World Cup 2022 preview: Group E

We take a closer look at Group E, featuring World Cup winners Spain and Germany, potential surprise package Japan and outsiders Costa Rica.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 18 November 2022 - 2.48pm
Joshua Kimmich

One of the contenders for World Cup 2022's Groups of Death, Group E will be fascinating to watch whatever the outcome.

Heavyweights Spain and Germany will be fighting it out for top spot, but Japan can't be discounted as a real threat to both, while Costa Rica have previous when it comes to upsetting more fancied nations.

Here's how each team reached the finals, as well as insight into their best players, manager and strengths and weaknesses.

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Group E

Spain

Spain

FIFA ranking: 7th

Squad's top scorer: Alvaro Morata - 27 goals / 57 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 1st in Group B (UEFA)

Best World Cup finish: Winners (2010)

Route to qualification:

Spain got the job done, but not hugely convincingly, claiming 19 points from eight games to top their group by four points, with a defeat to Sweden along the way. 

Star man:

Rodri has replaced Sergio Busquets as the team's primary No 6 and is superb at controlling the pace of a game and breaking up play, while his height allows him to be an asset at set-pieces in both boxes. 

Manager:

Since returning to the hotseat in 2019, Luis Enrique has taken La Roja to the semi-finals of the Euros, agonisingly missing out on the final on penalties to Italy, before exacting revenge in the Nations League semi-finals against the same opponents, only to lose the final to France. Can Enrique continue that encouraging progression.

Strengths:

There is an incredibly exciting glut of young attacking talents in this squad, with six of them aged 22 and under. While this does have its potential drawbacks - namely little big-tournament experience - the freedom the likes of Ferran Torres, Nico Williams, Gavi and Ansu Fati could play with if given the chance is an exhilarating prospect. 

Weaknesses:

Despite the attacking promise, Spain's only reliable tournament goalscorer of note is the inconsistent Alvaro Morata. 

Gavi - Spain

Germany

Germany

FIFA ranking: 11th

Squad's top scorer: Thomas Muller - 44 goals / 118 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 1st in Group J (UEFA)

Best World Cup finish: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)

Route to qualification:

Germany perhaps unsurprisingly blitzed their qualifying group, scoring 36 goals in 10 games - the highest European scorers after England - and finishing nine points ahead of second-placed North Macedonia.

Star man:

Jamal Musiala has enjoyed a remarkable start to the season despite still being just 19 years old, with 12 goals to his name in 22 games across all competitions for Bayern Munich this season. He also offers superb vision and is a mercurial dribble. 

Manager:

Hansi Flick succeeded the long-serving Joachim Low following Die Mannschaft's Euro 2020 elimination and although the results were emphatic upon his arrival, Flick has found the going a lot tougher in 2022, with just two wins, five draws, and a defeat to Hungary in the Nations League.

One of those draws also came after throwing away a two-goal lead against England, although Kai Havertz secured a draw after the Three Lions came back to lead 3-2. 

Strengths:

The attacking midfield three behind Havertz of Musiala, Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry are lightning-quick and extremely direct, and have built a very strong collective understanding as they all play for Bayern.

Weaknesses:

Germany haven't kept a clean sheet in their last seven matches and don't appear to have settled on a first-choice right-back, with Thilo Kehrer, Jonas Hofmann and Lukas Klostermann all having been deployed there in the last three games.  

Leroy Sane - Germany

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

FIFA ranking: 31st

Squad's top scorer: Bryan Ruiz - 29 goals / 146 apps

World Cup qualifying position: Inter-confederation play-off winners against New Zealand

Best World Cup finish: Quarter-finals (2014)

Route to qualification:

Costa Rica came fourth in the CONCACAF section on goal difference behind Canada, Mexico and the USA, forcing them into a play-off which was won by Joel Campbell's third-minute effort against New Zealand.

Star man:

Keylor Navas is the one truly world-class player in the squad and earned the man-of-the-match against the Kiwis. 

Manager:

Luis Fernando Suarez took over in June last year and achieved a quarter-final finish at the Gold Cup within months, matching the outcome in 2019. 

Strengths:

Los Ticos will play to contain the opposition, doing this with a back five, while the pace and productivity of 18-year-old Sunderland winger Jewison Bennette could be something to keep an eye on after he netted twice against South Korea over the summer. 

Weaknesses:

Despite the raw promise of Bennette, Costa Rica are not going to be able to trouble the defences of Spain or Germany, and may struggle to subdue both teams' attacks despite their relatively strong defensive record against CONCACAF opposition. 

Jewison Bennette - Costa Rica

Japan

Japan

FIFA ranking: 24th

Squad's top scorer: Takumi Minamino - 17 goals / 44 apps

World Cup qualifying position: 2nd in Group B (AFC)

Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)

Route to qualification:

After tearing their initial qualifying group at a rate of nearly six goals per game, Japan then had to show more of their battling qualities, finishing a point behind Saudi Arabia to progress to Qatar. 

Star man:

Daichi Kamada is one of Eintracht Frankfurt's star players and is silky in possession, as well as possession deadly aim from outside the box. 

Manager:

Hajime Moriyasu has been in charge in the summer in 2018, helping his side earn a silver medal soon after taking the helm, with an Asian Cup runners-up finish in 2019.

Strengths:

Moriyasu has nurtured a team of excellent technical players who have the pace to cause opponents massive problems on the breaks. Wingers Take Kubo and Junya Ito are very dangerous, while Takumi Minamino and Brighton's Kaoru Mitoma also offer a threat. 

Weaknesses:

No proven goalscorer at this level is hard to ignore despite their easy-on-the-eye style, while poor results against Tunisia and Vietman hint at some fragility in the squad. 

Kaoru Mitoma - Japan