Skip to main content

Whether you’re a long-time soccer fan or a more casual observer, you’ve probably heard of “The Group of Death.” In every tournament, there seems to be one group where three quality teams are fighting for two places. There isn’t really a clear consensus ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but Group E is certainly in the conversation.

Germany and Spain are two traditional powers, but Japan and Costa Rica shouldn’t be underestimated. So, with that in mind, let’s break down the group and trace out some probable outcomes.

World Cup Group A Logistics: Who’s in the group, and when are the matches?

As mentioned above, Group E consists of Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, and Japan. Each nation will play each other once in a fixture list that looks like this:

  • Germany vs. Japan, November 23
  • Spain vs. Costa Rica, November 23
  • Japan vs. Costa Rica, November 27
  • Spain vs. Germany, November 27
  • Japan vs. Spain, December 1
  • Costa Rica vs. Germany, December 1

As usual, the winner of those matches will claim three points, and the two teams will each get a point in the event of a draw. At the end of the group, the two nations with the highest points tally will advance into the knockout rounds.

And with that business out of the way, let’s look at the squads.

Spain are trying to return to their former glory with a new generation of talent

In the not-so-distant past, Spain was the elite presence on the European soccer stage. Most of those stars have ridden off into the sunset, though, leaving a new generation to try and reach the metaphorical summit. And thankfully for Spanish supporters around the world, La Roja is well-stocked with talent.

Spain’s defense has some solid experience — Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba are still around — and they’ll be helped by a sturdy midfield. Sergio Busquets is still sitting in front of the back four, dictating the tempo. He’ll be joined by two names from Spain’s new generation — Pedri and Gavi — in a more attacking set-up, although Rodri could also enter the fray should manager Luis Enrique want to be a bit more conservative.

When it comes to the front line, though, some question marks emerge. Spain boasts some talent in the attacking areas, with Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati (assuming the latter is as fit as he claims), but La Roja lack an out-and-out scorer. Alvaro Morata has been consistently inconsistent over the years, and in the World Cup group stages, a few missed chances can make all the difference.

Costa Rica punches above their weight, but Group E is simply too tough

When you consider that Costa Rica is a nation of about five million people, reaching a World Cup is nothing to sneeze at. If you add the fact that Los Ticos survived a tricky CONCACAF qualification process while posting wins over the United States and Canada into the equation, things will look even better.

In terms of the roster, most players ply their trade in Costa Rica, although a few play abroad. The biggest name is goaltender Kaylor Navas, but Premier League fans will remember Joel Campbell’s name, even if he never really made an impact at Arsenal.

That reality highlights the Central American nation’s biggest issue: In a group with two international heavyweights and one solid opponent, Los Ticos just don’t have the star power to compete. Can Navas stand on his head and steal a game? Of course, but that’s not the greatest game plan.

With that being said, though, stranger things had happened. Who would have picked Costa Rica to top Group D in the 2014 World Cup?

Germany look to be back to their best after a disappointing stretch

During the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 Euros, Germany looked short of their best. When the teams touch down in Qatar, Die Mannschaft will look to set things right.

From a roster perspective, the Germans are in a pretty good place. Manuel Neuer is still holding the gloves in goal, and he’ll be protected by a solid defense (headlined by Antonio Rudiger). Moving up the pitch, though, things become even stronger. Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich are a stable midfield duo, and Thomas Mueller certainly knows how to find space on the pitch and score a big goal. There’s room for some different looks in the final third, but Germany will probably start out with the pacy front three of Leroy Sane, Timo Werner, and Serge Gnabry.

It’s also worth noting that several of those players, including Goretzka, Kimmich, Mueller, Sane, and Gnabry, are club teammates at Bayern Munich. In a tournament of tight margins, their bit of extra chemistry can provide an edge.

With all of that being said, though, talent isn’t always everything. Germany crumbled in the spotlight during the two most recent tournaments. Can Hansi Flick keep everyone pulling in the same direction during his first World Cup as the man in charge? And what’s Plan B if Werner can’t hit the broadside of a Qatari barn?

Japan shouldn’t be overlooked, even next to some bigger names

When you’re sharing a group with Spain and Germany, it’s easy to be overlooked. Japan, however, deserves your respect, if not your attention. The Samurai Blue have escaped the group stage at three different World Cups and beat the United States pretty comfortably in September, suggesting they won’t be a pushover.

Japan’s squad consists of some players from the J1 League and others who play abroad. Some in the latter group, like Takehiro Tomiyasu, Maya Yoshida, and Takumi Minamino, will be familiar to fans of English football.

Similar to what I said about Costa Rica, though, Japan will probably come up short from a talent perspective. Looking at the attacking areas, for example, will the likes of Minamino, Yuya Osako, and Takuma Asano have enough firepower to make the difference? Given the quality of the group, securing some draws probably won’t be enough to advance.

2022 World Cup Group E prediction: Germany and Spain advance, albeit with some effort

Manuel Neuer (L) and Sergio Busquets (R) in action for Germany and Spain, respectively.
Manuel Neuer (L) and Sergio Busquets will captain Germany and Spain, respectively, in the 2022 World Cup. Marvin Ibo Guengoer/GES Sportfoto via Getty Images, Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

2022 World Cup Previews: It’s Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Everyone Else in Group C

When it comes to making sports picks, I generally default to talent. While there’s some room for error, especially in a tournament, I’m sticking by that principle for the 2022 World Cup.

In Group E, I give Germany the nod as the top team. Their squad is deep, experienced, and should arrive in Qatar with some pre-established chemistry. Spain will finish as a close second. They also possess plenty of talent, but the uncertainty around their attack bumps La Roja down a place. In a similar vein, I give Japan a slight edge over Costa Rica for third place.

That gives us the following group standings:

  1. Germany
  2. Spain
  3. Japan
  4. Costa Rica

With that being said, though, Group E is one of the trickier ones in the entire World Cup. All it takes is one draw to turn the expected standings upside-down.

When things kick off, you won’t want to take this group for granted.

Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.