It’s go­ing to be Samba time in Rus­sia

Sportstar - - GROUP E - RAYAN ROZARIO

Pele once de­scribed foot­ball as the beau­ti­ful game, and the best ex­po­nents of it are the Brazil­ians, both on and off the pitch. The great­est foot­ball star of all time un­der­stands this best – he played to game for more than two decades and won three World Cups. And what makes a team like Brazil so at­trac­tive is its en­ter­pris­ing and at­tack­ing brand of foot­ball cou­pled with crazy fans, who come in brightly coloured cloth­ing and per­form fran­tic dance rou­tines to the loud and echo­ing samba beat. That sound is go­ing to be as loud when the five­time cham­pion takes on a con­fi­dent Switzer­land in its open­ing game on June 17.

BRAZIL

The mighty Brazil­ians lost their mojo and were gunned down 7­1 by the Ger­mans in the 2014 semifinals. The en­tire coun­try went into mourn­ing, but not its stars. They fought the qual­i­fi­ca­tion odds to be in con­tention again. And the man who brought about the big trans­for­ma­tion is none other than Tite, who took over at a time when Brazil was in sixth place with one­third of the qual­i­fiers over. Un­der the 57year­old coach, Brazil was the first side to seal a place in Rus­sia. To­day, the team is back to play­ing the style of foot­ball that once made fans fall in love with it. While Ney­mar is the team’s stand­out star, Tite does not be­lieve in one man de­liv­er­ing the goods and is hold­ing a range of op­tions close to his chest.

Squad

Goal­keep­ers: Alis­son, Eder­son, Cas­sio.

De­fend­ers: Danilo, Fag­ner, Marcelo, Filipe

Luis, Thi­ago Silva, Mar­quin­hos, Mi­randa,

Pe­dro Geromel.

Mid­field­ers: Casemiro, Fer­nand­inho, Paulinho, Fred, Re­nato Au­gusto, Philippe Coutinho, Wil­lian, Dou­glas Costa.

For­ward: Ney­mar, Tai­son, Gabriel Je­sus, Roberto Firmino.

World Cup record

20 ap­pear­ances

Cham­pion in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

SWITZER­LAND

Switzer­land is best known for its pre­ci­sion (just like its fa­mous clocks) and ball pos­ses­sion, which were there for all to see in its near­flaw­less qualifying cam­paign. Man­ager Vladimir Petkovic has in­jected a more at­tack­ing, pos­ses­sion­based style of play, but above all he has brought a sense of to­geth­er­ness over the last few years. In 2006, Switzer­land played out a goal­less draw with even­tual run­ner­up France, and it de­feated Spain 1­0 in the next edi­tion, which the lat­ter went on to win. This time around, Switzer­land may well spark a few sur­prises – a 2­0 win over the newly crowned EURO cham­pion Por­tu­gal at the start of the 2018 qualifying cam­paign is a clas­sic ex­am­ple.

Squad

Goal­keep­ers: Yann Som­mer, Ro­man Burki, Yvon Mvogo.

De­fend­ers: Stephan Licht­steiner, Johan Djourou, Ricardo Ro­driguez, Fabian Schar, Fran­cois Moubandje, Michael Lang, Manuel Akanji, Nico Elvedi.

Mid­field­ers: Valon Behrami, Xher­dan Shaqiri, Gel­son Fer­nan­des, Blerim Dze­maili, Granit Xhaka, Steven Zu­ber, Remo Freuler, De­nis Zakaria.

Strikers: Haris Se­fer­ovic, Josip Dr­mic, Breel Em­bolo, Mario Gavra­novic.

World Cup record

10 ap­pear­ances Quar­ter­fi­nals in 1934, 1938, 1954

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica, which fin­ished sec­ond to Mex­ico in its 2018 qualifying group, will take on Ser­bia at the Samara Arena on June 17. For­mer Ful­ham at­tack­ing mid­fielder Bryan Ruiz will cap­tain the side for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive World Cup. Home to fewer than five mil­lion peo­ple, Costa Rica en­joyed a great de­but by mak­ing it to the knock­out stage in Italy in 1990. But the best ever fin­ish for the team came in 2014, when it reached the quar­ter­fi­nals be­fore be­ing knocked out by the Nether­lands on penal­ties. With the abil­ity to punch above its weight, the team, which has a set of tal­ented foot­ballers with great ex­pe­ri­ence, has a good chance of get­ting past Ser­bia and ad­vanc­ing even fur­ther. Its star player is goal­keeper Key­lor Navas, a two­time

Cham­pi­ons League win­ner with Real Madrid. Joel Camp­bell is an­other shin­ing star known for his speed and match­win­ning qual­i­ties.

Squad

Goal­keep­ers: Key­lor Navas, Patrick Pem­ber­ton, Leonel Mor­eira.

De­fend­ers: Cris­tian Gamboa, Ian Smith, Ron­ald Matar­rita, Bryan Oviedo, Oscar Duarte, Gian­carlo Gon­za­lez, Fran­cisco Calvo, Ken­dall Was­ton, Johnny Acosta.

Mid­field­ers: David Guz­man, Yeltsin Te­jeda, Celso Borges, Ran­dall Azofeifa, Rod­ney Wal­lace, Bryan Ruiz, Daniel

Colin­dres, Chris­tian Bolanos.

For­wards: Johan Vene­gas, Joel Camp­bell, Marco Urena. World Cup record

4 ap­pear­ances

Quar­ter­fi­nals in 2014

SER­BIA

Af­ter eight ap­pear­ances as Yu­goslavia and two as Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro, Ser­bia fi­nally played un­der its cur­rent it­er­a­tion in 2010.

But since the dis­so­lu­tion of the So­cial­ist Fed­eral Re­pub­lic of Yu­goslavia, the team has not made it to the knock­out stages. Ser­bia qual­i­fied in 2010 but ex­ited in the group stage with two losses and one win, which

came against a pow­er­ful Ger­man side.

In­ter­est­ingly, the Ser­bian young­sters were the 2015 un­der­20 World Cup win­ners. And seven stylish stars from that squad were been in­cluded in the 27­mem­ber list for this sum­mer. Its key play­ers are Ne­manja Matic, a two­time Premier League win­ner with Chelsea; New­cas­tle’s Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic, the team’s lead­ing scorer in UEFA qual­i­fiers and Branislav Ivanovic, who re­cently reached a cen­tury of caps for his na­tional side. The team looks promis­ing and is quite pos­i­tive about its knock­out chances. It can well be the start of a new era for Ser­bian foot­ball and its fans. Squad

Goal­keep­ers: Marko Dmitro­vic, Pre­drag Ra­jkovic, Vladimir Sto­jkovic.

De­fend­ers: Alek­san­dar Ko­larov, Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Mi­lan Rodic, Antonio Rukav­ina, Uros Spa­jic, Dusko Tosic, Mi­los Veljkovic.

Mid­field­ers: Marko Gru­jic, Filip Kos­tic, Adem Lja­jic, Ne­manja Matic, Sergej Milinkovic­savic, Luka Milivo­je­vic, Ne­manja Radon­jic, Dusan Tadic, An­drija Zivkovic.

Strikers: Luka Jovic, Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic, Alek­san­dar Pri­jovic.

World cup record

11 ap­pear­ances (8 as Yu­goslavia, 2 as Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro, 1 as Ser­bia)

Third in 1930

AP

Op­tions aplenty: While Ney­mar is Brazil’s stand­out star, man­ager Tite does not be­lieve in one man de­liv­er­ing the goods and is hold­ing a range of op­tions close to his chest.

GETTY IM­AGES

Near­flaw­less qualifying cam­paign: With a sense of to­geth­er­ness over the years, Switzer­land may well spark a few sur­prises.

GETTY IM­AGES

Young guns: The Ser­bian team looks promis­ing and is quite pos­i­tive about its knock­out chances.

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