World Cup Status Check: Group E

We’ve arrived at THE group of the 2022 World Cup. The so-called “Group of Death” in Group E has been seen as the toughest of the eight ever since the draw but is there truth to the statement? Well Spain and Germany have always been strong, Japan has a lot of buzz and Costa Rica has cemented itself as a giant in the Americas but where exactly does each team stand before their opening matches?

A Humbled Germany

2018 was a weird World Cup, to say the least, but among the shocks and wonderful surprises, the biggest one by far was Germany absolutely crashing in the group stages against Mexico, Sweden, and Korea Republic. As mentioned in the Group D status check, the champion curse was very much real in Russia, and it struck the Germans in the most gut-wrenching way possible.

This is a different time now, however. Germany has a lot of the core from both their 2014 winning team and their 2018 catastrophe, with Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer leading a much younger version of that side. Germany is full of youth now and attacking dynamism but questions still fill the air as they find themselves without a top-tier center forward and a very thin full-back rotation. The benefit is that at most, you play seven games in the World Cup, meaning less chance of injury and a need for squad rotation but regardless, they need to make up for such a collapse in 2018.

Japanese Excitement

Along with the aforementioned Wales in Group B, Japan has a lot of secondhand support this time around, and for good reason. Hajime Moriyasu has created a great footballing environment with one of the most direct attacks in the whole World Cup. The size of Japan was never a problem in qualifications, as they relied on the speed of the smaller players to blitz defenses and finish plays.

This style can have some downsides, however, especially when up against Spain and Germany. At the risk of offending the Costa Rican following, Japan does pounce on teams that don’t base their game around possession as that’s why fast teams are so successful. The only issue is that Germany and Spain almost lead that style of play. We know of Spain’s pride in its possessive and meticulous style but Germany does the same with more directness. Regardless, Japan will still enjoy outstanding football and maybe even a knockout round berth if players like Junya Ito and Takefusa Kubo show up with their electric form going forward.

Spain and Their Transition Period

Of all the squad profiles and narratives in this World Cup, Spain is probably the most intriguing. Any fan of the current generation knows of the Barcelona and Real Madrid sides that dominated the early to mid-2010s, headlined by some of the greatest Spanish talents in history but that era is over with. Spain now has a large group of rising stars that look to develop for the next couple of World Cups and compete in the current one, an awkward rebuilding stage for any sporting organization.

The reality isn’t as uncertain as it has been for other squads going through something like this, however. Many young talents like Pedri, Gavi, and Ansu Fati are continental stars and have only entered their 20s but the lack of directness in attack can be an issue for Spain, as covered in DawgProcess’ 9 Players to Watch at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Regardless, this can be a breakout tournament for the young stars involved and despite such a young foundation, Luis Enrique will certainly look to keep the DNA of traditional Spanish football in the squad.

Hope for Costa Rica?

The short answer is likely to be “no”, but you can never knock a team out for good before the tournament has fully started, and this very country proved that to us back in Brazil in 2014. Featuring in a group with two contenders (England & Italy) and a dark horse (Uruguay), a coincidence is hard to deny here as Group E seems to have the same factors for Costa Rica as they did back in 2014.

If luck isn’t enough to justify a possible qualification, that’s completely understandable. The current moment and how everything lines up on paper make it tough to entertain any talks of a Costa Rican miracle but two draws and a shock win could be enough. Only a win and loss can do it if everyone underperforms but nonetheless, the game isn’t played on paper. Keylor Navas may be on his last international run but the future is exciting as 17-year-old Jewison Bennette looks to display his talent to the world.

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