Sunday sees some big games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, as favourites Brazil open up against Switzerland and champions Germany face Mexico.
The day’s action begins with Costa Rica and Serbia, who face off in Group E at the Samara Arena.
Groups C and D completed their first round of fixtures on Saturday. Here’s how the tables look:Football fans are eagerly anticipating Brazil’s first game of the World Cup, as Tite’s side head to Russia in great shape after an excellent qualifying campaign. Warm-up wins over Croatia and Austria suggest they are in good form, and they have also been able to welcome back Neymar from injury.
The Selecao will be expected to top Group E and open up against a Switzerland side ranked sixth in the world by FIFA.
Real Madrid left-back Marcelo will captain Brazil for the game against the Swiss, per Indy Football:Tite has said Neymar is still not “fully fit” despite scoring two goals in his two appearances since returning from surgery on a broken metatarsal in February, per James Ducker at the Telegraph.
Neymar is Brazil’s talisman, but there is plenty of attacking talent in the squad besides, with Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Willian all available.
Anything other than a Brazil win would be seen as a surprise. And if the team hit form, they have the attacking talent to win comfortably.Germany kick off their tournament against Mexico in a meeting between the two strongest teams in Group F. Joachim Low’s side had a flawless qualifying campaign but have been unimpressive since, recording just one win in six international friendlies.
The defending champions have a fully fit squad to chose from, with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Mesut Ozil both available, per the Press Association (h/t BT Sport).
Germany have quality all over the pitch and boast experienced players who know exactly how to win the tournament. Their recent results may not have been great, but they tend to produce their best when it matters.
Mexico could cause Germany problems after an impressive qualifying campaign that saw them top their group. El Tri have a good record of making it through the group stage and have been to the last 16 at the past six World Cups.
West Ham United striker Javier Hernandez is their most high-profile player, but there is plenty of quality in the squad with players such as Carlos Vela and Andres Guardado.
PSV Eindhoven winger Hirving Lozano is also highly rated and could be the “revelation” of the tournament, according to team-mate Erick Gutierrez, per Tom Marshall at ESPN FC.
The game represents a tough start for both sides. Germany will be expected to win, although Mexico should still have enough to make it out of the group, which also contains Sweden and South Korea.
Costa Rica vs. Serbia
This looks like an important game for both sides after being drawn in a group with Brazil and Switzerland. A win for either team would give their hopes of advancing a big boost, and there will be plenty of quality players on show.
Serbia can call on Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, Southampton’s Dusan Tadic and Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
The Lazio star had a superb season in Serie A and is wanted by Juventus, according to Corriere dello Sport and Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia).
Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella showed how highly Lazio value the midfielder:Costa Rica will be out to emulate their FIFA World Cup 2014 campaign, during which they made it all the way to the quarter-finals.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas should start in goal for Costa Rica. Coach Oscar Ramirez is expecting a fast start from Serbia on Sunday, per BBC Sport: “The first match in the World Cup is always crucial. When the game starts we will see how to handle Serbia. They will put a lot of pressure on in the first 20 minutes, and we need to deal with this with balance and calm nerves.”
There’s a lot riding on these nations’ meeting, but Serbia look to have the extra firepower needed to take all three points.Two 2018 World Cup favorites will take the pitch on Sunday, as defending champion Germany and perennial title contenders Brazil play their first games in Russia.
Germany has a high-octane showdown with Mexico. Can El Tri pull off a shocker against the reigning World Cup champions? Should U.S. fans looking for a team to pull for even root for the rival of the USMNT?
Brazil also has a tough opening opponent in Switzerland, which is sixth in the most recent FIFA rankings.
Kicking off the day’s play are Costa Rica and Serbia. Costa Rica was a pleasant surprise at the 2014 World Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals. Serbia is back in the World Cup after missing out on the 2014 competition.