Spain is a standard in the World Cup. They have made it to every World Cup since 1974, and have won it once in 2010. They followed their victory by crashing and burning out in 2014, failing to make it out of the group stage. They returned to the round of 16 in 2018 before losing to Russia. Spain made finished 3rd in the 2020 European Championship and finished 2nd in the 2021 Nations League to France(4th). Spain’s recent form has been good. They only lost to Switzerland(15th) 1-2, while beating Portugal(9th), Switzerland(15th), and the Czech Republic (35th).
Spain’s Strength is its mixture of talented veterans and young talented newbies. Gavi (18), Pedri(19), and Ansu Fati(19) are all looking to make a splash in the tournament to cement their names in Spanish soccer. They are led by winners with Sergio Busquests(one of the best defensive midfielders of all time) and Jordi Alba (one of the best left-backs of his generation). Busquests is a World Cup winning the 2010 World Cup. Both are winners at the club level with Barcelona.
Spain’s Weakness is at striker. There is no clear threat on the attack. They are not reliable to score. Alvaro Morata is their best option. He has struggled on the international stage. Capped 57 times, only scoring 27 times. He is off to a better start this year, scoring 5 through the first 12 compared to the 12 he scored through 48. He has never been a goal scorer, only recording 20 goals in a season two times despite being on the best teams as a striker is worrying.
Player to Watch: Gavi
The 18-year-old midfielder will be a cornerstone for Spain. Similar to Andrés Iniesta, considered to be one of the best mid-fielders of all time. His biggest strength is his intelligence in the game. This is why he is compared to Iniesta. His ability to change the tempo of the game on the pitch is something only the most creative and intelligent players can do. He will be the one to start the counterattack on this Spanish team. This will be his first tournament of many to come.
Costa Rica (31st)
Costa Rica has a spotty record at best at the World Cup. The highest finish was in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. They quickly fell apart in 2018, failing to make it out of the group stage, recording only a draw. Costa Rica finished 5th in the 2019 and 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup, losing to Mexico in 2019 and Canada in 2021. The recent form has been excellent. Winning 6 of the last 8 games, defeating the United States(16th) 2-0, Canada(41st) 1-0, Honduras(80th) 2-1, drawing 2 of them to South Korea (28th) and Mexico(13th).
Costa Rica’s Strength is its spirit. The country and its citizens breathe soccer. This creates a focus on developing soccer players. It also creates players who play hard. This has brought Costa Rica to 31st and as high as 15th in the world at one point.
Costa Rica’s Weakness is its age. The youngest regular starter is 28 years old, while the average age of a starter is 32 years old. To put this into perspective Spain’s average starter age is 26, and the United States average age is 24 years old, the youngest of the tournament.
Player to Watch: Francisco Calvo
The 30-year-old is an all-around great player. He is more offensive than the average centre-back in the top leagues, he is a better passer than most Centre-Backs, and excels at interceptions. Intercepting at a rate of 2.69, which puts him in the top 2% of Centre-backs. He is in the peak of his career. He and Navas are the backbones of the defense of Costa Rica.
A top five nation that has experienced a decline. Germany won the 2014 World Cup, marking the third time they won the tournament. They followed up that victory with a 3rd place finish in the European Championship in 2016, then winning the Confederations Cup in 2017. However, this is where the decline started, failing to make it out of the group stage in 2018. In the 2020 European Championship, they finished 15th. Their recent form is nothing to get excited about as it is mostly draws. They have played 9 games this year. They have a record of 2 wins, 6 draws, and 1 loss, The loss coming at the hands of Hungary(36th), and beating Israel(76th) 2-0 and Italy(6th) 5-2. The 6 draws came against Netherlands(8th), Italy(6th), Hungary(36th), and England(5th) twice, with one game ending in a draw after England overcame a 2-goal deficit before conceding late, ending the game at 3-3.
Germany’s Strength of this team is its talent. Germany’s squad is too talented. The likes of Niklas Sule, Kai Havertz, Leroy Sané, Serge Gnabry, and Thomas Muller.
Germany’s Weakness of this squad is its mentality. Once it checked out on a game, they leak goals. Through 9 games this year, they have allowed 9 goals in total. They allowed 1 goal in the first half of the game. Once the second half starts, Germany surrendered 8 goals.
Player to Watch: Leroy Sané
The 26-year-old forward is excelling at his club this season. His club form sees him with 14 appearances with 9 goals and 3 assists. Sane’s biggest strength is his dribbling ability. Among the world’s best at dribbling the ball past his opponent. He will be vital to the attack for Germany this World Cup.
Japan’s history with the World Cup is quite new. They made their first tournament in 1998. They developed a steady pattern of group stage exits followed by a round of 16 exits. If this pattern holds, they will exit the tournament in the group stage. In other competitions, they finished 2nd in the AFC Asian Cup, a tournament they have won 4 times in the last 8. They also won the EAFF E-1 Championship. A tournament that consists of the best east Asian teams. Japan did not concede a goal throughout the tournament. Japan’s recent form has been decent to good. The only losses this year came from Brazil(1st) 0-1 and Tunisia(30th) 0-3. Picking up wins against Paraguay(47th) 4-1, South Korea(28th) 3-0, and the United States(16th) 2-0 . Drawing with the likes of China(79th) and Ecuador(44th).
Japan’s Strength is its style. Japan loves the counterattack. They play defensively until they can hit back on the attack. Japan strives for this opportunity.
Japan’s Weakness is going to be in goal. All of their goalkeepers are at least 30 years old and not in form at the club level. Daniel Schmidt is their best option. With 13 goals allowed in 12 games, with 4 clean sheets.
Player To Watch: Takehiro Tomiyasu
The 23-year-old defensive back will be important for kickstarting the counterattack. His strength is his ability to win the ball in the defensive half, winning 2.11 aerial duels per 90 minutes. His ability to move the ball down the pitch is also a strength. He attempts 3.77 passes of 10+ yards per 90 with a passing completion rate of 83%. Tomiyasu is an important figure in Japan’s style.
- Germany 1st
- Japan 2nd
- Spain 3rd
- Costa Rica 4th
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