Two former World Cup winners — Spain and Germany — are the clear favorites to advance, and their meeting on November 27 is the marquee match of the first round. Stingy Japan have a strong roster and are the most likely of the other two teams to upset the natural order if one of the giants slips away. As for the aging Costa Rican, surviving the first round will be very difficult.
Coach: Luis Enrique
Higher finish: Winners (2010)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +800
Key players: Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Álvaro Morata
What we are excited to see: Spain, finally, has moved beyond its all-conquering golden generation; Busquets, the captain, is the only player left from his 2010 World Cup winning team. Enrique’s retooled Roja is ready for its moment.
What success looks like: While they are capable of winning it all, they are probably four years away from being a legitimate title favorite. That said, a place in the quarter-finals is the minimum.
Whole Achilles: history For all their talent and experience, Spain have punched below their weight at World Cups, with the exception of 2010. They have never made it past the quarter-finals in 11 other appearances at the tournament.
X Factor: seagull The 18-year-old has been a regular for La Roja since making his debut last year, and has the potential to be a breakout star on the biggest stage.
Three things you need to know about Spain
Alexi Lalas gives us three things we need to know about Spain ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Higher finish: Quarter Finals (2014)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +75,000
Key players: Celso Borges, Joel Campbell, Keylor Navas
What we are excited to see: If Costa Rica are to progress against the odds, they will almost certainly need to win their second match in Qatar, against Japan on November 27.
What success looks like: Getting out of such a tough group would be a triumph.
Whole Achilles: age There’s no getting around how long the Ticos are in the tooth. Borges is 34 years old. Navas has 35. Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica’s all-time leading scorer, has 37. Even Campbell is now on the wrong side of 30.
X Factor: Navas. The three-time UEFA Champions League winner has not played a single minute for Paris Saint-Germain this season after losing his starting job. That means the best player in Costa Rica’s history — he single-handedly led the Ticos to the quarter-finals in 2014 — has something to prove in Qatar.
Three things you need to know about Costa Rica
Alexi Lalas gives us three things to know about Costa Rica.
Coach: Hansi Flick
Higher finish: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
End 2018: Group stage
FOX betting odds: +1000
Key players: Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller, Antonio Ruediger
What we are excited to see: Apart from a shock defeat to Hungary, Germany have been excellent since Flick replaced long-serving coach Jogi Loew last year. This is the World Cup, though. That game against Spain will tell us where they really are.
What success looks like: Germany goes into every major tournament knowing they can win. As much as it would be enough to make a deep run after their shock group stage exit four years ago (and last-16 defeat to rivals England at last year’s Euro ), Die Mannschaft will still be disappointed if they don’t claim. a fifth world title.
Whole Achilles: Composition of the list. This is a team built to win Euro 2024 at home; the 2022 version is caught between two generations, with thirty-year-olds Muller, Manuel Neuer and Ilkay Gundogan on one side and teenagers Youssoufa Moukoko and Jamal Musiala on the other.
X Factor: Moukoko. At just 17 years old, the uncapped striker already has 11 goals in 44 Bundesliga appearances. After making the squad in place of the injured veteran Marco Reus, if he takes the field he will be one of the youngest participants in the history of the World Cup.
Three things you need to know about Germany
Alexi Lalas gives us three things to know about Germany.
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Higher finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +25,000
Key players: Daichi Kamada, Takumi Minamino, Takehiro Tomiyasu
What we are excited to see: Japan enjoys the underdog role and tends to outperform expectations. In 2018, they survived a group containing 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.
What success looks like: Getting out of the first round in back-to-back World Cups would be an unprecedented achievement for the Blue Samurai. Winning a knockout round game for the first time would be even better.
Whole Achilles: Score. The front four in Japan’s 26-man squad have just 10 international goals between them.
X Factor: defense With a back line led by Arsenal centre-back Tomiyasu and captain Maya Yoshida, Japan are ultra-disciplined and organized defensively, making them extremely difficult for opponents to break down. Teams that do not concede goals cannot be beaten, even by Germany or Spain.
Three things you need to know about Japan
Alexi Lalas gives us three things to know about Japan.
MORE FORECASTS FROM THE GROUP: GROUP A | GROUP B | GROUP C | GROUP D
Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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