clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Group E Preview

Recent champions Spain and Germany are joined by Japan and Costa Rica. Which players should take our fantasy focus?

FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala 2014
Joachim Loew led Germany to the World Cup crown in 2014. Is another title in the offing for Germany under Hansi Flick?
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

While it may not be considered this tournament’s “Group of Death,” E is an absolute juggernaut as the only quartet featuring multiple World Cup winners. Not only that, but we do not have to go back far into the memory banks to recall these glories. Four-time champion Germany lifted its most recent World Cup trophy in 2014, just after Spain did so for the first (and so far only) time in 2010.

Everybody will expect that pair of European powers to sail through to the knockout round, but Japan and Costa Rica will both relish the chance to be giant killers with a fair amount of confidence that they can indeed pull off a surprise. After all, the Samurai Blue finished second in a tricky group featuring Colombia, Sengal and Poland in 2018, and while Los Ticos flamed out in the most recent tournament, they brilliantly finished first in their quartet of 2014 ahead of previous winners Uruguay, Italy and England. Get your popcorn at the ready, because Group E should be an absolute blast!



FIFA Rank: #7

Betting odds to win: 17/2 (bet365)

Qualified via: 1st place in UEFA Group B (ahead of Sweden, Greece, Georgia and Kosovo)

Manager: Luis Enrique

2018 World Cup Result: Round of 16 (lost to host nation Russia)

Probable Formation: 4-3-3

Spain enter as the betting favorite to win the group, the fifth pick overall in the tournament behind only fellow heavyweights Brazil, Argentina, France and England. While such lofty expectations may seem justified for a team that won the title in 2010, to live up to such a forecast La Roja will need to improve on recent performances after failing to make it out of the group stage in 2014 (finishing behind Netherlands and Chile) and being unceremoniously knocked out by the hosts in the most recent Round of 16.

The beloved Vicente del Bosque presided as manager from 2008 to 2016 as Spain won not only the 2010 World Cup, but also surrounding European crowns in 2008 and 2012. After del Bosque’s departure, the team suffered a tumultuous spell with four different coaches from 2016-2019: Julen Lotepegui, Fernando Hierro, Luis Enrique and Robert Moreno, none lasting more than 20 matches in that period. However, Enrique came back to the post in 2019, returning a sense of tranquility and success as Spain advanced to the 2020 Euro semifinals, losing to eventual champion Italy on penalties.

Spain comfortably won their group to advance to this World Cup, but the numbers were not especially eye-popping as seen from many of the other big powers. Overall in their eight qualifiers, Spain won six, drew once and lost once, scoring 15 goals and conceding five times for a goal difference of +10, barely more than +1 per game. Three victories came by a single goal, with just one win by more than two goals (a 4-0 victory over Georgia).

Spain Players to Consider for Your Fantasy Teams

As such, despite what seems a wealth of attacking talent in a team known for offensive flair, it may actually make more sense to start on the defensive end. After all, we must recall the 2010 World Cup champions who scored only four goals in winning their group, then followed that up with a string of four 1-0 victories in the knockout stage.

Goalkeeper Unai Simon ($5.5m) is attractive at a small discount compared to the $6.0m options you will find in net for the FIFA World Cup fantasy portal. The Athletic Bilboa backstop may not boast much in the way of global name recognition, but Simon is the real deal, having kept three clean sheets in Spain’s final four Nations League matches this summer, blanking Czech Republic, Portugal and Switzerland.

Clean sheet potential also means we should consider the defender position; two-way star Jordi Alba ($6.0m) is the automatic pick, having racked up 10 goals with 19 assists in 86 international appearances. In World Cup qualifying, he notched four assists in four games, while scoring once in his recent set of four Nations League appearances. The only worry is that the 33-year old has been a somewhat irregular starter in recent times.

FC Barcelona v UD Almeria - LaLiga Santander
In his third World Cup, defender Jordi Alba will look to be a fantasy favorite yet again.
Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The expected starters in midfield — Sergio Busquets, Koke and Pedri — are a desert in terms of goals or assists, so I’d pass there. Pedri brilliantly controls the game, but as with the otherworldly Xavi in Spain’s recent golden days, that watchable wizardry generally fails to translate into an actual fantasy payout. Other than Simon and Alba, if I’m going to consider investing in Spanish players, forward Alvaro Morata ($8.0m) seems like the best bet to return value, having scored 27 goals with 6 asissts in 57 international appearances and being the expected #1 penalty kick taker. Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati are a bit cheaper, but not enough to make me overly excited about either given Spain’s tendency for limited goal scoring.



FIFA Rank: #11

Betting odds to win: 10/1 (bet365)

Qualified via: 1st place in EUFA Group J (ahead of North Macedonia, Romania, Armenia, Iceland and Liechtenstein)

Manager: Hansi Flick

2018 World Cup Result: Group stage (last place in Group F behind Sweden, Mexico and South Korea)

Probable Formation: 4-2-3-1

Following the 2014 World Cup triumph, Germany flopped in 2018, suffering shutout losses to Mexico and South Korea in failing to make it out of the group stage. Naturally, Die Mannshaft will be extremely energized and focused to ensure a strong rebound performance this time. Hansi Flick has plenty to live up to following the departure of legendary coach Joachim Low after the 2020 Euros.

Unlike Spain, Germany absolutely dominated its qualifying group, lighting it up with 36 goals and only 4 conceded (+32 goal difference) in its 10 games (9 wins, 1 defeat). 15 of those scores came in home blitzes of Armenia and Liechtenstein, not exactly the toughest competition. More recently, Germany finished third in its group of the EUFA Nations League this past summer (behind Italy and Hungary, while ahead of England), but scored 11 goals in its 6 games compared to the 8 scores from Spain which won its group (over Portugal, Switzerland and Czech Republic). Thus, I think Germany’s attack is more attractive than Spain’s, so let’s start there.

Normally longtime star forward Thomas Muller would be high on the list; however, after scoring three goals and adding three assists in Germany’s final four games of World Cup qualifying in late 2021, Muller managed only one goal with no helpers in the six more recent Nations League tilts. Likewise, after tallying 8 goals with 21 assists in 32 Bundesliga matches last year, this season so far he’s managed just 2 goals and 3 assists in 8 league games. Thus, I’m a bit worried about slipping form as he’s now reached 33 years old.

Costing a buck less than his strike partner Muller, a better value up front is forward Kai Havertz ($8.5m). Like Muller at Bayern Munich, Havertz’s domestic production at Chelsea has been nothing to write home about this season. However, Havertz has 10 goals and 10 assists in 30 games overall for Germany, and comes into this World Cup in good form for the national side having scored a brace in the final Nations League game, a 3-3 draw with England, leaving him with three goals in his past six Nations League tilts.

Even so, I think I actually prefer Germany’s engine room to the forwards. The standout pick for me in that department is midfielder Ilkay Gundogan ($7.5m), largely because he should be first in line on penalty kicks, having gone 6 for 6 in his career for the national team. Like Havertz, Gundogan also comes into the World Cup in strong form for Germany, having scored twice across the final three matches of Nations League. Prior to that, the Manchester City stalwart netted five times in his eight appearances covering the most recent set of World Cup qualifiers.

Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City: Group G - UEFA Champions League
Manchester City and EPL fans are very familiar with the skills of midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.
Photo by Marcel ter Bals/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Otherwise, there’s a head-spinning array of attractive options in the rest of the Germany midfield with good chances for scoring/assising from open play: Leroy Sane ($9.0m), Jamal Musiala ($8.0m) and Joshua Kimmich ($7.0m), each of whom Bundlesliga or Champions League fans will know well for their exploits at the club level with Bayern Munich. Of that trio, Musiala has excelled the most this season in the Bundesliga, scoring 9 times with 5 assists in 13 games. Sane has done the most in Champions League, with 4 scores and 2 helpers in 4 appearances. But I think the focus should be more on what they’ve done for the national team, particularly recently. While Sane completely blanked at the Nations League competition and Musiala managed just one assist, Kimmich scored 2 goals with 1 assist in his 6 games. On top of that, Kimmich is the cheapest of the trio. So my second pick in midfield after Gundogan is Kimmich.

I am not particularly high on Germany on the defensive end, as the team failed to keep a single clean sheet in its half dozen recent Nations League affairs. The only way I could advise investing in a defender or keeper would be in the case of an outstanding budget bargain or a two-way threat. Right now, I don’t see anyone operating in that vein, with a big void caused by Kimmich’s position change from defender to midfielder. As wonderful as a pedigree that keeper Manuel Neuer (not yet in system) has displayed in his long and distinguished career, I feel it’s too risky to invest in him given an expected high-priced tag.



FIFA Rank: #24

Betting odds to win: 250/1 (bet365)

Qualified via: 2nd place in AFC Group B (behind Saudi Arabia and ahead of Australia, Oman, China and Vietnam)

Manager: Hajime Moriyasu

2018 World Cup Result: Round of 16 (lost to Belgium)

Probable Formation: 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1

Your eyes are surely agog at Japan’s 250/1 odds to take the World Cup trophy despite being ranked #24 in the world. That staggering ratio is not an indictment of the team’s talent, but rather purely related to the precarious predicament of being put in the same group with Spain and Germany. To win the title, the first step is finishing in the top half of the assigned quartet, which is going to be an uphill climb more daunting than ascending Mount Fuji. However, stranger things have happened.

Hajime Moriyasu has presided over the team since 2018, lending a sense of security in that realm. In World Cup qualifying, Japan tied for second-most goals in its six-team group with only 12 scores in 10 games, while finishing first by conceding only four times. Thus, it seems that this squad’s strength is in defense. However, in the past nine matches since June — friendlies along with East Asian Football Championship fixtures — Japan scored 3+ goals on four occasions (against Paraguay, Ghana, Hong Kong and South Korea). Given the high level of competition in this group, though, I think it’s fair to say that Japan will have to hang its hat on the defensive end.

If you’re looking for a cheap option in net, goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt ($4.0m) certainly could prove a brilliant play if he can keep a clean sheet or two and make a flurry of saves. One potential problem is that the position seems to be a bit up in the air, as Japan has rotated keepers in recent friendlies, so be sure to double check team news before pulling the trigger on Schmidt (or Eiji Kawashima at $4.5m, or Shuichi Gonda who is not yet in the system).

Another risk that could pay off nicely is their cheapest expecting starting defender Yuto Nagatomo ($3.5m) if you are looking to save in the back to spend more in attack; any offensive returns would be a bonus, and the 36-year old has two assists in 11 World Cup appearances. Somewhat along the same lines as Spain’s Alba, though, we have to worry that being up in years may keep Gonda from starting all three group matches.

While Takumi Minamino is better known to the average fan (and will be the likely penalty kick taker), at $7.0m he’s a bit too rich for my blood since goals may be tough to come by for the Japan attack. I’d prefer to invest in comparatively cut rate midfielder Daichi Kamada ($5.5m) who comes into the World Cup in a rich vein of form given his outstanding start to the 2022-23 season with Eintracht Frankfurt: seven goals with four assists in 12 Bundlesliga fixtures along with three goals in six Champions League affairs. Additionally, he has scored two goals with an assist in his past five international friendlies since June.

Eintracht Frankfurt v TSG Hoffenheim - Bundesliga
Attacking midfielder Daichi Kamada will be a breakout candidate to watch at the upcoming World Cup.
Photo by Simon Hofmann/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images



FIFA Rank: #31

Betting odds to win: 750/1 (bet365)

Qualified via: beat New Zealand in playoff game after finishing in 4th place in CONCACAF (behind Canada, Mexico and the United States and ahead of Panama, Jamaica, El Salvador and Honduras)

Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez

2018 World Cup Result: Group stage (last place in Group E behind Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia)

Probable Formation: 4-2-3-1 or 5-4-1

The joy of 2014’s group #1 finish was quickly forgotten in 2018 with a last place result, but the fact that Costa Rica has made three straight World Cups is worthy of celebration. However, there is definitely the feeling that this could be the last hurrah. While manager Luis Fernando Suarez is a relative newcomer having been hired about a year and a half ago, he will rely on a bunch of grizzled veterans who have been together for this long and impressive run, as most of the projected starters are 30 years of age or older.

While Costa Rica averaged scoring under a goal per game in its 14 CONCACAF qualifiers, Los Ticos conceded only eight goals, more than just Canada. In such a daunting group now, the team will surely continue with its defensive focus. Despite Costa Rica being heavy underdogs, superstar goalkeeper Keylor Navas ($5.0m) is worthy of consideration. We can be sure he will rack up saves, though there is certainly risk that he may not be able to keep clean sheets with any regularity, and he may be a bit rusty from riding the pine behind first choice Gianluigi Donnarumma at Paris Saint-Germain. But Navas and Costa Rica conceded only one goal total across the final seven games of qualifying (including the playoff), so there is reason for hope.

Costa Rica v New Zealand - 2022 FIFA World Cup Playoff
He may not be on the biggest national team, but goalkeeper Keylor Navas is definitely one of the major stars of Group E.
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

A la Japan, I wouldn’t want to pay too much in defense, but Costa Rica’s cheapest defender expected to start, Keysher Fuller ($3.5m) could pay off if you get lucky. With Costa Rica unlikely to score many goals, I would shy away from their attack. The only one on that end who looks to have value is midfielder Celso Borges ($4.5m) since he is dirt cheap for a presumed penalty kick specialist; of course, I’d probably rather pay more for Germany’s Gundogan since he will have much more of a chance of actually getting to take one.



Spain and Germany are heavy favorites to go through to the knockout stage, and that is deservedly so for the European powers. The hope for Japan and Costa Rica is that the Spain/Germany match turns into a lopsided affair, enabling the possibility for the Japan/Costa Rica winner (unless it is a draw of course) to secure a second place finish if they can surprise the Spain/Germany loser with a draw (or shock with a win). While that scenario is unlikely, it is not at all out of the realm of possibility. Of the underdog pair, Japan should have the better shot at pulling it off than Costa Rica, with the ideal situation being Spain dominating Costa Rica and Germany in the first two games, then resting some of its stars for the third fixture with Japan.

Naturally, Japan and Costa Rica will likely try to keep the score at nil-nil against Spain and Germany for as long as possible. Will they be able to? is the magic question. While Germany and Spain do possess offensive talents, I worry that many of these games will tend to be low scoring, particularly as Spain has shown a penchant to be happy with 1-0 victories. The team that will make out best in this group will almost assuredly be whichever from Germany or Spain wins their match-up, particularly if it ends up being somewhere along the lines of 2-0 or 3-1. But of course, the caveat is, what if they draw? (And in that case, what if it’s 1-1, failing to provide much firepower while also leaving no clean sheet?) If you feel strongly about Germany or Spain cruising to victory in the group, don’t be shy about grabbing multiple players from that team. Otherwise, it may be best to pick lightly from Group E, or avoid altogether.

Should you choose to wade in these waters, there are a few intriguing options. I am wary of investing in expensive players here, rather the mid-priced or budget picks for this group seem to offer the best likely value. My targets would be from the Spain defense, the Germany midfield and the goalkeeper position; unbelievably, I have actually recommended considering three net minders among this quartet of teams. From a fan’s perspective, with two European heavyweights on offer along with a legitimate chance of underdog surprise, this should definitely be a fun group to watch!


[SOURCE NOTE: Prices, statistics and other information used in this post came from the official FIFA World Cup Fantasy site, Transfermarkt, Wikipedia and FPL Reports.]


Chart your pathway to success using our how-to guide to the official fantasy World Cup game, check out our Group Stage fixture difficulty table, and join our mini-league using the link below!


How do you expect Group E to turn out? Are there any players from this quartet of teams who you are planning to put in your fantasy teams? Is there anybody else you have your eye on aside from those mentioned above? Take the poll below and be sure to share your thoughts and ask any questions in the comments section!



Which teams do you expect to make it through Group E?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Spain and Germany
    (15 votes)
  • 28%
    Spain and Japan
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Spain and Costa Rica
    (0 votes)
  • 18%
    Germany and Japan
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Germany and Costa Rica
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    Japan and Costa Rica
    (2 votes)
32 votes total Vote Now