Group E is host to Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica. We’d expect the list to be dominated by five time world Champions, Brazil. Who spoils the samba party?
5. Fernando Luiz Roza (Brazil)
The Man City man just pips his teammate Casemiro to the list mainly because his renaissance this season is deserving of it. If you had told people four years ago after the Semi-final massacre Brazil suffered that Fernandinho would still be part of the Brazil set up at this point in time, your sanity might have been questioned. But alas, Fernandinho is here and he’s in damn good form. Brazil’s midfield will be defensively stronger compared to 2014 with Casemiro thrown into the mix which will allow Fernandinho greater leeway to contribute offensively.
4. Sergej Milinković-Savić (Serbia)
Savić is coming off a successful season that has seen him catch the eyes of many around the footballing world. Lazio are loathe to lose their prized asset, but know that if Savić performs for Serbia like he did for them they will be receiving a significant cash injection. It’s quite a surprise that at 23 years old Savić has only managed three caps for his nation, but with Serbia being a predominantly conservative team, he has found opportunities hard to come by. Hopefully his cap total at least doubles in Russia.
3. Philippe Coutinho Correia (Brazil)
The man who will attempt to fill the Neymar sized hole in Barcelona. It’s probably because his season was split across two different teams that people aren’t talking about the fact Coutinho has probably just enjoyed his best year of football. In regards to goals alone, he’s had his most productive year with 22 between Liverpool and Barcelona. He’s got magic in his boots and an eye for a scorcher into the top corner. Beware.
2. Marcelo Vieira da Silva Júnior (Brazil)
The best full back in the game bar none. Marcelo has aged like fine wine and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. His ability to patrol and control an entire flank is essential to Brazil’s game as he can not only combine with Neymar but free him up entirely. In a squad boasting the likes of Firmino, Jesus, and Coutinho, it is a testament to Marcelo’s ability that he is likely Brazil’s second most important attacking player.
1. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (Brazil)
How different would things have been four years ago had Neymar not had his World Cup ended by the knee of Columbia’s Zúñiga? The then 22 year old was one of the stars of the tournament up until that point and his absence was keenly felt. Now 26 and having stepped out the shadow of Lionel Messi by joining and excelling at PSG, the expectations will to go all the way in Russia. He missed most of the second half of the season, but if we can take anything from Brazil’s World Cup warm-up games it is that Neymar looks good to go.