Road to Brazil

Sky Sports looks at all of the 32 teams who have qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Last Updated: 06/12/13 at 18:23

As the countdown to the World Cup finals continues, we already know all of the nations who will be competing for the greatest prize in football in Brazil in 2014.

And, here, Sky Sports takes a look at the countries who will be heading for Rio next summer with a comprehensive guide to their qualification, manager and FIFA ranking.


How they qualified: European Group A winners

Manager: Marc Wilmots

FIFA ranking: 11th

World Cup record: 1986's semi-finals

Key man: Eden Hazard

British-based players: Simon Mignolet (Sunderland), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Romelu Lukaku (Everton) and Christian Benteke (Aston Villa).

De Bruyne: Celebrates with Lukaku

Belgium qualified for six consecutive World Cups between 1982 and 2002 but this will be their first appearance at the finals since the last of that run. It's fair to say that the success of this squad was highly anticipated, having assembled arguably their greatest group of players since Enzo Scifo & Co took the Red Devils to the knockout stages in three successive tournaments. Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Kevin Mirallas, Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Benteke are all so well known to Premier League audiences that Belgium can no longer be considered dark horses for the biggest prize in football. They appear to have clicked too with qualification assured in October as a strong Croatia side were beaten 2-1 in Zagreb. There will be tougher tasks ahead for Marc Wilmots and his side in Brazil but this young side is improving and could rise to the challenge.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

How they qualified: European Group G winners

Manager: Safet Susic

FIFA ranking: 21st

World Cup record: Competing for the first time

Key player: Edin Dzeko

British-based players: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City) and Edin Dzeko (Manchester City).

Dzeko: Goal threat

An incredibly tight Group G eventually finished with Bosnia and Herzegovina making history by qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. Leading into the final game, Greece and Bosnia were level on 22 points with the Greeks facing the relatively easy task of beating Liechtenstein at home, whilst the Balkan side faced a tricky away clash in Lithuania. Dimitrios Salpingidis put the Greeks ahead early on, meaning Bosnia were under pressure to find a goal. Fortunately for them, Vedad Ibisevic scored with just over 20 minutes remaining and despite finishing on level points, Bosnia and Herzegovina triumphed as group winners by a matter of goal difference. The Dragons will be largely thankful to Ibisevic and his strike partner Edin Dzeko, who between them have rifled in 18 goals, with Dzeko scoring an impressive ten goals in ten games.


How they qualified: Play-off winners

Manager: Niko Kovac

FIFA ranking: 16th

World Cup record: 3rd place 1998

Key man: Luka Modric

British-based players: Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Niko Kranjcar (QPR) and Nikica Jelavic (Everton).

Luka Modric (R) will hope to continue his league form.

Croatia squeezed into a playoff position despite late competition from Serbia, who finished three points adrift of the Croats.

A disappointing finish to Croatia's campaign saw them fail to win their final four games, including two defeats to Gordon Strachan's Scotland. Eventually falling nine points behind group winners Belgium, it was a poor finish after a blistering start saw them unbeaten in their opening six games.

They were held to a 0-0 draw in Iceland in the first leg playoff, but finished the tie off in Zagreb after Dario Srna and Mario Mandzukic's goals, with the latter being sent off in the 38th minute for a high challenge.

Despite a faltering end to an otherwise promising campaign, Croatia's talent throughout is undeniable. An enviable midfield consists of Niko Kranjcar, Sevilla's playmaker Ivan Rakitic, Hamburg's promising Milan Badelj and their star-man, Luka Modric.

Modric's peformances have vastly improved for Real Madrid and he will be keen to supply the ammunition for an impressive forward line including Ivica Olic, Eduardo and Everton's Nikica Jelavic.


How they qualified: European Group H winners

Manager: Roy Hodgson

FIFA ranking: 13th

World Cup record: 1966's winners

Key man: Wayne Rooney

Gerrard and Rooney: Key men

The nation breathed a huge sigh of relief as Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard's goals against Poland ensured automatic qualification from Group H. The match brought contrasting memories for the England faithful, with the fond recollection of David Beckham's last-gasp free-kick against Greece and the heart-breaking loss against Croatia in 2007 ensuring that the fans were in for a nervy evening. They needn't had worried as an impressive 2-0 victory meant that Ukraine had no other alternative than to settle for a runners-up spot. Despite a mixed campaign which has seen disappointing draws at home to Ukraine and away to Montenegro, Roy Hodgson's side finished unbeaten after conceding only four goals and scoring an impressive 31 in ten games.


How they qualified: Play-off winners

Manager: Didier Deschamps

FIFA ranking: 19th

World Cup record: 1998 winners

Key man: Franck Ribery

British-based players: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Samir Nasri (Manchester City), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) and Loic Remy (Newcastle United).

France looked unlikely to compete in Brazil.

It seemed that France were going to miss out on the World Cup after succumbing to a 2-0 defeat against Ukraine in Kiev, but an explosive performance in the second leg ensured that there will be French representation in the World Cup for the fifth successive time.

After many had ruled out France's chances of competing in next year's tournament, Deschamps' side attacked from the first whistle and duly deserved a 3-0 victory, finishing the match with a mammoth 24 shots.

An impressive midfield including Samir Nasri, Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye have been overshadowed recently by the form of Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery. The ex-Marseille man was instrumental in Bayern's Champions League glory, with many touting him as the player of 2013.

Much like Ronaldo, it would have been an injustice for Ribery if he wasn't given the opportunity to shine next year, but fortunately his talents will be showcased to a global audience.

France are incredibly unpredictable as shown in past World Cup campaigns and have a decent enough outfit to be a genuine title contender.


How they qualified: European Group C winners

Manager: Joachim Low

FIFA ranking: 2nd

World Cup record: Three-time winners

Key man: Mesut Ozil

British-based players: Andre Schurrle (Chelsea) and Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil (both Arsenal).

Ozil: Key man for Germany

Such is the expectation surrounding Germany that the feeling in the country is that a major tournament triumph is long overdue. The football team has gone close in each of the last two European Championships and has finished in the top three at the last three World Cups but you have to go back to Euro '96 for the last silverware for Germany. This team surely have a chance of ending that run. Supplemented by the backbone of the all-conquering Bayern Munich team, Jogi Low can also count on Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil and supremely gifted Borussia Dortmund duo Mats Hummels and Marco Reus. They certainly made light of qualifying, seeing off a group that included Sweden, Austria and Republic of Ireland in style by winning eight of their first nine games to qualify with a game to spare. The plan will be to go all the way in Brazil.


How they qualified: Play-off winners

Manager: Fernando Santos

FIFA ranking: 12th

World Cup record: 1994 and 2010 group stage

Key man: Sokratis Papastathpoulos

British-based players: Giorgos Karagounis (Fulham) and Giorgos Samaras (Celtic).

Kostas Mitroglou has been in impressive form.

Despite winning the European Championship in 2004, Greece have only competed in three World Cup tournaments, with their first appearance as late as 1994.

They were very unfortunate to miss out on automatic qualification after a late Vedad Ibisevic goal for Bosnia and Herzegovina put them at the top of Group G on goal difference, leaving the Greeks to a tough play-off encounter with Romania.

Konstantinos Mitroglou carried on his blistering start to the season, having scored 14 in ten for Olympiakos, by firing two past Romania in the first leg helping Fernando Santos' side to a 3-1 first leg win. After holding on in Bucharest to clinch qualification, Greece will be hoping to make a splash in South America after previously failing to get out of the group stages.

After Traianos Dellas and Michalis Kapsis led a formidable defence to glory in 2004, Santos will be turning to his star man Sokratis Papastathpoulos for similar performances. The Borussia Dortmund defender has featured heavily this year for the Champions League finalists after his switch from Werder Bremen in the summer and will be flanked by astute full-backs in Vasilis Torosidis and Jose Holebas.

Although not massively blessed with attacking riches, their defence conceded just four goals in ten qualifying matches and will be a frustrating outfit to play against next year.


How they qualified: European Group B winners

Manager: Cesare Prandelli

FIFA ranking: 7th

World Cup record: Four-time winners

Key man: Andrea Pirlo

British-based players: Emmanuele Giaccherini (Sunderland) and Pablo Osvaldo (Southampton).

Prandelli: Italy boss

A 2-1 win over Czech Republic on 10th September ensured Italy will be at the World Cup in 2014 after winning Group B in the European zone of qualifying with two games to spare. Cesare Prandelli's side did, however, make hard work of the progress after having to come from a goal down against the Czechs, with Mario Balotelli scoring the winning penalty. It will be Italy's 18th appearance at the World Cup and the 2006 champions and Euro 2012 finalists will have high expectations. The Azzurri were unbeaten in Group B at the time they qualified after only dropping points in earlier games with the Czechs and Bulgaria. They will therefore travel to Brazil with the hope of emulating their previous World Cup wins of seven years ago and in 1934, 1938 and 1982.


How they qualified: European Group D winners

Manager: Louis Van Gaal

FIFA ranking: 9th

World Cup record: Three-time runners-up

Key man: Robin van Persie

British-based players: Maarten Stekelenburg (Fulham), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Leroy Fer (Norwich City) and Robin van Persie (Manchester United).

Van Persie: Top scorer

Netherlands have the chance to end their long wait for a first World Cup title after they qualified for Brazil as winners of Group D in the European zone. A 2-0 win over Andorra on 10th September courtesy of two Robin van Persie goals ensured the Dutch top spot in their group with two games still to play, like Italy. Netherlands impressively dropped just two points before they qualified after a surprise draw in Estonia at the beginning of September and they will be planning for another positive finals. But their main motivation will be to avenge their final defeat by Spain in 2010's World Cup to add to their disappointment of also losing finals in their golden era of 1974 and 1978. Manchester United's Van Persie will be a key weapon in their armoury, as the striker currently sits joint top with Bosnia and Herzegovina & Manchester City's Edin Dzeko in the European zone goalscoring charts.


How they qualified: Play-off winners

Manager: Paulo Bento

FIFA ranking: 5th

World Cup record: 1966 Third Place

Key man: Cristiano Ronaldo

British-based players: Nani (Manchester United).

Cristiano Ronaldo was superb in the playoffs against Sweden.

The hotly-anticipated play-off battle between Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden did not disappoint, finishing 4-2 on aggregate to the Portuguese, with all goals scored by Ronaldo and Ibra.

Although there is a worldwide sigh of disappointment at the exclusion of Zlatan in Brazil, a World Cup without Ronaldo would have been even more bizarre, after his hat-trick in the 3-1 second leg victory in Stockholm had the world applauding in unison.

Paulo Bento's side finished the group one point behind Fabio Capello's Russia, after disappointing home draws against Northern Ireland and Israel hampered their chances of automatic qualification.

Along with Ronaldo, they have genuine talent in Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles and Pepe, ensuring that all areas of the pitch are covered.

Any team with Ronaldo in their side is going to be hard to beat, but despite impressing continuously for his club, he has never fully impressed in an international tournament. If he can guide Portugal to glory next year, he'd undeniably go down as one of the best players of all time.


How they qualified: European Group F winners

Manager: Fabio Capello

FIFA ranking: 22nd

World Cup record: 1966's Fourth Place

Key man: Aleksandr Kerzhakov

British-based players: none

Capello: Man in charge

Despite a minor blip in the summer which saw successive losses to Portugal and Northern Ireland, Fabio Capello's Russia topped Group F and will compete in their first World Cup since 2002. Group F was a two-horse race throughout, with Portugal battling with Capello's side for an automatic qualification spot. However, despite those two defeats, the Russians won seven and drew one to ensure that they left Portugal trailing as runners-up by a single point. Top scorer Aleksandr Kerzhakov and ex-Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov will be keen to continue their impressive form in the group stages, whilst veteran defender Sergei Ignashevich may reach his century of international caps in Brazil.


How they qualified: European Group I winners

Manager: Vicente Del Bosque

FIFA Ranking: 1st

World Cup record: 2010's winners

Key man: Andres Iniesta

British-based players: Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and David Silva (Manchester City) and Juan Mata (Chelsea).

Del Bosque: Winner

It's not a massive surprise that defending champions Spain have eventually confirmed their place in next year's tournament. However, it wasn't plain sailing for Vicente Del Bosque's side as they were pushed to an automatic qualifying place throughout the campaign by Didier Deschamps' France. A blip midway through qualification saw the Spaniards draw in Madrid against Les Bleus whilst failing to beat Finland in Gijon, with Teemu Pukki's last-gasp equaliser sparking massive celebrations in the Finnish ranks. Spain made sure it was only a minor delay, winning their remaining four matches scoring seven in the process whilst conceding just one, with France forced to settle for a play-off place. Despite an unbeaten campaign, their top scorer was winger Pedro with a relatively low four goals, showing that the 2010 winners may not be as lethal as once feared.


How they qualified: European Group E runners-up

Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld

FIFA ranking: 8th

World Cup record: Three-time quarter-finalist

Key man: Xherdan Shaqiri

British-based players: Philippe Senderos and Pajtim Kasami (both Fulham).

Switzerland celebrate against Iceland

FIFA president Sepp Blatter will be happy man as Switzerland will appear at the World Cup finals for a third consecutive tournament. That feat hasn't been achieved since the competition was held in Switzerland back in 1954 but reflects the fact that the country is reaping the benefits of their commitment to youth development. The squad that travels to Brazil next summer is likely to include several players who were part of the teams that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2009 and reached the final of the 2011 European Under-21 Championship. Bayern Munich star Xherdan Shaqiri is the golden boy of Swiss football and with two-time Champions League winning coach Ottmar Hitzfeld at the helm they are in capable hands. Qualification certainly proved straightforward - sealing their place in Brazil with a game to spare thanks to an unbeaten record.

World Cup qualified teams from South America.


How they qualified: South American group

Manager: Alejandro Sabella

FIFA ranking: 3rd

World Cup record: Two-time winners

Key man: Lionel Messi

British-based players: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United), Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur) and Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).

Messi: Argentina's maestro

A Lionel Messi-inspired hammering of Paraguay on Matchday 14 meant Argentina were the first South American team to join Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. Alejandro Sabella's men were the first side from their continental qualifying zone to ensure they will be at next summer's finals after Messi scored twice to beat already-eliminated Paraguay 5-2. After their 4-0 humiliation by Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, Argentina will also be keen to make a point as they bid to end a long wait since they last won the World Cup in 1986. All eyes will also be on Messi, with it being suggested the Barcelona star and best player on the planet at club level has never truly reproduced his talents at World Cups. Argentina's qualifying campaign was far from faultless after five draws and one defeat at the time they qualified but they will still be among the favourites in 2014.


How they qualified: Tournament hosts

Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari

FIFA ranking: 10th

World Cup record: Five-time winners

Key man: Neymar

British based players: Julio Cesar (QPR), David Luiz (Chelsea), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur) and Willian (Chelsea).

Sky Bet odds: 3/1

Neymar: Brazil's golden boy

The five-time world champions have qualified for the 2014 finals automatically as hosts and are under pressure to again become the best team on the planet. Brazil have experienced disappointing quarter-final exits at the previous two World Cups since they last won the competition in 2002 and earlier this summer they remarkably found themselves outside of the top 20 in FIFA's world rankings. But regardless of that slump, since his return as manager in November 2012, Luiz Felipe Scolari has added new confidence. The man who was in charge of Brazil for their success in 2002 has made some ruthless selection decisions and that has added self-belief. June's 3-0 hammering of Spain in the final of the Confederations Cup is a reflection of Brazil's growing momentum while it also sent them rocketing up the rankings.


How they qualified: South American group

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli

FIFA Ranking: 15th

World Cup record: 1962's third place

Key man: Alexis Sanchez

British-based players: Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), Gary Medel (Cardiff City) and Jean Beausejour (Wigan).

Sanchez: Chile star

La Roja will be competing in Brazil for the ninth time in their history, following a narrow win over rivals Ecuador in Santiago in the final round of games. Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez continued his impressive form, netting his fourth goal in four games and the Barcelona forward is just one of a number of talented players in Jorge Sampaoli's squad. Chile have a well-balanced team with quality across all areas of the pitch, with a midfield including Juventus star Arturo Vidal and talented Twente playmaker Felipe Gutierrez, proving that their competitors will have more to worry about than just Sanchez. They go into the World Cup unbeaten in their last six qualifying games and will be confident of causing a few surprises in Brazil.


How they qualified: South American group

Manager: Jose Pekerman

FIFA ranking: 4th

World Cup record: 1990's last 16

Key man: Radamel Falcao

British-based players: none

Falcao: Colombia's star

Colombia qualified in second place behind Argentina in CONMEBOL qualifying and there is a real buzz about Jose Pekerman's team going into a tournament in their home continent. Currently ranked in the top 10 in the world, they boast the likes of Porto duo Juan Fernando Quintero and Jackson Martinez among their forward options, although the star man is undoubtedly Monaco striker Radamel Falcao. The expert goalscorer has netted over 30 goals in each of the past four seasons and a strong summer in Brazil could take his team deep into the tournament. Colombia fans will be wary however. The last time they went into a World Cup with such optimism ended in tragedy as the much-fancied 1994 side returned from the United States embarrassed and subsequently engulfed by tragedy following the murder of skipper Andreas Escobar. Cautious optimism is the mood 20 years on.


How they qualified: South American group

Manager: Reinaldo Rueda

FIFA ranking: 23rd

World Cup record: 2006's last 16

Key man: Antonio Valencia

British-based players: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United).

Valencia: Keen to honour Benitez

Ecuador secured their spot in Brazil by the narrowest of margins as they were able to edge out Uruguay on goal difference to claim the fourth and final automatic berth from CONMEBOL qualifying. The Ecuadorians must be thankful to their defence after conceding just 16 goals in the campaign, bettered only by group winners Argentina and runners up Colombia. Although Ecuador failed to qualify for a World Cup finals until 2002, this will be their third appearance in the last four tournaments and with Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia captaining the team, they have quality within the ranks. It will be an emotional occasion for the squad too. Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda dedicated his side's qualification to former striker and ex-Birmingham City star Christian "Chucho" Benitez, who died in July.


How they qualified: Playoff winners

Manager: Oscar Tabarez

FIFA ranking: 6th

World Cup record: 1930 and 1950 champions

Key man: Luis Suarez

British-based players: Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton) and Luis Suarez.

Cavani & Suarez: Potentially lethal

After finishing fourth in the 2010 World Cup and winning the 2011 Copa America, you'd be forgiven for thinking that qualification for Uruguay would be a foregone conclusion. However, a disappointing qualifying campaign ensued which included home draws against Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay, whilst losing heavily in games away to Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia. Their inconsistent campaign is hard to diagnose, as they're blessed with two of the world's most feared strikers in Luis Suarez and PSG's Edinson Cavani, whilst veteran Diego Forlan still poses a threat.

After a comfortable play-off victory over Jordan, Oscar Tabarez's side will be hoping to forget about their tricky campaign and focus on their strengths which feature their devastating forwad line, a midfielder bursting with flair including Atletico Madrid's Cristian Rodriguez, and a backline marshaled by the commanding presence of captain Diego Lugano, who will be aiming to reach a century of international caps during next year's competition in Brazil.

Tabarez will be thankful he has the opportunity to lead out his side next year, with people suggesting a few months ago that they'd need a miracle to get a play-off place. Now, they're genuine contenders for the trophy.

World Cup Qualified teams from Asia


How they qualified: AFC Group B runners-up

Manager: Ange Postecoglou

FIFA ranking: 59th

World Cup record: 2006's last 16

Key man: Tim Cahill

British-based players: Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Tom Rogic (Celtic)

Postecoglou: New Australia boss

Australia will be appearing at their third successive World Cup but their route to the 2014 finals was not as simple as it has been in the past. They progressed behind Japan in Asian Football Confederation Group B in what was their second campaign in the AFC since switching from Oceania. But they suffered a shock defeat by Jordan in the group while they also lost to Oman in the earlier round. A 1-0 victory over Iraq in Sydney in June ultimately secured qualification and next summer's finals will likely be a last hurrah for several of their experienced squad members. Australia's ultimate aim would be to surpass their finest hour of reaching the last 16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where they were memorably knocked out by Francesco Totti's penalty deep into injury time for eventual champions Italy. However, simply progressing from the groups in Brazil would be impressive. New manager Ange Postecoglou will likely be the man in charge in Brazil having been brought in to replace Holger Osieck in October.


How they qualified: AFC Group A winners

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

FIFA ranking: 45th

World Cup record: 1978, 1998 & 2006's group stages

Key man: Javad Nekounam

British-based players: Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham).

Queiroz: Iran's progress

Former Portugal and Real Madrid manager and Manchester United assistant boss Carlos Queiroz has steered Iran to the 2014 World Cup after winning Asian Football Confederation Group A. Iran did lose to Lebanon and Uzbekistan during the group but still managed to finish top after a 1-0 win over South Korea in June ensured they took 16 points from eight matches. Iran's previous experiences at World Cups in 1978, 1998 and 2006 all ended at the group stages but their 1998 appearance did include a famous win over bitter rivals USA. That victory remains their one and only in a match at World Cup finals and Queiroz will know anything more than that would be a great success. However, Iran are one of the stronger teams from the AFC and have dominated the West Asian Football Federation since the turn of the Millennium.


How they qualified: AFC Group B winners

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni

FIFA ranking: 48th

World Cup record: 2002 & 2010's last 16

Key man: Shinji Kagawa

British-based players: Maya Yoshida (Southampton) and Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United).

Honda: Japan's star man

Japan were the first team to secure their place at the 2014 finals through the qualification process by winning the Asian Football Confederation Group B in what is the fourth round of the AFC qualifying. A record of five wins, two draws and just one defeat saw them top the group with an impressive 16 goals in their eight matches. June's 1-1 draw with Australia in Saitama, which was secured by star man Keisuke Honda's injury-time penalty equaliser, made sure of their place in Brazil. Considered by most as Asia's best team, Japan have been at every World Cup since 1998 and they have increasingly high expectations. Italian manager Alberto Zaccheroni, who won Serie A with AC Milan in 1999, has already steered his side to the 2011 Asian Cup and the 2013 East Asian Cup. But losing all three games at this summer's Confederations Cup was not a good sign.

South Korea

How they qualified: AFC Group A runners-up

Manager: Hong Myungbo

FIFA ranking: 54th

World Cup record: 2002's semi-finals

Key man: Son Heung-Min

British-based players: Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton), Kim Bo-Kyung (Cardiff), Ki Sung-Yueng (Sunderland) and Ji Dong-Won (Sunderland).

Park: South Korea captain

South Korea are preparing for their eighth World Cup finals appearance in a row after qualifying in second place behind Iran in Asian Football Confederation Group A. But they only just scraped in to the finals in Brazil after a shaky qualification campaign. A defeat by Lebanon during the process eventually saw South Korea only just sneak out of the third round and it cost former boss Cho Kwangrae his job. Choi Kanghee took over for the fourth round and again it was not an easy ride as, captained by Arsenal flop Chu-Young Park, they were left depending on favourable results from elsewhere in their last qualifier. Choi only ever wanted to be contracted for the qualification process and Hong Myungbo was named as his successor this summer. South Korea's finest hour was memorably finishing fourth as World Cup co-hosts in 2002 and they reached the last 16 in 2010.

World Cup qualified teams from North, Central America & Caribbean.

Costa Rica

How they qualified: CONCACAF group

Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto

FIFA ranking: 31st

World Cup record: 1990's last 16

Key man: Bryan Ruiz

British-based players: Bryan Oviedo (Everton) and Bryan Ruiz (Fulham).

Ruiz & Campbell: Hope to impress

Costa Rica joined USA in progressing from the North, Central America and Caribbean group qualifying zone after a draw with Jamaica in September's qualifiers was enough to send them through. Colombian manager Jorge Luis Pinto had seen his side win four games, draw three and lose one in the CONCACAF group at the time of qualifying. Costa Rica had only just scraped into the fourth round after finishing second behind Mexico in the group stages of the third round of qualifying but they found their form when it mattered. Fulham's Bryan Ruiz and Arsenal's Joel Campbell, who is on loan at Olympiakos, will now be hoping to impress in Brazil next summer.


How they qualified: CONCACAF group

Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez

FIFA Ranking: 41st

World Cup record: 1982 and 2010's group stage

British based players: Maynor Figueroa (Hull City), Juan Carlos Garcia and Roger Espinoza (Wigan), Wilson Palacios (Stoke), Arnold Peralta (Rangers) and Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic).

Honduras: Flying high

With Mexico surprising strugglers in the final round of World Cup qualifying, the path was cleared for Honduras to claim the third and final automatic berth in the CONCACAF group. A win in the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City in September proved crucial and only a point was needed in the final match in Jamaica that Luiz Fernando Suarez's side duly achieved. Honduras will be making their third appearance at the World Cup finals and having been eliminated in the group stages in their two previous efforts, they will be hopeful of improving on that record. With the likes of Premier League regulars Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios among the squad, they are capable of causing a few problems in Brazil.


How they qualified: CONCACAF play-off winners

Manager: Miguel Herrera

FIFA ranking: 20th

World Cup record: 1970 and 1986 Quarter-finalists

Key man: Oribe Peralta

British-based players: Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)

Mexico have struggled during qualifying

Mexico, touted as a near-certainty to qualify, struggled throughout their qualifying campaign. A fourth placed finish and a total of eleven points from ten games saw them finish four points adrift from automatic qualification, setting up a playoff match with New Zealand.

Despite comfortably winning the playoffs and booking a place in Brazil, there are causes for concern for Miguel Herrera's side after an abject group performance, including a home draw against bottom side Jamaica.

The irony was that fierce rivals USA scored two late goals in Panama to give Mexico another chance at gaining qualification, with the USA FA's twitter tweeting "#yourewelcomemexico" soon after.

El Tri have struggled to impose themselves against the rivals, and if they want to form a serious challenge in Brazil next year, then Herrera must turn towards forgotten stars Javier Hernandez, Gio Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, who is playing outstanding football for Real Sociedad but remains unpicked due to a falling out with a previous coach.


How they qualified: CONCACAF group

Manager: Jurgen Klinsmann

FIFA ranking: 14th

World Cup record: 1930's third place

Key man: Landon Donovan

British-based players: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brek Shea (Stoke City), Maurice Edu (Stoke City) and Jozy Altidore (Sunderland).

Klinsmann: USA boss

A 2-0 win over arch-rivals Mexico in their eighth game of the North, Central America and Caribbean group qualifying zone, which is the fourth round of the qualifying process, booked USA their place at the 2014 World Cup finals. Jurgen Klinsmann's team had won five, drawn one and lost one of their qualifiers when they qualifed which proved enough to ensure progression. Landon Donovan was among the goalscorers in the decisive victory over Mexico while Clint Dempsey has also been a key man in their campaign so far after the former Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur player scored eight goals when qualification was secured. The USA will make the trip to Brazil with the hope of improving on their agonising defeat by Ghana after extra time in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup.

World Cup qualified teams from Africa


How they qualified: CAF Third Round winners

Manager: Stephen Keshi

FIFA ranking: 36th

World Cup record: 1994 and 1998 last 16

Key man: Victor Moses

British-based players: Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Reuben Gabriel (Kilmarnock), Victor Moses (Liverpool) and Shola Ameobi (Newcastle).

Nigeria draw against Italy

Despite remaining unbeaten throughout their qualifying campaign, Nigeria slightly struggled to impose themselves against the minnows in their group.

Disappointing draws at home to Kenya and away to Malawi and Namibia highlighted a lack of clinical quality throughout the Nigerian ranks after scoring just seven in six games, a tally that fell far short of the demands of the Super Eagles supporters.

Emmanuel Emenike finished as top goalscorer for Nigeria with three goals in three games, including two crucial goals away at Ethiopia to ensure a 2-1 victory in their first leg in Addis Abeba. Goals from Victor Moses and Victor Obinna wrapped up a 2-0 victory in the return leg in Calabar, avoiding a repeat of their disappointment in 2006 when they failed to qualify.

Even though they didn't particularly impress in front of goal, they do pose an attacking threat through Moses and Dynamo Kiev's Brown Ideye, and will be boosted by the fact that their defence conceded the joint-least amount of goals in the group stages, letting in just three goals.

Ivory Coast

How they qualified: CAF Third Round winners

Manager: Sabri Lamouchi

FIFA ranking: 17th

World Cup record: 2006 and 2010 group stages

Key man: Yaya Toure

British-based players: Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle) and Wilfried Bony (Swansea City).

Didier Drogba celebrates with Ivory Coast team-mates

Cote d'Ivoire fired their way to Brazil after an impressive campaign saw them remain unbeaten, scoring 15 goals in the process.

Sabri Lamouchi's side arguably possess Africa's most feared strike-force, blessed with an array of attacking talent including Seydou Doumbia, Wilfried Bony, Salomon Kalou, Lacina Traore and their talismanic captain Didier Drogba. The former Chelsea man, 35, is currently on 98 international caps and will undoubtedly be keen to celebrate his inevitable century by helping to progress Ivory Coast beyond the World Cup group stages for the first time in their history.

However, their key figure has to be Manchester City's Yaya Toure. The Elephants supporters will be hoping that Toure will stamp his authority on the international stage, with midfield a slightly weak area. However, Toure has proved in the Premier League that he can be unplayable and virtually run a midfield by himself as a result of both attacking prowess and a willingness to defend.

After overcoming the challenge of Senegal to progress to Brazil, they will be hoping that the outstanding form of ex-Arsenal winger Gervinho will continue through to next year's tournament, with the Ivorian enjoying a reinvention at Roma who currently top the Serie A following an unbeaten start to the season.


How they qualified: CAF Third Round winners

Manager: Volker Finke

FIFA ranking: 51st

World Cup record: 1990 Quarter-finalists

Key man: Samuel Eto'o

British-based players: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (QPR) and Samuel Eto'o (Chelsea).

Cameroon could pose tough opposition

Despite their FIFA ranking placing them lower than teams like Cape Verde Islands and Burkina Faso, Cameroon's squad still holds some of Africa's top players.

They've got a particularly strong central defence, with astute choices in Marseille's Nicolas N'Koulou, Rennes' Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik and Galatasaray's Aurelien Chedjou forcing Norwich City's Sebastien Bassong out of the squad and giving manager Volker Finke a selection dilemma. Their strength in depth is highlighted by the fact they only conceded three in six games.

In midfield, energetic midfielders Alex Song, Jean Makoun and Stephane Mbia will ensure that their World Cup rivals will have to work hard to overcome the Cameroon midfield, which is spearheaded in attack by their influential captain Samuel Eto'o.

Eto'o reportedly retired from international football in September but reversed his decision to join up with the squad for their play-off victory over Tunisia. It's unlikely the former Barcelona star will reverse his decision again and will be aiming to build further on his national hero status by leading Cameroon out in Brazil.


How they qualified: CAF Third Round Winners

Manager: Akwasi Appiah

FIFA ranking: 24th

World Cup record: 2010 Quarter Finalists

Key man: Asamoah Gyan

British-based players: Michael Essien (Chelsea) and Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough).

Michael Essien will provide welcome experience in Brazil for Ghana.

Despite their failure to match Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast's unbeaten group record, Ghana's tally of 18 goals was the highest of all the teams during qualification and was enough to fend off the advances of second-placed Zambia.

They boast an impressive midfield which mixes experienced internationals like Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari with the youth of Udinese's rising star Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu and Juventus' highly-rated Kwadwo Asamoah, who was Ghana's Player of the Year in 2012. Their energetic and technical midfield also includes Kevin-Prince Boateng who has started his Schalke career off with an impressive five goals in eight games, following his switch from AC Milan in the summer where he impressed for three years.

A cause for concern is Ghana's relatively unproven defence, as none of the current crop of defenders play in any of Europe's elite leagues. They managed to impress during their campaign having only conceded three, but may struggle against teams with a strong strike-force.

Their key man will be former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan, now plying his trade for UAE side Al-Ain. Gyan fired in six goals in six games and demonstrated why he has been chosen to captain the Black Stars ahead of Essien. He'll be supported in attack by Marseille's Jordan and Andre Ayew, two brothers that are constantly linked with Europe's top sides.


How they qualified: CAF Third Round Winners

Manager: Vahid Halilhodzic

FIFA ranking: 26th

World Cup record: 1982, 1986 and 2010 group stage

Key man: Sofiane Feghouli

British-based players: Essaid Belkalem (Watford) and Adlene Guedioura (Crystal Palace).

Algeria have qualified for their fourth World Cup and showed during their campaign that they cannot be underestimated, something that England were guilty of in 2010 after a 0-0 draw in Cape Town.

An impressive tally of 15 goals in the group stages saw them top Group H comfortably, despite a minor blip after a 2-1 defeat in Mali. However, their third round playoff games against Burkina Faso were not as comfortable and they succumbed to a 3-2 defeat in the first leg, with Burkina Faso hoping to appear in the first World Cup.

A nervy second leg was settled by a scrappy Madjid Bougherra effort, sparking wild celebrations at Algeria's Mustapha Tchaker Stadium.

Vahid Halilhodzic's side do have quality players that are proven in Europe, none more so than Valencia winger Sofiane Feghouli who had been linked with Arsenal and Manchester United last year after impressive performances in La Liga and the Champions League.

They are also led upfront by Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani who fired in five goals in seven games helping Algeria progress comfortably to the playoff stages. Although not as strong as their African competitors, they are unlikely to be viewed as easy opposition.

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ou can't blame De Gea for wanting to leave, he has enough to do in front of goal as it is as well as taking on the role of Man Utd's version of Derek Acorah in trying to contact and organise a defence that isn't there.

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f you want to take six points off Arsenal, then that's a great strike force. Can't imagine either of them showing much for the rest of the season though...

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ooks like Real get their man, most likely at their own valuation, yet again. Resistance is futile.

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