For the true casual fan....Quick-twitch bits and opinions on the 32 teams, if you accidentally stumble upon soccer while watching TV this month! GROUP E edition.
SERBIA: I'm not going to pretend to know everything about this team. I know the heavy hitters....Manchester United's Nemanja Matic (no relation to fellow Serb & TWolf Nemanja Bjelica) in the midfield, defender Aleksander Kolarov is fantastic for Italian side Roma, defender Branislav Ivanovic had more the 250 appearances for Chelsea...and all this adds up to Serbia being difficult to score on. Aleksander Mitrovic led the team in scoring during qualifying, and is a 23yr old striker for Newcastle. The were not a part of World Cup 2014 and haven't advanced out of the group stage since WC98 in France. The Sunday morning tilt with Costa Rica will be vital, because it has the potential of deciding who could challenge for opportunity to finish 2nd in this group.
COSTA RICA: This one is easy....root for Minnesota United FC's defender and captain Francisco Calvo! The Loons put him at centerback, but the Ticos will get him more involved in the attack. Personally, I like seeing Calvo more involved in the attack because his talent and versatility are more realized on the field. Johan Venegas is another name for Minnesota United FC fans, as he was on the team in 2017 before being sent to Deportivo Saprissa(in Costa Rica) on loan. Frankly, I wasn't impressed with him when he was here in MN. For his sake and CR's fate in the World Cup, I hope he's in full form. On July 11th, Deportivo Saprissa will actually be traveling to play a friendly with the Loons at TCF Bank Stadium, which will be a blast to watch. Keyor Navas is an absolute stud goalkeeper who doesn't get talked about a ton with Real Madrid when you operate in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo. But Navas will give Costra Rica a chance to win any/every match. I believe Brazil sweeps its 3 group matches. So as I mentioned above, getting a result of some sort against Serbia is CRUCIAL....let's go Calvo!!!
SWITZERLAND: The Swiss are probably the 2nd best squad in this group. This is their 4th straight World Cup, and they've advanced out of their group in 2 of the previous 3. Forward Xherdan Shaqiri has 20 goals in 69 appearances for the Swiss national team, and will be the main target of their attack in the tourney. He's also a well sought-after Premier League player whose Stoke squad were awful and relegated this season, making his move to another team very possible this Summer. Granit Xhaka is fantastic, despite making poor decisions on the field at times and suffering from a mild attitude problem at times. They have this 21yr old kid, a striker named Breel Embolo who plays for Schalke and might be one of those kids to watch in the tournament.
BRAZIL: It is my belief that in every tournament that Brazil participates in, they will ALWAYS have the most talent. They will ALWAYS be the most fun to watch. They will ALWAYS have a chance to win the tourney. And there is ALWAYS the possibility that they will flake out. I already mentioned that I think France and Spain will reach the World Cup final. That means that France will have to beat Brazil in the semi-final. The 7-1 clobbering Brazil took from Germany their own soil in WC2014 was brutal to watch. Pick your poison in terms of household names. Neymar is the biggest of those, and if he's 100%, he'll shine. Grabriel Jesus is a stud and Liverpool's Firmino brings a ton of quality into the attack as well. Philippe Coutinho was a 2014 snub and now he's on roster. Casemiro and Fernandinho and Renato Augusto and I haven't even talked about the veteran stars on defense. This team will punish Group E, and could very easily walk away with the trophy in Russia.
***Brazil wins group E. Winner of Serbia/Costa Rica is the Runner-up, and will be rewarded by facing Germany in the Round of 16........