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World Cup Bracket 2018: Group Standings, Odds and Picks for Sunday

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2018

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - JUNE 08: Timo Werner of Germany runs during the International Friendly football match between Germany and Saudi Arabia at BayArena on June 8, 2018 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Germany and Brazil get the first chance to prove their credentials at the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they begin their campaigns in Russia on Sunday.

A difficult Group F opener against Mexico awaits Germany at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Meanwhile, Brazil face off against Switzerland in Group E.

Before the Selecao kick off at the Rostov Arena, Costa Rica will play Serbia in Samara. Both teams will be anxious to get a win on the board and put some early pressure on group favourites Brazil.

               

Odds and Picks

Costa Rica vs. Serbia: CRC 57-20, SRB 9-10, Draw 47-20 (Serbia to win 1-0)

Germany vs. Mexico: GER 23-50, MEX 31-5, Draw 31-10 (2-2)

Brazil vs. Switzerland: BRA 2-5, SUI 8-1, Draw 31-10 (Brazil to win 4-0)

Odds according to OddsShark.

                  

Standings

Group A (Wins, goal difference and points)

1. Russia: 1, +5, 3

2. Uruguay: 1, +1, 3

3. Egypt: 0, -1, 0

4. Saudi Arabia: 0, -5, 0

      

Group B

1. Iran: 1, +1, 3

2. Portugal: 0, 0, 1

3. Spain: 0, 0, 1

4. Morocco: 0, -1, 0

         

Group C

1. France: 1, +1, 3

2. Denmark: 1, +1, 3

3. Peru: 0, -1, 0

4. Australia: 0, -1, 0

           

Group D

1. Croatia: 1, +1, 3

2.Iceland: 0, 0, 1

3. Argentina: 0, 0, 1

4. Nigeria: 0, -2, 0

Full standings are available at FIFA.com.

              

Wins for Brazil and Serbia

Serbia will start with a win thanks to their ability to control midfield against Costa Rica. The Eagles are defined by technical quality in the middle thanks to arguably the most balanced trio at the tournament.

Serbia's talented midfielders can dominate against Costa Rica.
Serbia's talented midfielders can dominate against Costa Rica.MANAN VATSYAYANA/Getty Images

Nemanja Matic is a natural and experienced holding midfielder who will screen his defence and launch attacks from deep. Ahead of the Manchester United ace is rising star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

The 23-year-old has thrived in recent years for Lazio thanks to his impressive engine and composure in the final third. His runs will dovetail with the flair of Dusan Tadic.

Too much onus on target man Aleksandar Mitrovic could mean Serbia lack a goal or two, but Tadic and Co.'s ingenuity should help their nation find the net at least once against the 2014 quarter-finalists.

Finding the net won't be a problem for Brazil, not even after head coach Tite cast doubt on the fitness of star forward Neymar:

James Ducker @TelegraphDucker

Tite raising a few concerns about Neymar's fitness ahead of Brazil's game against Switzerland. Says he's "good enough to play very well" but admits the player is "not 100% fit yet" and that "we have to watch out for him" #bra #sui

Even if the Paris Saint-Germain star is less than 100 per cent fit, Tite's squad is loaded with match-winners in the final third. Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus and Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino can fill any void left by Neymar's absence, as can wide players Willian and Douglas Costa.

Switzerland are battle-tested and physical in midfield, but they won't be able to resist Brazil's versatile forward line.

           

Germany to Start with a Draw

The holders are still a talented team, but impressive form has eluded them en route to this tournament. Die Mannschaft have won just one of their past six matches, a mediocre run offering hope to Mexico.

El Tri can be confident thanks to their quality up top. Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela are ably supported by creative types such as Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos.

Mexico's hidden gem could be winger Hirving Lozano. He scored 17 league goals for PSV Eindhoven last season and has added a more perceptive range of movement to his trickery and running power.

Lozano can announce himself as a star at this tournament.
Lozano can announce himself as a star at this tournament.Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Germany's defence could struggle to contain the flair and pace in front of them. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and centre-back Jerome Boateng have missed a lot of time through injury, and any signs of rust will be exploited and punished.

At least the holders still have an attack as potent as any in Russia. Marco Reus, Thomas Muller and promising RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner offer significant cutting edge.

Count on Germany scoring at least once, but Mexico will match their efforts.

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