They secured two draws against Wales, one win and one draw against Ireland (the away win effectively securing them qualification) and one win against Austria.

Serbia benefit from a huge level of experience in the guise of former Premier League stalwarts’ Aleksandar Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic in defence, current Premier League players Nemanja Matic of Manchester United, Dusan Tadic of Southampton and Luka Milivojevic of Crystal Palace in midfield and Fuham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic upfront.  Having seen Serbia up close against Ireland, I would describe them as technically and tactically proficient.  Which could be enough to qualify.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica surprised everyone in Brazil 2014 by reaching the quarter-final stage where they were beaten on penalties by Holland.  In four World Cup appearances, it was their second time reaching the knock-out stages.  So what chance again?  They qualified for Russia after first topping a group ahead of Panama, Haiti and Jamaica and then finishing runner-up to Mexico in their final group ahead of Panama, Honduras, USA and Tinidad & Tobago.  In qualifying, Costa Rica only lost two games – away to Mexico and their final meaningless game away to Panama.

Undoubtedly their star player is Real Madrid goalkeeper, Keylor Navas.  He will need to be at his best alongside the likes of Cristian Gamboa of Celtic, Sporting’s Brian Ruiz and Joel Campbello of Real Betis.

Group Prediction

Brazil have topped every World Cup group since 1978 and nothing suggests that run is likely to be broken.  So that leaves the other three to battle it out for second.

Switzerland have reached the Last 16 in three of the last four World Cup finals.  But any team that has Xhaka and Shaqiri as key players is extremely limited in my view.  Despite Serbia being Europe’s weakest side in the rankings, I think they’re better than Switzerland and they also benefit from meeting Costa Rica first and Switzerland second.  So although Serbia’s decision to replace their manager with a novice after qualification beggars belief, I’m giving them the nod to qualify.

Predicted Group Standings

  1. Brazil
  2. Serbia
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Switzerland

Recommended Group Bet

Serbia are 11/8 to qualify but as Brazil will top the group, taking the better price for Serbia to qualify behind Brazil is the preferred option here.

Brazil / Serbia, Straight Forecast in Group E @ 23/10 with Paddy Power. 

Recommended Group Match Bet

As noted above, I think Serbia are a better side than Switzerland.  I was tempted to back them at ___ to win the head-to-head but Serbia's price to beat Costa Rica in the opening game is simply too good to ignore.

Serbia to beat Costa Rica @ 20/21 with Matchbook.

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