WORLD CUP GROUP E GUIDE – Spain, Germany, Japan and Costa Rica

WORLD CUP GROUP E GUIDE: Spain and Germany are favourites with rising stars Pedri, Gavi and Jamal Musiala expected to shine in Qatar… but DON’T rule out Japan and Costa Rica causing an upset or two

  • World Cup Group E is comprised of Costa Rica, Germany, Japan and Spain
  • Sportsmail takes a comprehensive deep dive into the intriguing group 
  • Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates ahead of Qatar 
  • See Sportsmail’s full team-by-team guide to the competition by clicking this link 

Now less than a month away, excitement is really starting to build for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 

The first ever winter edition of the tournament gets underway on November 21, interrupting the domestic campaign to do so, with the final taking place under a month later on December 18. 

There are plenty of intriguing match-ups but Group E should be fascinating, with two favourites and two teams more than capable of springing a surprise or two.  

Japan and Costa Rica will hold no fear of a youthful Spain and a rebuilt Germany and that sets us up for a thrilling set of group stage matches.  

It is a group brimming with emerging world class stars in Spain midfielders Pedri and Gavi and Germany hotshot Jamal Musiala, so Group E is not lacking for star power. 

Sportsmail takes you through Group E, including how each qualified for the tournament, their history in the competition and who to look out for.


Jamal Musiala (left) and Pedri (right) are among the rising stars set to steal the show in Group E

Who’s the manager? 

Luis Fernando Suarez – Appointed only a year ago, Suarez was parachuted in to resurrect Costa Rica’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Colombian took the reins from Ronald González, who was sacked after an awful run of 11 matches without a win.

Suarez has plenty of international pedigree, having led Ecuador to the last-16 of the 2006 World Cup where they were beaten by David Beckham and England.

He left the Ecuador role in acrimonious circumstances when the nation failed to build on their impressive performance in 2006 and started the qualifying for South Africa 2010 terribly.

The 62-year-old has had a plethora of jobs in South America but is an experienced hand who has shown he has what it takes at major tournaments before.

Luis Fernando Suarez is the man tasked with guiding Costa Rica through this tricky Group E

Who’s the star man? 

Bryan Ruiz – A veteran now at 37 but as captain of the side he will set the tone.

The former Fulham star will be treating Qatar as the last hurrah for his career and what better way than ruining the experience for one of Spain, Germany or Japan?

He is his nation’s most-capped player and is fourth in their all-time scoring charts with 29. 

Ruiz’s pace has faded – as you’d expect at the age of 37 – but he remains a fine footballer with his range of passing and his finishing. 

‘When it comes to working hard for the team, he’s top of the list,’ manager Suarez said. 

‘He’s a tremendous player. If there’s one person who has shown what it means to love Costa Rica, it’s Bryan Ruiz.’

How did they qualify? 

Because of their place in FIFA’s rankings, Costa Rica were given a bye into the third stage of CONCACAF qualifying for Qatar – basically an eight team round robin.

Costa Rica won seven of their 14 matches but could only take fourth place after the USA beat them into the automatic qualification spots on goal difference.

As a result, Costa Rice were dumped into the inter-confederation play-offs where they were drawn to play New Zealand.

Joel Campbell’s early goal proved enough as Costa Rica held off battling 10-man New Zealand to qualify. The former Arsenal striker swept home after just three minutes to secure a 1-0 win at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar.

New Zealand rallied, with Newcastle’s Chris Wood having a goal disallowed, but Los Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas was also in inspired form and the late dismissal of Kosta Barbarouses damaged the All Whites’ chances.

Costa Rica have reached four of the last five instalments of the World Cup, only missing 2010

Fixtures

It’s a tricky start for Suarez’s team with Spain up first on November 23, before they face Japan four days later at the Al Rayyan Stadium.

The CONCACAF side will hope they still have a shot at progressing when they round out their group stage campaign against Hansi Flick’s Germany. 

Tournament history 

A fairly recent history for Costa Rica and the FIFA World Cup.

Having missed the first 60 years, Costa Rica landed their first World Cup appearance at Italia ’90, where they would go on to reach the last-16.

From there, of the last five instalments they have missed out just once – in South Africa in 2010 – with their run to quarter-finals in 2014, which included a 0-0 group stage draw with England, a highlight. 

Unfancied to win it all but may well be favoured to cause an upset or two. 

They showed that in 2014. One bitten, twice shy… 

Odds of winning the trophy: 750/1 

GERMANY

Who’s the manager? 

Hansi Flick – Like Enrique with Spain, Flick would have the pick of any club job he wanted if he decided to turn his career on its head. The German won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the Champions League with Bayern before stepping down last summer.

He took over from the legendary Joachim Low after Euro 2020 and is yet to taste defeat, winning eight and drawing one of his nine games in charge. 

Flick has an exciting mix of youth and experience in his squad but can he piece it all together?

Joshua Kimmich is the beating heart of Germany’s team and could make-or-break their run

Who’s the star man? 

Joshua Kimmich – The dependable Bayern Munich star may not be everyone’s choice but he is often at the heart of everything right for club and country. 

His versatility is a massive asset at a tournament but he is a player that holds others accountable and that is incredibly invaluable in our book. 

Typically deployed in central defensive midfielder in Flick’s 4-2-3-1 system, if Kimmich is on song, everyone else in Germany’s side can go and enjoy themselves.

No exaggeration to say he is the heartbeat of this team. 

How did they qualify? 

The Germans were overwhelming favourites to emerge from a weak qualifying group and did exactly that with nine wins from 10 matches. With 27 points, they finished nine clear of second-placed North Macedonia.

Flick’s front-foot, high-tempo style helped them to 36 goals in 10 games, while they conceded just four. Two of those came in a shock defeat by North Macedonia in Duisburg but the Germans’ place in Qatar was never at risk.

Fixtures

Flick’s team will look to build up ahead of steam against a far-from-feeble Japan team in the early kick-off of November 23. 

From there it is a potential group winner decider against Spain on matchday two before taking on Costa Rica in the final group game on December 1.  

Germany are much changed from the side that went on to win the World Cup back in 2014

Tournament history 

Four-time World Cup winners, this is a tournament where Germany have a rich history.

Winners as recently as 2014, Flick’s side are in something of a transitional period with few survivors from the side that won it all out in Brazil.

A horrendous group stage exit four years ago in Russia felt like a new low for Germany and they will be expecting – and demanding – much better this time around.  

Odds of winning the trophy: 9/1 

JAPAN 

Who’s the manager? 

Hajime Moriyasu – Moriyasu made the step up from coaching the men’s Olympic side to take over at the helm of the national team in 2018 after Akira Nishino, who led Japan to the last 16 at the World Cup in Russia, stepped down.

The JFA had considered former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger for the position at the time but Moriyasu has done a good job. 

Of his 49 matches in charge, he has won 35 and took Japan to the final of the 2019 Asian Cup.

Hajime Moriyasu took over in 2018 but faces a sizeable task to navigate Japan out of the group

Who’s the star man? 

Takumi Minamino – In his club football, things just aren’t quite clicking for the former Liverpool winger.

Nonetheless, the Monaco player will need to turn in big performances in Qatar if Japan are going to have any chance of upsetting the applecart. 

Along with Junya Ito, Minamino will be carrying plenty of responsibility to provide a creative spark, particularly on the counter, with Japan expecting to find themselves without the ball, particularly against Spain and Germany. 

How did they qualify? 

Similarly to Iran, after working their way through the convoluted qualification system in Asia, Japan finished second in their group in the AFC’s third and final round to seal a place in Qatar.

Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia finished above Japan but it was definitely a two-horse race for the top spot. Beaten by Oman and Saudi Arabia, Japan recovered to win six of their last seven games to secure safe passage.

Fixtures

Japan get their World Cup campaign underway on November 23 against Germany before facing Costa Rica on November 27.

Moriyasu’s team round out Group E against Spain. 

Japan’s record at World Cups floats between group stage exits and last-16 eliminations

Tournament history 

This is a group with multiple World Cup winners in it – but Japan are not one of them.

Their spot at Qatar will be the seventh time they have reached the finals of a World Cup.

Japan first made it in 1998, only to lose all three group stage matches, before reaching the last-16 as joint-hosts four years later, eventually losing 1-0 to Turkey.

It is a footballing nation that can cause a headache but rarely lands a knockout blow.

A group stage exit in 2006 was followed up by another last-16 exit in 2010, losing on penalties to Paraguay.

2014 they were winless in their group while 2018 saw them become the first ever Asian nation to beat a team from South America, after they defeated Colombia 2-1.  They would go on to be eliminated in the last-16 by Belgium and if their pattern is anything to go by, a group stage exit is pending. 

Odds of winning the trophy: 250/1 

SPAIN 

Who’s the manager? 

Luis Enrique – Enrique is one of very few current international managers who have huge pedigree at club level and could have the pick of any job he wants if he were to step down as Spain boss after the World Cup.

The treble he won with Barcelona in 2014-15 as Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar tore through defences across Europe was a joy to watch and now he’s trying to get Spain back on top of the world. 

A semi-final loss to Italy at Euro 2020 was not a disaster but expectations are high going into Qatar.

Luis Enrique is fostering plenty of spirit in a Spain side that still lacks the offensive firepower

Who’s the star man? 

Pedri – The Barcelona midfielder, who will turn 20 a couple of days after their group opener, can be the real gem of Enrique’s side during this World Cup run. 

His national team boss likened him to the iconic Andres Iniesta a year ago and his ascendance is only continuing to hit greater heights. 

‘It’s a pleasure to have players of his profile, he brings different things,’ Enrique said back in March when quizzed on Pedri’s importance. 

‘He’s being encouraged to go for goal more and I’m very happy to have him in the national team.’

Pedri is going to be the bedrock in this side alongside fellow wonderkid – and 2022 Golden Boy winner Gavi. They will have the tutelage of veteran Sergio Busquets and Koke to keep them disciplined in key moments but this is the first big tournament for Spain’s new-look midfield.  

How did they qualify? 

In the end it was comfortable for Spain but they were far from secure at the top after four rounds of fixtures. An opening day draw with Greece and a defeat in Sweden in week four firmly put the cat amongst the pigeons.

But Spain showed their class from there and won their final four fixtures to seal top spot by a four-point margin and book their place in Qatar.

Teenage sensation Pedri will be the diamond in Spain’s new-look side heading to Qatar

Fixtures

Spain will face Costa Rica on November 23 before what feels like a decisive match-up against Germany in the second round of matches. 

From there they will aim to seal top spot with a final round match-up against Japan. 

Tournament history 

The 2010 World Cup winners have found themselves in something of a state of flux in recent installments of this great tournament. 

In 2014 they stuttered in their group and finished third, bowing out at the first hurdle behind Holland and Chile. 

Four years later, in Russia, their campaign was overshadowed by the ousting of manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament. 

Spain, who would win the Fair Play award come the end of the Russia World Cup, topped their group but went on to lose 4-3 on penalties to the tournament hosts in what was a massive upset.  

Odds of winning the trophy: 8/1


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