Group E analysis, pick, odds, breakdown

Perhaps no team in the entire World Cup has had a tougher group draw than Japan.

Considered the best team in Asia and a potential door-breaker in Qatar, the hype around Japan as a potential sleeper dissipated after Samurai Blue were placed in Group E with European powerhouses. Spain and Germany – winners of two of the last three tournaments – with longshot Costa Rica.

Chances of moving from Group E (Caesars):

  • Spain: -900
  • Germany: -700
  • Japan: +350
  • Costa Rica: +850
Wataru Endo from Japan
Wataru Endo from Japan
Getty Images

World Cup Group E pick: Japan to advance +3400 (FanDuel)

One look at these odds, and it seems pretty obvious who everyone expects to come out of Group E. It’s just a question of who finishes first between Spain and Germany.

But neglect Japan at your peril.

A counter-attacking team looking to induce high turnovers and then turn them into quick scoring chances, Japan’s strengths could play directly on Spain’s and Germany’s weaknesses.

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Spain and Germany are both dominant teams who want the ball at their feet for most of the game so their talented creative players can impose their will. Against weaker opposition like Costa Rica, you can expect the two European giants to have the ball for three quarters of the game and not really break a sweat.

But against Japan, it will be another story. While Samurai Blue won’t have much of the ball against Germany and/or Spain, when they do they can cause a lot of trouble. Both Spain and Germany struggle to defend in transition, which is what Japan does best.

Always looking to pounce on mistakes and turn them into scoring opportunities the other way, Japan’s energetic style makes them a stylistic nightmare for any team struggling to get organized quickly in defence. That might be bad news for the Group E favorites, but it’s particularly notable against Germany, whose defense has been in question in recent years.

After 15 years under Joachim Low, the Germans are now led by former Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick, a very aggressive manager who wants his team to send as many bodies as possible. This style can overwhelm many teams – especially with the creative talent on this roster – but if the Germans are even one step behind, they are very vulnerable to counterattacks, and the teams that can knock quickly should have joy against them. Japan fits this bill.

Julian Draxler from Germany
Julian Draxler from Germany
Getty Images

And when Japan win the ball, they have talented players to put it to good use. Takumi Minamino didn’t turn him on at Liverpool, but he can pull the strings in attack. Also, Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal) is an excellent defender who plays the ball and can quickly move this team in the right direction. Other creative talents like Junya Ito (Stade de Reims), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), Daichi Kamada (Frankfurt) and Daizen Maeda (Celtic) give Japan enough play and scoring depth to make them a more dynamic team than most other longshots. in this field.

Japan’s path to the knockout stage is really tough. Samurai Blue will in all likelihood have to upset Germany or Spain to get through, but if they pull it off, the way really opens up.

Group E correlates to a very soft Group F in the knockout stage, meaning the winner of Group E faces the second-place team from Group F in the Round of 16 and vice versa.

The top two teams in Group F are Belgium and Croatia, but there are legitimate question marks over these two teams heading into this tournament. Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ are now well past their prime, and their defense is a serious concern. At the same time, Croatia, runners-up in 2018, are an even older side with no significant assets other than the presence of Luka Modric in midfield.

Many people pick at least one from Belgium or Croatia to miss out on the round of 16 at the hands of Morocco or Canada. And even if Group F is chalky and Belgium advance with Croatia, they will be vulnerable in the Round of 16 regardless of the opponent.

So if Japan make it through to Group E against all odds, they will have a winning game in the Round of 16 and have a legitimate chance to prevail in the Quarter-Finals.

Despite being drawn into a group with Spain and Germany, Japan are a live sleeper in this tournament. Getting into the Knockout Stage will require something special, luck, or both, but if Samurai Blue gets there, there’s a lot of upside to that team’s progression.

There are several ways to play the Japanese in this tournament. You can shoot them to advance from Group E at +350, support them on the silver line against Germany and Spain, or have fun taking Samurai Blue to qualify for the semi-finals at +3400 (FanDuel ).

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