Russia 2018: Group E Guide

Teams:

  • Brazil
  • Costa Rica
  • Serbia
  • Switzerland

Favourites to win Group: Brazil at 4/11 with Black Type

Crucial Fixture: Serbia v Switzerland in Kaliningrad on 22nd June

Summary

Group E contains the tournament favourites Brazil who have shortened ahead of the competition to become a 4/1 option with most bookmakers to win the 2018 World Cup. There should be plenty of challenges for Tite’s side in the latter stages but to kick things off, the Brazilians should cruise through their group.

The favourites are very short, as you would expect, at a best of 4/11 with Black Type but it’s very tight in the battle for second place. Both Serbia and Switzerland can be backed at the same price to win it; The Serbs are available at best odds of 8/1 with Boylesports and Royal Panda while the Swiss can also be claimed at that 8/1 figure with Unibet and 888Sport.

Completing the section are the Costa Ricans who have caused upsets at previous World Cups and shouldn’t therefore be ruled out at their top price of 25/1 with Unibet for the group win.

Crucial Fixtures

With Brazil likely to coast this group, it’s all about the battle for second place so the crucial fixture in this section seems to be an obvious one. Serbia take on Switzerland in Kaliningrad on June 22 and this could well be a straight, winner takes all battle to see who qualifies behind the Brazilians.

It’s a tight result market here as you would expect with the Swiss starting as favourites at best odds of 41/25 with MarathonBet. Victory for Serbia follows at 39/19 with Unibet while the draw finishes off this one at a top industry price of 23/10 with William Hill.

Both Switzerland and Serbia will need to be wary of Costa Rica but that game between the two should decide who progresses to the next round. Brazil should also guard against complacency when they play the two joint favourites but it would be a surprise if Tite’s side didn’t win all of their fixtures and progress to the knockouts with maximum points.

Key Players

Brazil’s Neymar

Brazil’s Neymar starts as one of the favourites to pick up the Golden Boot award at Russia 2018 as the tournament’s leading goalscorer and he will naturally be key to his team’s progression.

The PSG forward has played 85 full internationals for Brazil and has 55 goals which is a record that makes him the leading scorer in this squad by some distance. Next up in the scoring charts is Paulinho with just 12 and those stats underline Neymar’s importance to the team so backers of Brazil will clearly hope that he has recovered from the injury that cut short his first full season in Paris.

Switzerland will have Xherdan Shaqiri in their squad and despite a disappointing campaign in England with Stoke City, the midfielder will be pivotal if his country are to overcome the Serbs and make it to the next round. Shaqiri has 70 caps for Switzerland but the most experienced player in this squad is Stephan Lichtsteiner who has just made his 100th full appearance.

The 34 year old has become Unai Emery’s first signing for Arsenal and will be needed to marshall a Swiss defence that will face some of the most potent strikers in world football.

Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic

Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic is certainly a player that all opposing defences will need to watch. The 23 year old is a raw talent and has yet to really make a mark with parent club Newcastle United but the striker was instrumental while on loan at Fulham as the side drove their way into the Premier League.

Mitrovic has 16 goals in 37 full internationals so it’s fair to say that Newcastle fans have yet to see the best of him.

That leaves Costa Rica whose most recognisable player is Keylor Navas who rose to fame at Brazil 2014 with performances that earned him a big money move to Real Madrid. Navas has 81 caps for his country and will need another impressive tournament if Costa Rica are to make any mark in Russia.

At the other end of the pitch, Captain Bryan Ruiz is the team’s leading scorer although his 24 goals have come in 110 full internationals so opposing defences may not be too concerned about the former Fulham striker’s modest ratio.

Verdict

It would be a surprise to see Brazil drop a single point in this section and a huge shock if they didn’t make it to the next round so feel free to back the tournament favourites to win Group E at those short odds of 4/11 with Black Type.

That theory means no disrespect to either Switzerland or Serbia: Both teams contain quality players but the Brazilians are so far ahead that this looks to be a straight battle for second place. The Swiss are the favourites in that respect but much could depend on the form of Aleksandar Mitrovic who ended the 2017/18 season in such potent scoring touch. Admittedly, the second tier of English football is no comparison to the challenges he will face at the World Cup but 12 goals in 17 games for Fulham should give him plenty of momentum coming into this match.

However, the Swiss have the greater depth to their side and retain much of the team that came into Brazil 2014 with a high FIFA ranking. It’s Brazil all the way as far as the group winners are concerned but in terms of value we suggest getting behind the Swiss, both in the To Qualify market and for the crucial match of this section when they face Serbia in Kaliningrad.

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