The stage is set for November 20, when the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar. For the first time, the world’s biggest tournament is being played in November, bringing more unpredictability to an already unpredictable sport. Due to the tournament being played mid-season, many nations are dealing with injuries caused by club soccer. Star players such as N’golo Kante, Paul Pogba, and Reece James are already confirmed out of the tournament, while others such as Kyle Walker and Alphonso Davies are racing to be fit in time. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle in the hot Middle Eastern desert, and although it’s bound to be a strange World Cup, a month of incredible soccer awaits.
Let’s take a look at the group of death: Group E.
Odds to win Group E: Spain (-111), Germany (+110), Japan (+1100), Costa Rica (+4000)
Spain (-111): In a transitional phase, Spain has been a far cry from its former self for most of the last decade. However, they showed signs of brilliance in 2021, when they finished as runners-up in the Nations League and reached the semi-final of the European Championship. Now, they have huge expectations heading into Qatar, and because of their recent success, they are favorites to win Group E. The squad Luis Enrique has selected is loaded with young talent and should be able to wrestle the top spot away from Germany. Spain has only lost once in their last seven games against the Germans and will carry that confidence into their matchup on November 27. Although not favorites to win it all, don’t be surprised when “La Furia Roja” make a deep run in the knockout stages.
Germany (+110): The second favorites in the group, Germany, are hoping to make up for a dreadful showing at the last World Cup. In 2018, they became the fourth title holder in the last five World Cups not to make it out of the group stages. Furthermore, it was the first time since 1950 that Germany did not make it out of the first round of the World Cup. Now, with a new manager and a revamped squad, they are poised to compensate for that disappointment. Germany has only lost one game with Hansi Flick at the helm and finished qualification with nine wins from their ten fixtures. With young studs such as Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane leading the charge, they will be one of the most exciting teams at the World Cup.
Japan (+1100): Don’t count Japan out just because they are in the group of death. They could surprise the world in their seventh straight World Cup appearance. The Samurai Blue have lost just twice in their past 13 matches and boast a squad budding with top European talents such as Monaco’s Takumi Minamino and Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu. The team was built to capitalize against possession-based teams and will have the opportunity to do that against Germany in their opening game. If Japan can replicate their opener from 2018 (where they beat Columbia as heavy underdogs), they can make an honest run to the knockout stages and attempt to make it past the Round of 16 for the first time in their history.
Costa Rica (+4000): “La Sele” impressed in 2014 when they topped the group of death, but they will need a lot of luck this time to emulate that success. Making it through CONCACAF qualifying by the skin of their teeth, this Costa Rica side is well past their prime. With the lowest expected chance to qualify for the next round, it would be even more shocking than in 2014 to see Costa Rica do well. However, the squad used their experience to get this far and will have one final shot with this core to achieve some international hardware.
Odds to qualify from Group E: Spain (-1250), Germany (-909), Japan (+300), Costa Rica (+1400)
Best Bets for Group E:
Alvaro Morata to be Spains top goal scorer (+200)
I’m backing the man who led Spain through qualifying to be their primary target in Qatar. He even scored the goal that sealed their ticket to the World Cup, the winner against Sweden. Morata is Spain’s best striker and will be playing alone up top. He should take all their penalties and will be out to prove his worth after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. If this team makes it far in Qatar, Morata will score their goals.
Japan over 2.5 total tournament goals (-110)
Japan has a fascinating attack and will work counterattacks to perfection. I expect them to go over this total easily, as they scored 58 goals in 20 qualification games, nine goals higher than the second-highest-scoring Asian team. Japan scored six goals at the last World Cup and has only gotten stronger. Although they are facing tough opponents, they should put two past Costa Rica and would only need one against the top teams.
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