Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

2014 Fifa World Cup: Team-by-team guide

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke holds up the name of England during the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06: FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke holds up the name of England during the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  Margareth Menezes and Olodum perform on stage after the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06: Margareth Menezes and Olodum perform on stage after the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
COSTA DO SAUIPE, BAHIA - DECEMBER 05:  Former Argentina footballer Juan Pablo Sorin speaks to members of the media ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 5, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
COSTA DO SAUIPE, BAHIA - DECEMBER 05: Former Argentina footballer Juan Pablo Sorin speaks to members of the media ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 5, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

The groups for next year's World Cup have been decided following Friday's draw in Brazil. Here we run down the draw and take a closer look at the 32 qualified teams.

GROUP A

BRAZIL

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari

Star man: Neymar

Tournament best: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

Success at the Confederations Cup last summer has raised hopes of a record-extending sixth World Cup triumph on home soil next summer. Scolari has previous after taking them to victory in 2002, and if Barcelona forward Neymar shines then Brazil could be about to witness the mother of all parties.

CROATIA

Coach: Niko Kovac

Star man: Mario Mandzukic

Tournament best: Third 1998

They may not be the class of '98 standard but there is enough quality within the squad with the talents of Bayern Munich's Mandzukic and Real Madrid's Luka Modric supplemented by the likes of Niko Kranjcar, Eduardo and Nikica Jelavic.

MEXICO

Coach: Miguel Herrera

Star man: Javier Hernandez

Tournament best: Quarter-finals 1970, 1986

They needed the intercontinental play-offs to qualify, but routed New Zealand 9-3 on aggregate once there. A blend of seasoned veterans and emerging stars - built around the focal point of Manchester United striker Hernandez - will make Mexico a dangerous proposition in Brazil.

CAMEROON

Coach: Volker Finke

Star man: Samuel Eto'o

Tournament best: Quarter-finals 1990

They may be a way off emulating the ground-breaking Cameroon side of 1990 but they remain a competitive force. Eto'o's best days are well behind him but he is still the figurehead for the side, for whom Stephane Mbia, Alex Song and Jean Makoun also play an important role.

GROUP B

SPAIN

Coach: Vicente del Bosque

Star man: Andres Iniesta

Tournament best: Winners 2010

Having enjoyed the best spell in their country's history there is a sense that Spain are not as strong as they once were as their golden generation loses some of its lustre. However, that does not mean the depth of their talent should be underestimated as the likes of Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas and Michu have added new impetus while the quality of Iniesta, David Silva and Xavi remains.

HOLLAND

Coach: Louis van Gaal

Star man: Robin van Persie

Tournament best: Runners-up 1974, 1978, 2010

Van Gaal made amends for his failure to lead the Oranje to the 2002 tournament with an impressive qualification campaign, but memories are still fresh of their awful showing at Euro 2012. If the egos can be managed they could go far, although getting to the final again seems unlikely.

CHILE

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Star man: Alexis Sanchez

Tournament best: Third 1962

Chile boast a good combination of experienced campaigners like Claudio Bravo, Pablo Contreras and Jorge Valdivia with exciting younger players including Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez and Fiorentina's Matias Fernandez. Demonstrated their potential by playing England off the park in a November friendly at Wembley.

AUSTRALIA

Coach: Ange Postecoglou

Star man: Robbie Kruse

Tournament best: Last 16 2006

The Socceroos qualified from the Asian section but some terrible friendly results, plus a failure to truly refresh an ageing squad, cost German coach Holger Osieck his job. Getting out of the group phase may be the best they can hope for.

GROUP C

COLOMBIA

Coach: Jose Pekerman

Star man: Radamel Falcao

Tournament best: Last 16 1990

Qualified in relative comfort and playing the finals in South America should also be an advantage to Pekerman's side. In Falcao they have a born goalscorer, allied to the creative talents of his Monaco team-mate James Rodriguez, and they will feel well capable of at least matching their best-ever World Cup performance.

GREECE

Coach: Fernando Santos

Star man: Georgios Samaras

Tournament best: Group stage 1994, 2010

Goals have been a problem and so the pressure will be on the likes of Samaras and veteran Dimitris Salpingidis to deliver up front, particularly if Greece can keep things tight at the back as they have done throughout qualifying.

IVORY COAST

Coach: Sabri Lamouchi

Star man: Yaya Toure

Tournament best: Group stage 2006, 2010

The African nation possess plenty of goal threat from Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Wilfried Bony and Yaya Toure but they have struggled to transfer that into success at major tournaments despite regularly being one of their continent's standard-bearers.

JAPAN

Coach: Alberto Zaccheroni

Star man: Keisuke Honda

Tournament best: Last 16 2002, 2010

Stormed to qualification in their pool and Zaccheroni has moulded them into a strong squad, but three defeats out of three at the Confederations Cup last summer leaves them open to question about their top-level credentials.

GROUP D

URUGUAY

Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez

Star man: Edinson Cavani

Tournament best: Winners 1930, 1950

The Copa America holders struggled to qualify, needing a play-off against Jordan to book their place after narrowly missing out on the top four of the South American qualifying section. With players like Cavani and Luis Suarez, though, they have more than enough ability to cause problems. Won the World Cup the last time it was held in Brazil, back in 1950.

COSTA RICA

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto

Star man: Bryan Ruiz

Tournament best: Last 16 1990

Seized upon Mexico's struggles to follow the United States as the pace-setters in the CONCACAF section, but going any further than the group stage will be a lot to ask.

ENGLAND

Coach: Roy Hodgson

Star man: Wayne Rooney

Tournament best: Winners 1966

England are still looking for the magic formula which will get them past the quarter-final hurdle for only the second time since they lifted the trophy on home soil. Despite concerns raised about the quality of the current squad, they topped their group without losing a game and were among the top four highest scorers in the European qualifying zone.

ITALY

Coach: Cesare Prandelli

Star man: Mario Balotelli

Tournament best: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006

Prandelli's team performed well in reaching the Euro 2012 final and would love nothing more than to equal Brazil's record of five World Cup successes on Brazilian soil.

GROUP E

SWITZERLAND

Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld

Star man: Xherdan Shaqiri

Tournament best: Quarter-finals 1934, 1938, 1954

Hitzfeld will be one of the most experienced coaches among the 32 finalists, and he oversees a group featuring several star names from the German Bundesliga. A new generation which has impressed at under-age tournaments in recent years - spearheaded by Bayern Munich's Shaqiri - are now poised to strut their stuff at senior level. They arguably had the easiest route to qualification of all the European entrants however.

ECUADOR

Coach: Reinaldo Rueda

Star man: Antonio Valencia

Tournament best: Last 16 2006

Although Ecuador lost their final qualifier to Chile, they secured automatic qualification on goal difference alone ahead of Uruguay. Their recent successes have come on the back of the emergence of players like Valencia, Cristian Noboa and Felipe Caicedo.

FRANCE

Coach: Didier Deschamps

Star man: Franck Ribery

Tournament best: Winners 1998

Scraped through qualifying after coming from 2-0 down in the first play-off leg to beat Ukraine. In Ribery they possess a world-class wide man while the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Valbuena offer additional quality in midfield.

HONDURAS

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez

Star man: Wilson Palacios

Tournament best: Group stages 1982, 2010

Honduras have undergone several changes since South Africa, but pulled it all together in time to enjoy a successful qualifying campaign, finally sealing their place with a 2-2 draw against Jamaica in the final match.

GROUP F

ARGENTINA

Coach: Alejandro Sabella

Star man: Lionel Messi

Tournament best: Winners 1978, 1986

Barcelona superstar Messi will turn 27 during next summer's tournament and this looks his best chance to add major international glory to his glittering club successes. Plenty of other attacking options are also available to coach Sabella, but the defence might be a weak link against top-class opposition.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Coach: Safet Susic

Star man: Edin Dzeko

Tournament best: Never qualified

The nation born out of the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s is heading into uncharted territory. They will rely heavily on the Champions League experience of Manchester City striker Dzeko and midfielders Miralem Pjanic and captain Emir Spahic while in Asmir Begovic they have a top-class goalkeeper.

IRAN

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Star man: Javad Nekounam

Tournament best: Group stage 1978, 1998, 2006

Topped their qualification pool ahead of South Korea and although the side contains players like Nekounam with European pedigree, it is difficult to see them progressing beyond the groups.

NIGERIA

Coach: Stephen Keshi

Star man: Victor Moses

Tournament best: Last 16 1994, 1998

Moses may only be 22 but has quickly become a key player since making his debut for the Super Eagles in 2012. Goalkeeper and captain Vincent Enyeama provides stability from the back with Chelsea's John Obi Mikel their midfield enforcer.

GROUP G

GERMANY

Coach: Joachim Low

Star man: Bastian Schweinsteiger

Tournament best: Winners 1954, 1974, 1990 (all as West Germany)

Arguably Europe's best hope of bringing the trophy back from South America. Low's side is littered with players steeped in top-level experience and this may be the time for Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Schweinsteiger et al to make the final step at international level.

PORTUGAL

Coach: Paulo Bento

Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo

Tournament best: Third 1966

In Ronaldo Portugal possess a player worthy of gracing the game's biggest stage but therein lies their problem as they rely so heavily on the Real Madrid forward's unquestionable star quality. Frequently unstoppable but when the world's best defenders can isolate him he has few team-mates who can make the difference.

GHANA

Coach: James Kwesi Appiah

Star man: Asamoah Gyan

Tournament best: Quarter-finals 2010

Ghana have often been the standard-bearers for African football and their controversial heart-breaking last-eight exit on their home continent at the last World Cup prevented them making history. Captain Gyan provided most of the goals in qualifying but midfielder Michael Essien, despite his injury problems, remains a pivotal player while the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari and Andre Ayew provide considerable experience.

UNITED STATES

Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Star man: Clint Dempsey

Tournament best: Third 1930

Klinsmann struggled initially to make his mark but his team ultimately qualified with comparative comfort. Reaching the quarter-finals looks like a realistic goal.

GROUP H

BELGIUM

Coach: Marc Wilmots

Star man: Eden Hazard

Tournament best: Fourth 1986

Back at the finals over a decade since their last appearance, Wilmots presides over a highly capable generation of players who could go far in Brazil.

ALGERIA

Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic

Star man: Madjid Bougherra

Tournament best: Group stages 1982, 1986, 2010

Scraped through qualifying on away goals against Burkina Faso, who have never made it to a World Cup, and are likely to struggle in Brazil having had a poor showing at the African Nations Cup.

RUSSIA

Coach: Fabio Capello

Star man: Alexander Kokorin

Tournament best: Fourth 1966 (as the USSR)

Russia's recent World Cup record is a story of failure but Brazil offers the 2018 hosts the chance to start redressing the balance. Having missed three of the last four tournaments and not progressed beyond the group stage since 1986, topping Group F ahead of Portugal suggests things may be about to improve with the promise offered by 22-year-old forward Kokorin backed by the experience of the likes of goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and striker Alexander Kerzhakov.

SOUTH KOREA

Coach: Hong Myung-bo

Star man: Son Heung-min

Tournament best: Fourth 2002

Koreans hope that 2002 captain Hong can inspire the current crop, but an appearance in the last 16 might be the best they can achieve.

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