Firmino, Grujic and scouting Shaqiri – 2018 World Cup Group E Preview

World Cup Group E features one of the most-watched sides from a neutral perspective in Brazil, with a key Liverpool man ready to shine.

Everybody loves Brazil: the kits, the history, the ex-players, Roberto Firmino.

If you say you don’t, you’re either lying or Argentinian, which is fair enough.

The tournament favourites for many, the Selecao are sure to storm through a group which looks evenly matched for the other trio to battle it out.

Serbia, Costa Rica and Switzerland will all feel they might sneak their way into the round of 16.

 

Group Insight

 

Fixtures & UK TV Info

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 3, 2018: Brazil's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during an international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

  • Costa Rica vs. Serbia – Samara Arena – 1pm, June 17 – ITV 1
  • Brazil vs. Switzerland – Rostov Arena – 7pm, June 17 – ITV 1
  • Brazil vs. Costa Rica – Krestovsky Stadium – 1pm, June 22 – ITV 1
  • Serbia vs. Switzerland – Kaliningrad Stadium – 7pm, June 22 – BBC One
  • Serbia vs. Brazil – Spartak Stadium – 7pm, June 27 – ITV 1
  • Switzerland vs. Costa Rica – Nizhny Novgorod Stadium – 7pm, June 27 – ITV 4

 

Red Focus

AALBORG, DENMARK - Saturday, June 11, 2011: Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri (FC Basel 1893) celebrates scoring the first goal against Denmark during the UEFA Under-21 Championship Denmark 2011 Group A match at the Aalborg Stadion. (Photo by Vegard Grott/Propaganda)

  • Roberto Firmino could lead the line for Brazil
  • Former Red Philippe Coutinho is there too, plus goalkeeper target Alisson
  • Marko Grujic gatecrashed the Serbia squad
  • Xherdan Shaqiri could be a Liverpool player after the finals

Bobby Firmino isn’t, as things stand, the first-choice striker for Brazil boss Tite—but that’s not to say he doesn’t have a key role to play.

He’ll get a chance at some point and has already shown his ability to impact off the bench, too, and there’s certainly no harm in having two elite strikers to call on.

Grujic is likely to play a support role for Serbia’s midfield, but his power and aggression make him an interesting one to watch whenever he comes on.

There are probably better odds on him getting a yellow card at Russia 2018 than on Firmino getting a goal, despite their likely respective game time.

As for Shaqiri, the links are there and the release clause is easily met; wages and expectations of action are all that stand in his way.

Might also be worth keeping in mind that Liverpool could have had an all-Swiss defence had the world worked out differently: Manuel Akanji, Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez.

OK, three-quarters of the Swiss defence.

 

Ones to Watch

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, during the Italian Serie A football match between S.S. Lazio and F.C. Crotone at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, on janaury 08, 2017. (Photo by Silvia Lore/NurPhoto)

Neymar! He’s back, he’s fit and he’s very, very good. Let’s just assume you’re watching all of Brazil…

So, there’s Marco Urena, who some of a niche mind might label the Costa Rican Emile Heskey—brilliant work ethic, tremendous hold-up play, very selfless…rarely scores.

Few players come into the World Cup with a transfer market reputation higher than Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Serbia.

Those hundreds of millions on his valuation must all come from his offensive play, though, as the midfielder is not exactly a lung-busting workhorse when possession is lost.

Let’s also see if Breel Embolo finally shows on the world stage why every club around Europe has wanted him at one time or another.

 

Who Goes Through?

Fan of Brazil celebrate after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. EXPA Pictures (C) 2010, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Sportida/ Vid Ponikvar +++ Slovenia OUT +++

Unsurprisingly, we’ll opt for Brazil. They have great organisation and depth as well as individual flair.

They’re dominant in matches, though it seems to be slow and methodical dominance—until they kick into gear in the second half, and destroy teams without effort.

Alongside them Serbia could either implode or be a surprise contender in the last eight; they switched managers in October and it has been all-change since then.

Switzerland could edge it.