Soccer

Brazil seeks redemption. Costa Rica's star goalkeeper is key to another magical run

Brazilian star Neymar, shown here during the 2014 World Cup, is questionable for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after foot surgery in March. Brazil wants to redeem itself after losing 7-1 at home to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.
Brazilian star Neymar, shown here during the 2014 World Cup, is questionable for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after foot surgery in March. Brazil wants to redeem itself after losing 7-1 at home to Germany at the 2014 World Cup. AP

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World Cup group previews

Miami Herald soccer writer Michelle Kaufman breaks down each group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and selects her top two teams that will advance out of the group stage.

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The 2018 World Cup opens in less than a month, on June 14, in Moscow. Here is what we can expect from Group E.

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In this photo taken on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, Brazil's Gabriel Jesus controls the ball during the international friendly soccer match between Germany and Brazil in Berlin. At the World Cup four years ago, Colombia forward James Rodriguez became one of the stars of the tournament and shot to international fame with his trickery on the ball and eye for a spectacular goal. Here's a look at young players hoping to make a similar impact at this year's World Cup in Russia. Among them is France left back Benjamin Mendy, Spain midfielder Marco Asensio, Belgium winger Leroy Sane, and Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Brazil: The Brazilians hope to redeem themselves after an embarrassing 7-1 home loss to Germany at the 2014 World Cup. They have won five World Cups, have a loaded roster, topped South America in qualifying and should make a deep run again. Superstar Neymar had foot surgery in March and hasn’t played since, but aims to be back. He was injured and didn’t play in the disastrous loss to Germany at the 2014 Cup, so he is highly motivated. The team is coached by Tite, and other top players include Casemiro (Real Madrid), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona). Dani Alves is out with a knee injury.

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Real Madrid's goalkeeper Keylor Navas, center, celebrates after Madrid reached its third straight Champions League final 4-3 on aggregate at the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Costa Rica: It has hard to imagine the Ticos repeating their magical 2014 run, when they reached the quarterfinal before losing to the Dutch. But with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas minding the net, anything is possible. Costa Rica beat the United States twice in qualifying and finished second behind Mexico. They are known for their defense, having allowed just eight goals in qualifying.

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Manchester United's Nemanja Matic, left, duels for the ball with Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Arsenal at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, April 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Serbia: The strength of the Serbian team is its creative midfield, led by Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic, Luka Mikivojevic (Crystal Palaca) and Sergij Mikinkovic-Savic (Lazio). Forward Aleksander Mitrovic had a big year at Fulham and can make life difficult for even the best back line.

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AC Milan's Ricardo Rodriguez kicks the ball during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Napoli at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, April 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Switzerland: Assuming Brazil wins the group, the battle for the second spot is among Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. The Swiss reached the World Cup with the help of a controversial free kick but have a good enough team to pull off a surprise or two. Watch for AC Milan’s Ricardo Rodriguez, and Stoke’s Xhenlang Shaqiri.

Prediction: Brazil wins the group, Costa Rica finishes second.

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