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QUALIFICATION RECORD: Unbeaten in 17 matches throughout CONMEBOL’s qualification, Brazil impressed more than most en-route to Qatar, racking up 14 wins and three draws – scoring 40 and only conceding five along the way.
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KEY MAN: Neymar
ONE TO WATCH: Vinicius Jnr
TOURNAMENT PROSPECTS: It’s win or bust for Brazil. They come in as rightful favourites, and anything less will be considered a failure. While they have the might of some top European sides and old rivals in Argentina to contend with, there is no reason they should fear anyone. A potential path to lifting the trophy could see them face off with the likes of Spain, Argentina & France. It won’t be easy but they’ll fancy their chances.
TRADER TIPS: Winner/Golden Boot Double – Brazil/Neymar.
MANAGER: Dragan Stojković
QUALIFICATION RECORD: Dominated Portugal away in their last game and then grabbed victory through a 90th-minute Aleksandar Mitrović goal to secure top spot and consign their opponents to the playoffs.
KEY MAN: Aleksandar Mitrović
ONE TO WATCH: Dušan Vlahović
TOURNAMENT PROSPECTS: This generation has every reason to be optimistic, with some top-class players in their team. Serbia come into the tournament having dominated qualification and the recent Nations League. They could be real ‘dark horses’ in Qatar. In Aleksandar Mitrović and Dušan Vlahovic they have two deadly forwards who should be able to cause any defence problems. Their attacking style does leave them open to conceding a few, though.
TRADER TIPS: Team Top Scorer – Aleksandar Mitrovic.
MANAGER: Murat Yakin
QUALIFICATION RECORD: Went unbeaten, finishing above Euro 2020 champions Italy who they drew with twice.
KEY MAN: Granit Xhaka
ONE TO WATCH: Fabian Schar
TOURNAMENT PROSPECTS: Haven’t reached the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 1954, and while it’s hard to see them topping the group, a win in their opening game against Cameroon should leave a tasty shoot-out between themselves and Serbia in the final group match.
Breel Embolo will lead the charge from the front and be served by the creative talents of Xherdan Shaqiri and Ruben Vargas. Arsenal’s redemption man Xhaka provides the steel in midfield and Newcastle’s Schar gets play started out of the back. He’s got a wondergoal in him too if need be.
TRADER TIPS: Stage of Elimination – Quarter Finals.
MANAGER: Rigobert Song
QUALIFICATION RECORD: Needed a finalday win over Ivory Coast to reach the playoffs, where Algeria won 1-0 away in the first-leg before a goal in the fourth minute of added time in the second sent Cameroon through on away goals.
KEY MAN: Vincent Aboubakar
ONE TO WATCH: Bryan Mbeumo
TOURNAMENT PROSPECTS: Picking up points will be tough, but they can cause problems for any opponent. Cameroon are outsiders to get out of the group, and goalkeeper Andre Onana can expect to be busy. If they can keep themselves in contention, a weakened Brazil line-up who have already qualified could lie in wait on matchday three. If they do cause a surprise, Aboubakar will likely be the reason why. He’s a strong, physical striker who makes finishing look very easy.
TRADER TIPS: Top Team Goal Scorer – Vincent Aboubakar.
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