2022 World Cup Futures previews continue at ATS with a deep dive into Group E, a group headlined by two European giants who expect to advance over underdogs Japan and Costa Rica. 2010 World Cup champions Spain and 2014 WC champs Germany both head to Qatar hoping to avoid any shock upsets and advance to the knockout round out of a group that is incredibly top heavy.
With the presence of two nations that could win the tournament in Germany and Spain and two solid underdog nations in Japan and Costa Rica, many consider Group E to be the ‘Group of Death’ in Qatar.
Spain are the oddsmakers favorites to top the group, priced at -120 to top the table when the dust is settled. Germany are close behind, with +120 odds to finish first in the group. Japan and Costa Rica are massive longshots, with Cinderella odds of +1400 and +5000 to top Group E and shock the world, along with those making soccer betting picks on the tournament.
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Much More Stable Spain
Spain are in a far better place to contend for a World Cup than they were in 2018. The tournament in Russia was never going to be a success for La Roja, who sacked Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the competition.
Lopetegui made way for now manager Luis Enrique, who has the national team back to the top tier of the European ranks. Spain has done quite well in all competitions since Enrique took over: semi-finalists at Euro 2020, finalists in the 2021 Nations League and finally into the final four of the 2023 Nations League in the last international window before the 2022 World Cup.
As expected, Spain is loaded with midfield talent but will need a goalscorer to step up and finish the chances made by their creative central players. The Barcelona midfield trio of Gavi, Sergio Busquets and Pedri will create plenty of chances but will need Ferran Torres and Alvaro Morata to finish those chances.
Spain’s top goalscorer in WC qualifying was Ferran Torres with four and no other player scored more than two goals. If Spain wants to win this tournament, they will need someone to outperform expectations and bag the goals required to survive and advance.
Germany Look For Return to Glory Under Flick
The Germans compete in a major international tournament without familiar face Joachim Löw as manager for the first time since 2006. It was time for Löw to go after poor results – including a failure to get out of the group in Russia – spoiled the glory of Die Mannschaft’s success for the majority of the iconic 2014 WC winning manager’s time in charge.
Now, former Bayern manager Hansi Flick looks to replicate Löw’s successes on the pitch but with a new philosophy. Flick had Die Mannschaft flying in qualifying, winning nine out of ten matches but will need to get his players locked in to take care of business right away in the group stage to avoid another embarrassment.
Like Spain, Germany’s biggest question mark is up top as the nation has yet to find a traditional goalscorer to replace Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez. Thomas Müller and Jamal Musiala will be entrusted to score the bulk of the goals but are far from goalscoring specialists. Germany has a bit more of a goalscoring punch than Spain but if goals aren’t coming from their wingers or players like Müller, they will lack a contingency plan of being able to cross it into the box to a clinical striker.
Japan, Costa Rica Hope to Shock
Japan and Costa Rica both have minimal chances to advance to the Round of 16. However, the two nations are historically strong on their own continents with recent enough World Cup success to hold onto a glimmer of hope that they can rain on Spain and Germany’s parade.
Japan comes into Qatar in fine form having lost just twice in 13 matches. They will look to replicate their early tournament success from 2018, where they beat Colombia in a shock result to open their group stage campaign. Albeit with a much higher degree of difficulty against the Germans. Japan has a decent crop of players in the Bundesliga at the moment to make their opening match one fans should circle on the calendar as one to watch.
Costa Rica qualified out of CONCACAF, finishing behind qualification leaders Canada and qualifiers Mexico and the United States. They will look to repeat their 2014 success where they managed to top a group featuring giants England, Italy and Uruguay but will more than likely simply round out the numbers in a group where they are quite overmatched.