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Your ultimate World Cup quick cheat sheet: Groups E to H

Senegal's Sadio Mane looks on. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
8th June, 2018
1

The greatest show on Earth – the 2018 FIFA World Cup – is almost here and here is the second part of your ultimate cheat sheet for the tournament.

With 32 nations, and so many games spread across June and July and some dreadful time slots for Australian football fans, it is hard to keep up with everything World Cup related.

We have previously provided the first half of the quick cheat sheet to the 2018 World Cup, and this time the exploration goes deep into Groups E to H.

Hopefully the below will give a bite-sized preview of each group and every team, arming you with enough passing information to make yourself look like a World Cup aficionado.

It may even help you with your tipping, fantasy team or a little wager.

There’s even a reason to care about each team if you wanted to go that far.

If the below isn’t enough, we have kindly created our Greatest Show on Earth podcast. There is a preview for Groups A to D, followed by this part for Groups E to H. Then throughout the World Cup there will be a catch up on the games that were and the matches ahead that will be.

Onto the second half of the preview, and then why not join us for the Greatest Show on Earth World Cup Podcast?

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Group E

Group E features one of the big guns for the tournament – Brazil – which helps this group have the lowest average (as in best) FIFA ranking of the eight groups.

The teams
Brazil
Ranking: 2nd

Qualifying grade – A
Topped the South American Qualifying. Lost just the once en route to being 10 points clear of second placed Uruguay.

Player to care about
Neymar – the World’s most expensive player, and the highest ranked on Who Scored after his move from Barcelona to PSG. Scored 19 Times and provided 13 Assists in just 20 Matches for PSG. Back from injury for the World Cup, and scored in a recent friendly. Signs are good for him to tear it up at the World Cup.

World Cup pedigree
Doesn’t get better, Brazil have won the World Cup a record five times, although not since 2002.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Always one of the teams to follow at any World Cup. Neymar helps, but there’s also Coutinho, William and Casemiro.

Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against Argentina during a 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Brazil's national soccer team is the first to qualify for next year's World Cup. Despite the success, the sporting scene at home is littered with bribes and corruption linked to the World Cup and last year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

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Serbia
Ranking: 35th

Qualifying grade – A
Topped their group ahead of Ireland and Wales, with a decent WDL record of 6-3-1.

Player to care about
Alexsandar Mitrovic – was a star for Fulham in the second half of the season after being loaned from Newcastle. Provided the final polish they needed for an EPL return. Scored 14 Goals in 65 matches for Newcastle, but 12 in 17 matches for a half season at Fulham.

See Also: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

World Cup pedigree
Have featured regularly at World Cups under different political boundaries starting with Yugoslavia, with a pair of fourths the best to show. Did finish fourth at the very first World Cup in 1930. Slim pickings since 1990 where they were knocked out of the quarter-finals.

One reason to care about their World Cup
A potential dark horse from Group E.

Costa Rica
Ranking: 25

Qualifying grade – B+
Finished second behind Mexico. Had a decent campaign with 4 Wins, 4 Draws, and 2 losses.

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Player to care about
Keylor Navas – Real Madrid Goalkeeper and shot stopper extraordinaire.

See Also: Brian Ruiz and Joel Campbell.

World Cup pedigree
Their fifth World Cup coming up, did very well last time in Brazil making the quarter-finals, beating Italy and Uruguay on the way. Didn’t lose in regular/extra-time before penalty shootout exit in 2014.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Great underdog over achiever at the last World Cup, and why wouldn’t you want that to happen again?

Switzerland
Ranking: 6th

Qualifying grade – A-
Finished second in their group to Portugal, but with a record of nine wins and one loss were unlucky to go through the playoffs. They did the job there against Northern Ireland.

Player to care about
Xherdan Shaqiri – about the only decent thing that happened for Stoke in this year’s EPL, with eight goals and seven assists.

World Cup pedigree
This will be their 11th World Cup, and they did finish in the quarter-finals in three of their first four World Cups. Regular visitors to the Round of 16 recently.

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One reason to care about their World Cup
Can the always highly ranked and slightly underperforming Swiss team do justice to the ranking? If not, should we care about rankings at all?

The games
With so many games, it is hard to know which ones to watch. The serious sporting nerd will attempt them all, but for the less enthused here is a suggested menu of football for the group. Some are worth getting into the mood for and staying up, others you simply check the score, check your fantasy points and move on.

Stay up
This is a must watch, so grab a favourite beverage or two, watch some old World Cup footage to get in the mood, and get excited. Or is in a great timeslot for Australians.

Sun June 17 10pm EST – Costa Rica v Serbia – Great timeslot anyway.
Fri June 22 10pm EST – Brazil v Costa Rica – Glimpse of Brazil at a premium time/day.

Get up
A great game awaits, but grab a nap, and set the alarm.

Mon June 18 4am – Brazil v Switzerland
Thu June 28 4am – Brazil v Serbia

Wake up
Still a game worth watching, but record it and get some sleep and wake up whenever you want.

Thu June 28 4am – Switzerland v Costa Rica

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Catch up
You probably can’t watch them all, so this could be one to check the score and move on.

Sat June 23 4am – Serbia v Switzerland

Prediction
Winner: – Brazil
Qualify: – Costa Rica
Better Luck Next Time: – Serbia / Switzerland

Best bet
Costa Rica to qualify from the group.

Group F

The highest scoring group from World Cup qualifying features one of the big guns of the tournament in Germany.

The teams

Germany
Ranking: 1st

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Qualifying grade – A+
You can’t do much more than win ten times in as many matches and end up with a for and against of 43-4.

Player to care about
Thomas Muller – has scored five goals at the last two World Cups, and will no doubt be among the goals again.

See also: Mezit Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos, Timo Werner.

World Cup pedigree
Four-time champions, runners up four more times, and never missed a World Cup they were allowed to enter.

One reason to care about their World Cup
They are likely to be in the last four at minimum, and they have brought back a homage to their memorable 1990 World Cup shirt, which looks cool.

Mezut Ozil Germany

(AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Mexico
Ranking: 15th

Qualifying grade – A
Topped the Central/North American Group losing just once, and probably took great joy at seeing the USA missing out on the last day.

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Player to care about
Javier Hernandez – big name signing for West Ham last season in the EPL who underwhelmed a little with eight goals in 28 matches. Has a much better record for Mexico with 49 in 101.

World Cup pedigree
Have hosted it twice, and only missed five tournaments. Have been knocked out at the Round of 16 at every World Cup since 1994.

One reason to care about their World Cup
A good performance could really annoy Donald Trump.

Sweden
Ranking: 23rd

Qualifying grade– B
Pipped Holland to second place in their group, and then knocked Italy out of the World Cup in the playoffs.

Player to care about
With no Zlatan it is up to someone like Emil Forsberg to capture the imagination.

World Cup pedigree
Sweden’s 12th World Cup coming up and first since 2006. Finished runners-up on home turf in 1958, and ended up third on two other occasions.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Following Zlatan off the field throughout the World Cup now that he’s not playing.

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South Korea
Ranking: 61st

Qualifying grade– C
Finished second in their Group behind Iran, but a record of W4 D3 L3 isn’t inspiring, nor is the 1.1 goals scored per game in qualifying.

Player to care about
Song Heung-Min – the Spurs attacker seems to be getting better with every season. Has scored 21 times for South Korea in 64 matches.

World Cup pedigree
Have been at every World Cup since 1986, and ended up in 4th when they hosted the tournament with Japan.

One reason to care about their World Cup
If they go well, could we get another Psy.

The games
Stay up
Mon June 18 1am – Germany v Mexico – Monday morning is going to hurt anyway, why not spend it with a Germany-Mexico fatigue?

Get Up
Sun June 24 4am – Germany v Sweden

Wake Up
Thu June 28 Midnight – South Korea v Germany
Thu June 28 Midnight – Mexico v Sweden

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Catch Up
Mon June 18 10pm – Sweden v South Korea
Sun June 24 1am – South Korea v Mexico

Prediction
Winner: Germany
Qualify: Mexico
Better Luck Next Time: – Sweden / South Korea

Best bet
South Korea to finish last in Group F

Group G

Group G showcases one of the first round’s big games with England and Belgium to face off. One to really look forward to. Tunisia and Panama teams are primed to upset. England is the only team at the World Cup where every player is based in their domestic competition.

The teams
England
Ranking: 13th

Qualifying grade – A
Finished first in their group having won eight and drawn two doing their usual great job in qualifying. But they are the qualifying specialists for tournaments.

Player to care about
Harry Kane – he may look permanently grumpy, but he does score a lot of goals.

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See also: Raheem Stirling and Dele Alli on and off the field.

World Cup pedigree
They hosted and won the World Cup in 1966, and have been trying to match it since. Semi-finals in 1990 is as close as they’ve got. Have only missed three World Cups since 1950.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Because of the EPL, they are the most recognisable team. And if you get a bit nasty, you could say that some are waiting for the standard exit on penalties.

England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring the opening goal of his team during the World Cup Group F qualifying soccer match between England and Slovenia at Wembley stadium in London, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. England won 1-0.

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Belgium
Ranking: 3rd

Qualifying grade – A
Won nine and drew just once. Their for and against of 43-6 is mightily impressive.

Player to care about
Eden Hazard – the dynamic Chelsea player has had good patches where he was almost unplayable at times, and then some matches where he struggled.

See also: Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku

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World Cup pedigree
This will be World Cup number 13 for the Belgians, and they have a best of 4th at Mexico 1986. Beaten in the quarter-finals by Argentina last World Cup.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Will this massively talented squad break from dark horse to genuine contenders at this World Cup? Or will they be the Kings of Disappointment?

Tunisia
Ranking: 14th

Qualifying grade – A-
Topped the group undefeated, but it was one of the weaker African qualifying pools.

Player to care about
French-born vice-captain Wahbi Khazri has scored 12 goals in 36 games from the midfield, and was saved a miserable season by going to Rennes on loan this season from Sunderland.

World Cup pedigree
Another nation making their fifth appearance, but first since 2006. Have never been past the group stages and have won just once in all their appearances.

One reason to care about their World Cup
To see whether the 14th FIFA Ranking is justified. They are the World Cup’s least experienced side in international caps average for the World Cup teams.

Panama
Ranking: 55th

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Qualifying grade– C –
Scraped into the World Cup after the USA’s meltdown saw Panama finish in 3rd. Had a negative for and against after qualifying.

Player to care about
Roman Torres – why not a Torres as the player to watch? The MLS defender has scored ten goals in 108 matches, but none more important than the winning goal in qualifying that saw them make the World Cup for the first time.

World Cup pedigree
It’s their irst tournament.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Always great to see a first timer get to the World Cup after so many failed attempts. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait for them.

The games
Stay up
Sat June 23 10pm – Belgium v Tunisia
Sun June 24 10pm – England v Panama

Get Up
Tue June 19 4am – England v Tunisia
Fri June 29 4am – England v Belgium

Wake Up
Nil

Catch Up
Tue June 19 1am – Belgium v Panama
Fri June 29 4am – Panama v Tunisia

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Prediction
Winner: England
Qualify: Belgium
Better Luck Next Time: Panama / Tunisia

Best bet
Draw – England v Belgium

Romelu Lukaku Football Belgium Euro 2016

(AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Group H
So we’ve finally made it to the last four teams. This group has the second highest world ranking, but does seem a little more open than other groups.

The teams

Colombia
Ranking: 16th

Qualifying grade – C+
Finished fourth in their qualifying group, in a group of teams separated by just two points including Argentina.

Player to care about
James Rodriguez – the breakthrough player from the 2014 World Cup where he scored six goals to win the golden boot. The Bayern Munich player also scored five times in qualifying.

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World Cup pedigree
This is their sixth World Cup, and they made the quarter finals last time out.

One reason to care about their World Cup
They apparently have a nice dance after scoring.

Japan
Ranking: 60th

Qualifying grade – A-
Topped their qualifying group which featured Australia.

Player to care about
Keisuke Honda – former AC Milan man has 36 Goals from 94 matches for Japan and now plays in Mexico for Pachuca.

World Cup pedigree
This is their sixth World Cup, and they haven’t looked back since their first in 1998. They have made it out of the group stage three times.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Great nickname in Samurai Blue. Their results will go up against Australia’s for top Asian team bragging rights.

Poland
Ranking: 10

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Qualifying grade – A
Qualified top of their group ahead of Denmark, with a reasonable return of 2.8 goals per game.

Player to care about
Robert Lewandowski- Bayern Munich super striker was in good form during qualifying scoring a UEFA-high 16 goals. Has scored 52 times in 93 matches for Poland, but strange enough didn’t have a shot on goal in the 2014 World Cup until the knockout stage. Poland will need a quicker striking rate than that.

World Cup pedigree
This will be Poland’s eighth World Cup, and first since 2006. Finished third in 1974 and 1982.

One reason to care about their World Cup
The best trio of goalkeepers in the World Cup. Lukasz Fabianski has been huge for Swansea, Wojciech Szczęsny has done better in Europe than England, and the English Championship’s best number 1 was Ipswich Town’s Bartosz Białkowski.

Robert Lewandowski Poland Football 2016

(AP Photo/Scott Heppell, File)

Senegal
Ranking: 28

Qualifying grade – A
Topped their group like all other African teams here, and were unbeaten with four wins and two draws.

Player to care about
Sadio Mane – has had a sensational run with Liverpool scoring 23 goals from 56 matches, and scored in the Champions League final. Not quite so prolific in his Senegal career (14 goals in 49 matches).

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World Cup pedigree
This will be just their second visit to the World Cup after their only successful attempt in 2002 led to a quarter-final appearance.

One reason to care about their World Cup
Just Mane, really.

The games
Stay up

Tue June 19 10pm – Colombia v Japan

Get Up
Mon June 25 4am – Poland v Colombia

Wake Up
Fri June 29 Midnight – Senegal v Colombia

Catch Up
Wed June 20 1am – Poland v Senegal
Fri June 29 Midnight – Japan v Poland

The Prediction
Winner – Colombia
Qualify – Senegal
Better Luck Next Time – Poland / Japan

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The Greatest Show on Earth Podcast
Hopefully by now you have heard the first Greatest Show on Earth World Cup podcast, which had our thoughts on Groups A to D.

Following on, we have football opinion and banter on Groups E to H, plus our big predictions for the whole World Cup.

Then throughout the tournament, The Greatest Show on Earth podcast will pop up in between rounds for some thoughts on the action so far, and best still to come.

For now, here is the Preview Part 2 – Groups E to H.