World Cup Group E Preview

Timo Werner
(Getty Images)

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Group E at the World Cup was very much a group of two halves. We had European heavyweights Spain and Germany, who are joined by Japan and Costa Rica. The six-match round robin was be held between Nov. 23 and Dec. 1. The top two teams in the group advanced to the Round of 16.

There are three groups at the World Cup where the top two seeds were only five places apart in the rankings, and this is one of them. Although Spain was in Pot 1 and Germany was in 2, few people would’ve been surprised if each had been in the other pot.

Yet in relative terms, the other sides are stronger, as strange as that sounds. Costa Rica may have only qualified via an inter-federation play-off, but the rankings say they are the second strongest team to emerge from Pot 4.

Similarly, Japan is only rated behind Senegal and Iran in Pot 3. Having drawn each other, Spain (sixth in Pot 1) and Germany (fourth in their section) would’ve hoped for easier opponents from the weaker pots.

If you average the rankings of the four teams in each group, only B is deemed to be stronger than this one. While an upset of which countries qualify is unlikely, the weaker teams are better than many people will assume.


World Cup Group E Final Standings

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Top 2 teams advanced to knockout stage

World Cup Group E Odds

Team Japan and Team Spain advance to the next round while Team Germany and Team Costa Rica have been eliminated from the World Cup 2022. Check out what the odds were for Japan and Spain to advance to the next round.

TeamGroup WinnerQualify From Group

Odds Provided by BetMGM - Subject to Change

As you would expect in a group of this nature, we have two red-hot favorites to qualify and two outsiders. Both Spain and Germany have a price which implies they have around an 85 percent chance of reaching the knockout phase. At -1200 and -900, respectively, there is no value to be had in betting on either.

The obvious result of the European sides dominating the market is long prices for the other two countries. Japan is the highest-priced third favorite from any of the eight groups, at +300. Meanwhile, Costa Rica is +1400 and therefore the outright outsiders of all 32 teams in Qatar to qualify.

With a kinder draw, both Costa Rica and Japan may have stood a chance, but it would be an enormous shock if either makes it through Group E.

Below was our initial analysis/coverage of the Group before the start of the World Cup

World Cup Group E Draw


As Spain’s golden era recedes into the past, it is difficult to know how they will perform in Qatar. They won just one match at each of the last two World Cups, and though they made the semifinals of Euro 2020, they only won once in normal time at that tournament.

Despite this patchy record, Luis Enrique’s side go into the tournament as fourth favorites (tied) to reach the final. That may be founded upon their near guarantee of reaching the knockout phase rather than anything else, though.

Then again, they did finish second in the UEFA Nations League last year, taking the lead in the final before losing 2-1 to France. Spain also made relatively light work of World Cup qualifying, with six wins from eight matches.

If they have an issue, it will be in attack. Of the teams in Qatar, only Wales from Europe scored fewer times in qualifying and then by only a single goal. While Ferran Torres was Spain’s top scorer, his tally of four will not intimidate the other sides.

In terms of their opponents, they don’t have much history with Costa Rica or Japan. Spain has eight wins and nine defeats from its 25 past matches with Germany, so it looks set to be close at the top of Group E.


The World Cup would struggle to be any worse than the previous edition was for Germany. As defending champions in Russia four years ago, they crashed out at the Group Stage for the first time.

The Germans didn’t fare too much better at Euro 2020 either. While they reached the Round of 16, England ended their interest in the competition easily enough with a 2-0 win.

That drew the Joachim Low era to a close. His replacement in the hotseat, Hansi Flick, is unbeaten at the time of writing, albeit four of Germany’s first six matches this year ended in 1-1 draws. Still, a 5-2 victory over European champions Italy was welcome, even though the Italians have failed to reach the World Cup.

Germany also breezed through qualifying, as they almost always do. A 2-1 home defeat to North Macedonia was a sizeable shock, but their other nine games were all won with only two further goals conceded.

To emphasize their dominance, the three joint-top scorers in their qualification group were all German. Serge Gnabry, Ilkay Gundogan and Timo Werner each scored five goals, and Leroy Sane was only one behind them.

They have only previously faced Japan twice and Costa Rica once, but that will not concern Germany. The clash with Spain is likely dominating their thoughts already.


Thanks to the presence of Spain and Germany, Japan is likely to continue their established World Cup pattern. They first qualified in 1998, going out at the Group Stage.

They have been at every tournament since, alternating between exiting at the Round of 16 and the first phase. Unfortunately for the Japanese, this is a Group Stage edition in the sequence, and it’s hard to argue against them defeating their history.

While their qualification process was relatively stress-free, Japan did have the weakest record of the four Asian nations who snagged an automatic berth. A defeat at Saudi Arabia may not have been too much of a surprise, but a loss to Oman and a draw with Vietnam were.

Their top scorers in qualifying were Yuya Osako and Takumi Minamino, with 10 goals apiece. However, they did the bulk of their best work in the first, much easier, group stage.

Junya Ito was tied for the top scorer in the final qualification phase, with four. His club form has been good too, with 18 goals and 23 assists across the previous two league campaigns for Genk.

Japan hasn’t faced either of the European teams in its group since at least 2006. They did beat Costa Rica 3-0 in 2018, though, and will need a repeat to have any hopes of ending their curious World Cup pattern.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has only faced its three opponents in Group E eight times total, with half of those matches against Japan. The fact that they have no wins and only two draws from those games sums up the size of their task in Qatar. 

That said, perhaps we shouldn’t write them off too hastily. Costa Rica qualified from a group containing England, Italy and Uruguay at the World Cup in 2014. As those three teams were all in the top 10 when that draw was made, their task here is easier.

Unfortunately, their form is not as strong this time around. Having qualified second in CONCACAF eight years ago, Costa Rica was fourth this time and had to defeat New Zealand in a playoff.

There were no real issues with their defense. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas and center-back Francisco Calvo were included in CONCACAF’s Best XI from the third round of qualifying, and only Canada conceded fewer goals.

But scoring looks to be a problem, with Costa Rica scoring 13 times in 14 qualification matches. Include the 1-0 victory against the Kiwis, and former Arsenal man Joel Campbell was their top scorer, but he only got three. He or a teammate will need to seriously step up here if the Central Americans are to upset the odds.

World Cup Group E Favorites

Group E stands apart from the other seven sections in one regard. It is the only one which contains more than one team who are no worse than +110 to top the group. That’s the price BetMGM is offering on Germany finishing first, while Spain is at -110.

While it won’t make your fortune, a flutter on Germany is definitely worth considering. Although Spain won their last competitive meeting, that was 12 years ago. The Germans have a win and a draw from the two clashes since and had the stronger record in qualifying.

It would be hard to make a realistic case for a bet on Japan or Costa Rica to top the group, no matter what price you can find. For the record, they are currently at +1100 and +4000, respectively.

At a push, a team can finish first with five points, but it usually takes more than that. Beyond one of the outsiders taking three points from their head-to-head meeting, where will the other points come from? Costa Rica defied such issues to top their section in 2014, but such shocks are obviously rare.

Teams That Advance From World Cup Group E

The teams who make it out of Group E will be drawn against the top two from Group F. This means Germany and Spain (most likely) will have to face a fellow European side. Belgium and Croatia are the favorites to qualify from the corresponding section, and neither will be easy to overcome.

If the odds prove correct, then we will see Spain vs. Croatia on Dec. 5 before Germany takes on Belgium the following day. The winner of the former will likely get Brazil in the quarterfinal, so there’s an argument that finishing second in Group E might not be the worst outcome.

World Cup Group E FAQ

What are the World Cup groups?

Group A: Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador, Qatar

Group B: England, USA, Wales, Iran

Group C: Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia

Group D: France, Denmark, Australia, Tunisia

Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, Costa Rica

Group F: Belgium, Croatia, Morocco, Canada

Group G: Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia, Cameroon

Group H: Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana, Korea Republic

How many teams will there be in Qatar in 2022?

Thirty-two teams from across the globe will be present in Qatar for the World Cup. Record five-time winners Brazil is the favorite to take the trophy home, with defending champions France second in the running.

Who will win the Best Young Player award?

This award is not easy to predict, but we do know that the pool of candidates will be small. The recipient has to be no more than 21-years-old, and only around five percent of the players at the last World Cup met that requirement.

There’s a good chance the winner will come from Group E. Germany’s Jamal Musiala is a definite candidate, and Florian Wirtz would’ve been, but a serious injury may rule him out. If not them, then the Barcelona pair of Gavi and Pedri will be in the running, assuming Spain has a decent tournament.