Manchester United transfer target and Neymar among key players for World Cup Group E

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Brazil are the favourites to top this group and why shouldn’t they be with the amount of quality they have in their squad. Some people are tipping the five-time winners to lift the prestigious trophy in Russia and led by Neymar, they have every chance of doing so.

The battle for second place in this group looks set to be an intriguing one, with Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland all confident of qualifying for the knockout stage.

Costa Rica surprisingly reached the quarter-finals in 2014 and will be aiming for a similar run this time around, but will be pushed hard by Serbia, who qualified for the tournament in emphatic fashion by topping their group.

The Swiss have a talented squad and have a target of reaching the quarter-final stage but after qualifying through the play-offs and aided by a controversial decision, that may be just a step too far.

Here are the players to keep an eye on in this group.

Brazil – Neymar

Neymar

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar won the French Ligue 1 player of the year, even though he was absent for the final few months due to injury.

In the 2014 World Cup, the planet’s most expensive player put on a spectacular show for people all around the globe by scoring four goals in the group stages and if it wasn’t for his horrific injury, Brazil might just have gone on to win it.

There’s no doubt he’s the star man in this Brazil side and the hopes of the nation rest on their generation’s golden boy, who netted 27 times in all competitions this season.

Costa Rica – Joel Campbell

Joel Campbell

The 25-year-old hasn’t had the best of seasons, but he offers this Costa Rica side much needed pace and flair in attack.

Campbell netted just twice in La Liga this season for Real Betis and is much criticised for his inconsistency, which is one of the main reasons why Arsenal have loaned him out six times overall.

The winger, who can operate anywhere along the front line, could see his stock rise rapidly if he can be the driving force for his country next month.

Serbia – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Sergej Milinković-Savić

The Lazio midfielder’s form for the last two years means he is one of the most sought-after players in Europe and he could be set for a mega-move this summer with Manchester United linked.

The dynamic 23-year-old got his name on the scoresheet 12 times in the Italian Serie A this season and also starred in their Europa League campaign.

His tenacity, dribbling and passing ability will be key for Serbia if they are to unlock some tough defences in this group but if he finds space, then he will most certainly cause danger.

Switzerland – Xherdan Shaqiri

shaqiri 1

The Stoke winger always seems to produce moments of magic when he pulls on the Switzerland shirt.

Shaqiri netted a superb hat-trick in the 2014 world cup group stages which helped the Swiss advance into the knockout stages, where they were eliminated by Argentina.

The 26-year-old scored eight times in the Premier League as Stoke were relegated, but he will be hoping to turn that disappointment into joy by being successful with his country in Russia.

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Lionel Messi expects Argentina to compete for World Cup

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Lionel Messi is confident Argentina can grow into genuine contenders to win the World Cup.

Having rallied to secure third spot in the CONMEBOL qualifying group, Argentina were thrashed 6-1 by Spain in a friendly during March.

Jorge Sampaoli’s men, though, will face Israel in the final warm-up match before heading to Russia on the back of a 4-0 win over Haiti, when Messi scored a hat-trick.

Argentina open their Group D campaign against Iceland at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow on June 16, before taking on Croatia and Nigeria.

Messi feels La Albiceleste can bring some confidence into the tournament, which they will be looking to win for a third time and go one better than when beaten by Germany in the 2014 final.

In an interview with Paper Magazine, Messi said: “It will be important to prepare well, because in the qualifiers we were fighting up to the end and we didn’t have time to prepare ourselves.

“We still have to make ourselves stronger as a team to be in the running to win and be at the same level as other teams like France, Germany, Brazil or Spain, but we have a good group of players and the Argentine team is always going to be a candidate to win, it doesn’t matter how we get there.

“We always aim to win and we will try to go slowly, but strongly to advance in the competition.”

Messi may head to Russia lauded as one of the leading footballers in the world, but the 30-year-old Barcelona forward intends to keep himself grounded.

“I don’t consider myself the best, I think I am just another player. On the field, we are all the same when the game begins,” Messi added.

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England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford handed number one shirt for World Cup

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Jordan Pickford appears to have won the race to be England’s first-choice goalkeeper at the World Cup after being handed the number one jersey.

The Everton stopper seemed to be in pole position as he was handed the gloves for Saturday’s 2-1 warm-up victory at home to Nigeria.

Pickford has just three senior caps but has been backed by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate and now looks set to start in Russia.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a fine season for a struggling Toffees side, making 45 appearances.

Jack Butland and Nick Pope are England’s other goalkeepers for the tournament after Joe Hart, who featured in nine of the 10 qualifiers, was left out.

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