November 17, 2022 12:03 AM
Alex Lawes

2022 FIFA World Cup Predictions: Group E

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FIFA ranking: 7

FIFA World Cup appearances: 16th Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Winners (2010)

Manager: Luis Enrique

Captain: Sergio Busquets

Spain haven’t won a knockout match at a FIFA World Cup since they won the tournament in 2010 in South Africa. However, this is a revitalised Spanish side, under the management of the ever-impressive Luis Enrique.

La Furia Roja reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League after an impressive 2022 league campaign, becoming the first team to make it to back-to-back UNL ‘finals’. They have an energetic and technically impressive style of football that helped them reach the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2020, unfortunately losing to Italy on penalties after being the better side in the 120 previous minutes.

Enrique has continued to leave Sergio Ramos out of the squad, despite naming the PSG defender in their 55-man shortlist. That means Barcelona legend Sergio Busquets is once again captain of the national side.

Busquets is at the centre of a Barca-led midfield alongside the young and dynamic duo of Gavi and Pedri. Two of the best young central midfielders in the world flanking one of the greats highlights their intention to dominate the middle of the pitch but they do have fallibilities at either end.

No reliable goal scorer and a reliance on Alvaro Morata, who can be excellent, as well as a defence that can be a bit too soft and easy to get at, regardless of opponent, could limit their progress.

However, should they finish second, as TSZ predicts, they could have a relatively favourable run with Croatia or Belgium in the Round of 16 and then, likely, Uruguay, Portugal, Serbia and Switzerland with, potentially, England in a semi-final.

TSZ Prediction: Runners up


FIFA ranking: 31

FIFA World Cup appearances: Sixth Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Quarter-finals (2014)

Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez

Captain: Bryan Ruiz

Keylor Navas, Oscar Duarte, Bryan Oviedo, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz, Yeltsin Tejeda and Joel Campbell. That is seven of Costa Rica’s 2014 squad that reached the quarter-finals that will be on the plane to Qatar this year. The key difference, and probable weakness, being that they are now eight years older.

Costa Rica came through a difficult qualification campaign and squeezed themselves into the intercontinental playoffs where they defeated New Zealand by a goal to nil in June. However, the Central Americans were fortunate to win that match with the Kiwi’s having the ball in the net twice and dominating much of the play.

Since then, Los Ticos have actually improved and begun to earn some decent performances in pre-tournament friendlies. Their 2-0 win over Nigeria last week made it five matches without a defeat in all competitions.

Despite that, though, and despite their ranking having them inside the top 32 in the world, Costa Rica are one of the weakest sides at the tournament.

TSZ Prediction: Group stage


FIFA ranking: 11

FIFA World Cup appearances: 20th Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)

Manager: Hansi Flick

Captain: Manuel Neuer

Under the management of former Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick, Die Mannschaft have improved almost immeasurably since the latter days of Joachim Loew whereby they were knocked out by England in the Round of 16 of UEFA Euro 2020 and in the group stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This German side has maintained a comforting but still excellent level of experience with the likes of Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller but the young talent such as Jamal Musiala, most notably, makes them contenders for a FIFA World Cup – again.

The Germans did endure a bit of a difficult UEFA Nations League campaign and their 3-3 draw with England in late-September highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of their squad. They have quite evident flaws in both personnel and general shape at the back but have the capability to rack up goals against even the dullest of defences.

Germany may not have the overall quality and current control to go all the way in Qatar but they should be very entertaining to watch at both ends of the pitch.

TSZ Prediction: Quarter-finals


FIFA ranking: 24

FIFA World Cup appearances: Seventh Entry

FIFA World Cup best: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)

Manager: Hajime Moriyasu

Captain: Maya Yoshida

Since breaking onto the international scene with their first FIFA World Cup qualification in 1998, the Japanese national side have often been labelled, sometimes stereotypically, as an extremely technically gifted side lacking a cutting edge. Well, unfortunately for those attempting to rally against stereotypes, that appears the case once again.

The forward options of the Blue Samurai are not entirely convincing with their four forwards selected combining for just 11 goals in a combined 58 caps.

However, Moriyasu may well be flexible enough to adapt and head into the tournament with a false nine, such is the abundance of options he has in creative areas. It can be quite boring simply to list names but let’s do so:

Ritsu Doan, Kaoru Mitoma, Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo, Junya Ito and Daichi Kamada are all players that would merit a place in a three behind a striker in an orthodox 4-2-3-1. To go alongside that, they also have Sporting’s Hidemasa Morita, Wataru Endo of Stuttgart and Leganes midfielder Gaku Shibasaki.

The options in the middle of the pitch are plentiful and with Takehiro Tomiyasu likely to play alongside Maya Yoshida in a back four, flanked by the experience of Yuto Nagatomo and Hiroki Sakai, they look a well-balanced side. Especially with the consistently impressive Eiji Kawashima in goal.

If one of the major nations at this tournament were to head out in the group stages then Group E looks a serious option with Japan ready to bloody the nose of either Spain or Germany. They may not have enough to get past either European juggernaut but their matches will be worth watching.

TSZ Prediction: Group stage

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