World Cup 2022 Team Guides, Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan

The two former World Cup winners — Spain and Germany — are the clear favorites to advance, and their meeting on November 27 is the highlight of the first round. Misers Japan have a solid squad and are more likely to upset the natural order than the other two teams if one of the giants goes up. As far as Costa Rica’s age goes, surviving the first round will be a very tall order.

Spain

Coach: Luis Enrique

Most Finished: Winners (2010)

2018 ends: Round of 16

Fox bet odds: +800

Key Players: Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Alvaro Morata

What we’re excited to see: Spain has finally passed its all-conquering golden generation. Busquets, the captain, is the only remaining player from his 2010 World Cup-winning squad. Enrique’s retooled La Roja are now ready for their moment.

What success looks like: Despite being able to win it all, he’s probably four years away from being a legitimate title favorite. That said, a quarter-final berth is the minimum.

Weaknesses: History. For all their talent and experience, Spain have punched below their weight at the World Cup, with the exception of 2010. They never made it past the quarters in 11 other tournament appearances.

The X Factor: The fiery 18-year-old playmaker has been a regular for La Roja since making his debut last year, and has the potential to become a breakout star on the biggest stage.

Three things you need to know about Spain.

Three things you need to know about Spain.

Alexi Lalas tells us three things we need to know about Spain ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

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Costa Rica

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez

Most Finished: Quarterfinals (2014)

2018 ends: Round of 16

Fox bet odds: +75000

Key Players: Celso Borges, Joel Campbell, Keylor Navas

What we’re excited to see: If Costa Rica are to advance against the odds, they will almost certainly have to win their second match in Qatar on November 27 against Japan.

What success looks like: Getting out of this tough group would be a victory.

Weaknesses: Age doesn’t get around how long Ticos are in the tooth. Borges is 34. Navas 35. Brian Ruiz, Costa Rica’s all-time top scorer, is 37. Even Campbell is on the wrong side of 30 now.

The X Factor: Grandsons The three-time UEFA Champions League winner has not played a single minute this season after losing his starting job for Paris Saint-Germain. That means the best player in Costa Rican history — he single-handedly led the Ticos to the quarterfinals in 2014 — has something to prove in Qatar.

Three things you need to know about Costa Rica.

Three things you need to know about Costa Rica.

Alexi Lalas gives us three things to know about Costa Rica.

Germany

Coach: Laughter

Most Finished: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)

2018 ends: Group stage

Fox bet odds: +1000

Key Players: Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Muller, Antonio Rudiger

What we’re excited to see: Aside from the surprise loss to Hungary, Germany have been superb since Flick replaced long-time manager Jogi Low last year. This is the World Cup though. The match against Spain will tell us where they really stand.

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What success looks like: Germany goes into every major tournament knowing they can win. As deep a run as it would be after the shock of a group stage exit four years ago (and a Round of 16 loss to arch-rivals England at last year’s Euros), Die Manschaft will still be disappointed if they don’t claim the title. are Fifth world title.

Weaknesses: Composition of the roster. This is a team built to win the 2024 Euros on home soil. The 2022 version is caught between two generations, with 30-something Müller, Manuel Neuer and Alke Gundogan on one side and youngsters Yusufah Mokoko and Jamal Musyala on the other.

The X Factor: Mokoko. Just 17, the uncapped striker already has 11 goals in 44 Bundesliga appearances. He will be one of the youngest players in World Cup history if he takes the field after replacing injured veteran Marco Reus.

Three things you need to know about Germany.

Three things you need to know about Germany.

Alexi Lalas tells us three things we need to know about Germany.

Japan

Coach: Hajime Moriasu

Most Finished: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)

2018 ends: Round of 16

Fox bet odds: +25000

Key Players: Daichi Kamada, Takumi Minamino, Takehiro Tomiyasu

What we’re excited to see: Japan loves the underdog character and exceeds expectations. In 2018, they survived a group featuring Colombia, Poland and Senegal and then gave Belgium all they could handle in the second round. Don’t be surprised if they upset one of their decorated European foes.

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What success looks like: Making it past the first round in consecutive World Cups would be an unprecedented feat for the Blue Samurai. Winning a knockout round match for the first time would be even better.

Weaknesses: Scoring There are just 10 international goals between the four forwards on Japan’s 26-man roster.

The X Factor: Defense. With a backline led by Arsenal centre-back Tomiyasu and captain Maya Yoshida, Japan are extremely disciplined and organized defensively, making it extremely difficult for opponents to break down. Teams that don’t score can’t be beaten – even the likes of Germany or Spain.

Three things you need to know about Japan.

Three things you need to know about Japan.

Alexi Lalas tells us three things we need to know about Japan.

More group previews: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group F

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.


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