Fifa World Cup 2018 draw: See which Group is the Toughest
Neighbours Spain and Portugal will meet at next year’s Fifa World Cup after being drawn in the same group during Friday’s draw in Moscow.
Champions Germany are in Group F with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
The opening game of the World Cup will see hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia in Group A on Thursday, 14 June.
Group B sees 2010 winners Spain and current European champions Portugal drawn with Morocco and Iran, who are managed by Portuguese Carlos Queiroz.
Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo plays with several of Spain’s players for Real Madrid and has been managed by Queiroz with Portugal, as well as working together at Manchester United.
- All the groups and fixtures
- A guide to the grounds hosting games in Russia
- Which England squad are you?
- World Cup qualification quiz
“It’s a big rivalry and it will be like a derby,” Portugal and West Ham defender Jose Fonte told BBC Sport. “It will be fantastic. Everyone will be up for it.”
England have been drawn with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G.
The hosts’ Group A also has Uruguay and Egypt.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina are in Group D and will open against Iceland. They are also in with Nigeria – the fifth time in the Super Eagles’ six World Cups they have been drawn in a group together – and Croatia.
Brazil are in Group E with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.
Group C has France, Australia, Peru and Denmark, while Group H contains Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan.
World Cup stats
- Germany will look to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil in 1962. A win would take them level with Brazil on five World Cups.
- The last two defending champions have been knocked out in the group stages (Italy 2010, Spain 2014).
- Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Australia’s Tim Cahill, Mexican Rafael Marquez and Spain’s David Villa have all scored in three World Cups. The record is four – jointly held by Brazil’s Pele and Germans Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler.
- Marquez could equal the record of five World Cups played in by fellow Mexican Antonio Carbajal and Germany’s Lothar Matthaus. Gianluigi Buffon went to five, but did not play in 1998.
- Iceland and Panama are the only nations to make their debuts in the competition. Slovakia were the last debutants to reach the knockout stages in 2010.
- Germany’s Thomas Muller will be the top finals scorer at this World Cup with 10 goals (five in 2010 and then 2014). The overall record is Klose’s 16.
- Only once have the World Cup hosts not reached the second round – when South Africa went out in the 2010 groups. Some 30% of World Cups have been won by the hosts.
- All 20 World Cups have been won by teams from Europe (11) or South America (9). Brazil – the only team to play in every tournament – have won 25% of them.
- Portugal will attempt to become the fourth nation to win a back-to-back European Championship and World Cup (following West Germany, France and Spain).
- Mexico have qualified for the World Cup the most times without ever winning it (16).
- All 20 World Cups have been won by a manager with the same nationality as the winning team.
BBC Sport has taken an in-depth look at each of the teams in each group in Russia.
Pedigree: Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will be the fourth Russia team to play at a World Cup – they first appeared at USA 94 – although the Soviet Union finished fourth in 1966.
|Spotlight on the hosts|
|All of Russia’s 2017 Confederations Cup squad played their club football in their homeland|
Key player: Veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has won more than 100 caps and his experience could be vital. The 31-year-old, who has spent his entire career at CSKA Moscow, is likely to captain the hosts.
Premier League players: None.
Who’s the boss? Cherchesov rallied behind his side after the Confederations Cup, saying his players would “mature” because of the experience. A former Soviet Union and Russia goalkeeper, he has been given the target of reaching the semi-finals next summer.
Saudi Arabia (pot 4)
Pedigree: Saudi Arabia’s only victories at a World Cup came in their first appearance in 1994, when they won two group matches and reached the second round. Their second win – 1-0 against Belgium – featured one of the greatest goals of all time when forward Saeed Al Owairan ran from his own half and beat half the Belgian defence to score.
Key player: Yahya Al Shehri, a 27-year-old winger, has been at the centre of the national team’s rejuvenation since making his debut as a teenager. He became the most expensive Saudi footballer in 2013 when he moved from Ettifaq to Al-Nassr for £9.6m.
Premier League players: None
Who’s the boss? Good question. Bert van Marwijk steered the team through qualification but left just days after the successful conclusion of the campaign. He was replaced by former Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza but he has since been sacked after just five games in charge.
Egypt (pot 3)
Pedigree: Egypt are currently 30th in Fifa’s world rankings – one place below the Netherlands. Having missed out on the 2010 and 2014 competitions after play-off defeats, they qualified for Russia when Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scored an injury-time winner against Congo on 8 October. Their last notable success at a major tournament was in 2010, when they lifted the Africa Cup of Nations for the seventh time.
Key player: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s major summer signing, is Egypt’s most talented player. The speedy forward has scored 32 goals in 56 international appearances, including five during qualifying for Russia.
Premier League players: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Hegazy (West Brom), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke),
Championship players: Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa).
League One players: Sam Morsy (Wigan).
Who’s the boss? Argentinian Hector Cuper, who previously coached Valencia and Inter Milan, was appointed in March 2015. He also managed Georgia between 2008 and 2009. His only major tournament was the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations – where Egypt were defeated 2-1 in the final by Cameroon.
Uruguay (pot 2)
Pedigree: Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 and then again in 1950, but they only reached the last 16 at Brazil 2014.
Key player: Luis Suarez. Barcelona forward Suarez is the country’s record goalscorer and scored twice in their last qualifier against Bolivia to secure their qualification.
Championship player: Abel Hernandez (Hull)
Who’s the boss: Oscar Tabarez has been in charge of Uruguay since 2006 and guided them to the Copa America title in 2011.
Portugal (pot 1)
Pedigree: Portugal are the reigning European champions, having beaten hosts France 1-0 in the final of Euro 2016. Their best performance at a World Cup came when they finished third in 1966 and they also reached the semi-finals in 2006 yet failed to make it out of the group phase in Brazil in 2014.
Key player: Who else? Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been voted the best player in the world four times, he is the country’s most capped player and also their record goalscorer. The Real Madrid forward, a four-time Champions League winner, scored 15 goals for Portugal during their World Cup qualification campaign.
Premier League players: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Renato Sanches (Swansea, on loan from Bayern Munich), Jose Fonte (West Ham).
Championship player: Nelson Oliveira (Norwich)
Scottish Premiership player: Bruno Alves (Rangers)
Who’s the boss? Fernando Santos took charge in September 2014 and guided Portugal to their first international success with victory in Euro 2016. He was manager of Greece during the 2014 World Cup, taking the team into the last 16, where they lost to Costa Rica on penalties.
Spain (pot 2)
Pedigree: Currently ranked 11th in the world. They held the number one spot from 2008 until 2013. Spain were world champions in 2010, as well as European champions in 2008 and 2012.
Key player: Real Madrid attacking midfielder Isco has been in fine form during qualifying, with six goals and an assist in Spain’s past seven matches. He has seven goals in 23 appearances in his international career.
Premier League players: Juan Mata (Manchester United), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea), David de Gea (Manchester United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Ander Herrera (Manchester United), Pedro (Chelsea), David Silva (Manchester City).
Who’s the boss? Julen Lopetegui was appointed in July 2016 and remains unbeaten in 13 matches in charge. He has won the European Championships with Spain’s U21s and U19s, although he has never coached a side at a senior major tournament.
Morocco (pot 4)
Pedigree: Morocco will be making their first appearance at a World Cup finals in 20 years next summer. In 1998 in France, a win, a draw and a defeat was not enough for them to qualify from the group stage. They have managed this feat just once in four attempts at finals, in Mexico in 1986 when they reached the last 16, where they were beaten 1-0 by eventual runners-up West Germany.
Key player: He has not been a regular with club side Juventus this season (there is some stiff competition there at the back) but defender Medhi Benatia is extremely highly rated at the Italian champions, who signed him on a permanent deal from Bayern Munich this year following a successful loan spell. The 30-year-old is Morocco’s captain and has 52 caps to his name, five of which came during a 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in which they did not concede a goal. He also scored one of the goals in the 2-0 win over Ivory Coast that sealed their place in Russia.
Premier League players: Sofiane Boufal (Southampton)
Championship players: Romain Saiss (Wolves)
Who is the boss? Frenchman Herve Renard has had something of a nomadic coaching career since retiring from playing in 1998. One of his early roles was as boss of Cambridge United, who he joined in the summer of 2004 and left 25 games later with the club second bottom of League Two. Since then he has won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015. After an unsuccessful stint as Lille boss, he took over as Morocco head coach in 2016.
Iran (pot 3)
Pedigree: This is the fifth time Iran have qualified for a World Cup, but their only victory in the tournament remains a 2-1 win over the United States at France 98.
Key player: Striker Sardar Azmoun is arguably Asia’s best striker since his compatriot Ali Daei, who scored more international goals than any other male player. The 22-year-old Azmoun is strong with both feet, and in the air, and plays his club football for Russian side Rubin Kazan.
Premier League players: None
Who’s the boss? Carlos Queiroz has a CV to rival any manager in international football. Via Sporting Lisbon, South Africa, Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United and two stints in charge of Portugal, it is with Iran that Queiroz has spent the past six years.
“They fight for their lives, they fight for history, they fight for their reputations,” said the Portuguese, having seen Iran become the highest-placed Asian side in Fifa’s rankings at 24th.
France (pot 1)
Pedigree: France won the World Cup when they hosted the tournament in 1998 and also reached the final eight years later, losing on penalties to Italy. They reached the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014 and were runners-up as hosts at Euro 2016.
Key player: Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid striker was the top scorer with six goals as France reached the Euro 2016 final and scored the second as France beat Belarus 2-1 to secure their qualification on 10 October.
Premier League players: Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud (all Arsenal), Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante (both Chelsea), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Eliaquim Mangala and Benjamin Mendy (both Manchester City), Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba (both Manchester United), Kurt Zouma (Stoke, on loan from Chelsea), Hugo Lloris and Moussa Sissoko (both Tottenham).
Who’s the boss? Didier Deschamps played 103 times for France and helped them win the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000. He has been national team boss since July 2012 and guided them to the final of Euro 2016, although they lost 1-0 to Portugal after extra time.
Australia (pot 4)
Pedigree: This will be the fourth consecutive World Cup appearance and a fifth overall for Australia. Their best performance came in 2006 when they went out in the last 16, losing 1-0 to eventual champions Italy through a 95th-minute Francesco Totti penalty.
Key player: Tim Cahill may be 37 years old but he continues to be his country’s talisman. The former Everton midfielder has scored 11 times during qualification, including the two decisive goals in Australia’s second-leg victory over Syria.
Premier League players: Mathew Ryan (Brighton), Aaron Moy (Huddersfield), Brad Smith (Bournemouth), Adam Federici (Bournemouth).
Championship players: Bailey Wright (Bristol City), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Massimo Luongo (QPR), Jackson Irvine (Hull City).
Scottish Premiership player: Tom Rogic (Celtic)
Who’s the boss? No-one – at the moment. Greece-born Australian Ange Postecoglou resigned six days after the team qualified, saying the job had “taken a toll” on him.
Peru (pot 2)
Pedigree: The 32nd and last team to qualify, Peru are heading to their fifth World Cup after goals from Jefferson Farfan and Christian Ramos gave them a 2-0 win over New Zealand in the play-offs. Their best result came in 1970, when they finished seventh, and the last World Cup they qualified for was in 1982. They’re 10th in the Fifa rankings.
Key player: Farfan, who plays for Lokomotiv Moscow, has made 79 appearances for Peru, scoring 23 goals. The 33-year-old is known for his speed and scored three goals in four matches during qualifying.
Premier League player: Winger Andre Carrillo is playing for Watford after a loan move from Benfica. The 26-year-old has made 34 appearances for Peru.
Who’s the boss? Argentine Ricardo Gareca, nicknamed ‘The Tiger’, has managed Peru since 2015. He played 20 times for Argentina and has been a manager for more than 20 years. The 59-year-old introduced a psychologist to the Peru team when he began coaching them.
Denmark (pot 3)
Pedigree: This is the fifth time Denmark have qualified for the tournament and the first since 2010, when they went out in the group stages. Their best performance was in 1998, when they reached the quarter-finals before being knocked out by Brazil.
Key player: All of Denmark’s best play goes through Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen. Not only does he set up strikes for his team-mates, the former Ajax player has chipped in with 18 goals from 74 caps.
Premier League players: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton).
Championship players: Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich), Henrik Dalsgaard, Andreas Bjelland, Lasse Vibe (all Brentford), Martin Braithwaite (Middlesbrough).
Who’s the boss? Age Hareide, 64, replaced Morten Olsen after Denmark failed to reach Euro 2016. A former Manchester City and Norwich defender, he has won the Swedish league twice and the Danish and Norwegian leagues once each in his managerial career.
Argentina (pot 1)
Pedigree: Argentina have won the World Cup twice – in 1978 and 1986 – and been runners-up on three occasions, in 1930, 1990 and in Brazil in 2014, when they lost 1-0 to Germany in the final.
Key player: Lionel Messi. Messi, who has been voted the best player in the world on five occasions, scored the hat-trick in the last round of South American Qualifying against Ecuador to take Argentina to the finals.
Premier League players: Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi (both Manchester City), Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).
Who’s the boss: Former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli, who guided Chile to the Copa America in 2015, became Argentina boss in May 2017. He succeeded in his first task – to ensure Argentina qualified for the World Cup.
Iceland (pot 3)
Pedigree: Iceland are heading to their first World Cup after victory over Kosovo on 9 October secured their place in Russia. This is clearly a golden era for the Icelanders after they reached Euro 2016, where they memorably defeated England in their second-round tie before losing 5-2 against hosts France in the quarter-finals.
Key player: It is difficult to look beyond Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. The 28-year-old midfielder scored the opening goal against Kosovo and is a superb striker of the ball from long range.
Premier League players: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley).
Championship: Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Horour Bjorgvin Magnusson (Bristol City), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Reading).
Scottish Premiership player: Kari Arnason (Aberdeen).
Who’s the boss? Keep smiling. Heimir Hallgrimsson, 50, is a dentist who was in joint charge of the team in France alongside Swedish veteran Lars Lagerback. Hallgrimsson took sole charge after Euro 2016 and has presided over a successful qualification campaign.
Croatia (pot 2)
Pedigree: Croatia gained admission to Fifa in June 1993, meaning they were too late to compete for a place at the finals in the United States in 1994. However, they qualified for a finals at the first time of asking at France 98 and have reached all but one of the five summer tournaments since. Their best performance to date remains their first, when Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban et al helped them to a third place finish after losing to hosts and eventual winners France in the semis.
Key player: Luka Modric – once of Tottenham, now at Real Madrid – is the creative force at the heart of the Croatia side. Blessed with superb touch and vision, the 32-year-old has won the Champions League three times with his current club. He recently clocked up a century for his country, for whom he has scored 12 times.
Premier League players: Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Nikola Vlasic (Everton)
Who’s the boss? Zlatko Dalic’s reign as Croatia national team boss has been short and sweet thus far. He only took over in October 2017, replacing Ante Cacic, who left with one qualifying game left and the country at serious risk of failing to make the play-offs. Dalic led Croatia to a 2-0 win in Ukraine in his first game in charge to seal a play-off spot, where they dispatched Greece 4-1 on aggregate. A midfielder in his playing days, he spent the first seven years of this decade coaching in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Nigeria (pot 4)
Pedigree: This will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance at a World Cup – and their third in a row. They have reached the last 16 three times – 1994, 1998 and 2014 – but have never advanced beyond that stage.
Key player: Captain John Mikel Obi, the most experienced member of the squad with 80 caps, will be a key figure for the Super Eagles in Russia. This will be the former Chelsea midfielder’s second World Cup – the 30-year-old helped the team reach the knockout stages in 2014 for the first time since 1998. He now plays in China with Tianjin Teda.
Premier League players: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Ahmed Musa (Leicester City) and Ola Aina (on loan at Hull City from Chelsea).
Who is the boss? Gernot Rohr has managed all over the world. From Nice to Gabon, Burkina Faso to Nigeria, the 64-year-old German has extensive knowledge. Rohr played at Bayern Munich and Bordeaux. He then coached Bordeaux when they lost to Bayern in the 1996 Uefa Cup final. Previous managerial jobs also include French club Nantes, Young Boys Berne in Switzerland, Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel and the Niger national team.
Brazil (pot 1)
Pedigree: Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Brazil were beaten 7-1 at the semi-final stage by Germany in the World Cup they hosted four years ago.
Key player: Neymar. The £200m forward is averaging a goal and an assist per game since his world-record move to Paris St-Germain. Brazil legend Pele says the 25-year-old is the country’s best player and has backed him to win the Ballon d’Or.
Premier League players: Ederson, Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus (all Manchester City), Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino (both Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea).
Who’s the boss? Brazil were sixth with a third of the qualifying campaign gone when journeyman coach Tite replaced former Brazil midfielder Dunga. The former Corinthians boss, 56, guided his country 10 points clear of second-placed Uruguay by the time qualifying ended.
“What a difference a coach makes. Out went the snarling Dunga and in came Tite – charismatic and intelligent – and he made an immediate impact,” South American football expert Tim Vickery told BBC Radio 5 live.
Switzerland (pot 2)
Pedigree: This is Switzerland’s 11th World Cup, having reached the quarter-finals three times – including when they hosted the tournament in 1954. They lost to eventual finalists Argentina in extra time in the last 16 in 2014.
Key player: Xherdan Shaqiri. The talented Stoke City playmaker has scored 20 goals for his country, including a hat-trick against Honduras at the last World Cup.
Premier League players: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke), Edimilson Fernandes (West Ham), Shani Tarashaj (Everton), Florent Hadergjonaj (Huddersfield, on loan from Ingolstadt)
Championship player: Timm Klose (Norwich)
Who’s the boss? Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of the Swiss since 2014 and led them to the last 16 at Euro 2016. The Sarajevo-born coach has a Swiss passport and won the 2013 Coppa Italia as Lazio manager.
Costa Rica (pot 3)
Pedigree: Russia 2018 will be the fifth time Los Ticos have appeared at a World Cup finals. Last time out in Brazil, they finished top of a group containing Uruguay, Italy, and bottom-placed England, before going out in the quarter-finals on penalties to the Netherlands.
Key player: Bologna defender Giancarlo Gonzalez made the BBC pundits’ team of the tournament in 2014, but the man on whom Costa Rica’s recent success is built is Keylor Navas. The 30-year-old goalkeeper’s performances at the last World Cup earned him a move to Real Madrid. Since then he has established himself as the number one there, winning one Spanish league title and two Champions Leagues.
Premier League players: Arsenal striker Joel Campbell is Costa Rica’s only Premier League player – although he is on a season-long loan at La Liga side Real Betis.
Scottish Premiership player: Cristian Gamboa (Celtic)
Who’s the boss? Oscar Ramirez was a player when Costa Rica made their World Cup debut in 1990. Since ending his playing career and moving into coaching, he has carved out a reputation for being tactically astute and creative, winning several league titles in club football before taking over from Paulo Wanchope, who resigned after being involved in a brawl during a match against Panama, at the helm of the national side in 2015.
Serbia (pot 4)
Pedigree: Russia will be Serbia’s 12th appearance at the World Cup – they did not get beyond the group stage in 2006 and 2010.
Key player: Branislav Ivanovic is closing in on his 100th cap and remains a key player for Serbia. He is their captain and leader. “We look forward to playing for you in Russia”, he said in an address to the fans on the pitch after they secured qualification.
Premier League players: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Dusan Tadic (Southampton).
Who’s the boss? Mladen Krstajic is in caretaker charge. Slavoljub Muslin left his post as Serbia boss ater less than two years in charge, despite leading the country into the World Cup.
Germany (pot 1)
Pedigree: The defending champions, four-time winners and number one team in the world.
Key player: Toni Kroos. Apart from Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil, the Real Madrid midfielder is the most experienced player in the squad and keeps things ticking over. Since helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup, he has won two Champions League titles, one La Liga title and two Fifa Club World Cup titles.
Premier League players: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Emre Can (Liverpool), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Manchester City).
Who’s the boss? Joachim Low. Worked as assistant manager to Jurgen Klinsmann from 2004 to 2006, before being given the top job. The 57-year-old guided Germany to victory in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina, and also triumphed at the Confederations Cup last year.
The international clean sweep has eluded him, though, with Germany runners-up at Euro 2008 and third four years later.
Mexico (pot 2)
Pedigree: Mexico have reached the knockout stage in each of the past six World Cups, and made the quarter-finals as hosts in 1986.
Key player: Hirving Lozano has scored three goals in three games since leaving Pachuca for PSV Eindhoven this summer, and the 22-year-old is also becoming the star of the national team, netting Mexico’s winner against Panama.
‘Chucky’ even impressed Argentina legend Diego Maradona on his Eredivisie debut, and the Philips Stadion crowd gave the winger a standing ovation following his first goal for PSV.
Premier League players: Javier Hernandez (West Ham).
Who’s the boss? Former Manchester City assistant manager Juan Carlos Osorio is the man in charge, but missed his side’s Gold Cup campaign this summer after being given a six-match ban by Fifa for “using insulting words and displaying an aggressive attitude towards officials” during the Confederations Cup.
The Colombian, who graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a diploma in science and football, has been backed by a number of experienced players in his squad following criticism from fans.
Sweden (pot 3)
Pedigree: Russia 2018 will be Sweden’s 12th World Cup finals appearance, but their first since 2006. They reached the final in 1958, losing to Brazil, and finished third in 1994.
Key player: Replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was never going to be an easy task, but Al Ain striker Marcus Berg scored eight times in 10 qualifying matches as Sweden finished runners-up to France before beating Italy in the play-offs.
Premier League players: Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea City), Victor Lindelof (Manchester United), Martin Olsson (Swansea City),
Championship players: Pontus Jansson (Leeds United), Seb Larsson (Hull City)
Scottish Premiership player: Mikael Lustig (Celtic)
Who’s the boss? Janne Andersson, 55, took over in 2016 after five years with IFK Norrkoping. He has guided his side to the World Cup in his first qualifying campaign.
South Korea (pot 4)
Pedigree: No Asian team has a better World Cup pedigree than the side nicknamed the Taegeuk Warriors. South Korea’s goalless draw against Uzbekistan secured a place at a 10th finals and the tournament in Russia will be the ninth World Cup in a row in which they have featured.
Key player: Son Heung-min has showcased his trickery at Tottenham and is the stand-out name on the team sheet. He has managed just one international goal since the start of 2016 however, as the side have struggled in front of goal. And keep an eye out for Lee Dong-gook who came on as a substitute in their final qualifier and will be 39 by the time the World Cup comes around. The former Middlesbrough striker boasts 105 caps spanning 19 years.
Premier League players: Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea), Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Who is the boss? Shin Tae-yong has been nicknamed ‘the Asian Mourinho’ but he has come under pressure as a result of their hit-and-miss displays in qualifying. However, having only taken charge in July, he is likely to be given time to get things right. The 48-year-old spent 12 years as a player in South Korea’s K-League and then made a single league appearance in Australia before retiring in 2005.
Belgium (pot 1)
Pedigree: Having failed to qualify for the previous two tournaments, Belgium reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014, losing to eventual runners-up Argentina. The Red Devils’ best finish was fourth in 1986.
Key player: Eden Hazard. The twinkle-toed Chelsea forward unlocks defences with his rapid change of pace, close control and eye for a pass. He also wears the captain’s armband for Roberto Martinez’s side.
Premier League players: Michy Batshuayi, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard (all Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Toby Alderweireld, Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, (all Tottenham), Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany (both Manchester City), Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku (both Manchester United), Steven Defour (Burnley), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Divock Origi (Wolfsburg, on loan from Liverpool), Christian Kabasele (Watford), Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield).
Scottish Premiership player: Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)
Who’s the boss? Roberto Martinez’s big achievement in English football was guiding Wigan to FA Cup success in 2013, although they were relegated three days later.
The former Swansea and Everton manager’s prowess in organising an attack has never been in question, but there were concerns over his defensive aptitude at club level. That shouldn’t be a problem with this Belgium outfit, who have the likes of Tottenham defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany in their ranks.
Panama (pot 4)
Pedigree: None. Panama reached their first World Cup finals with a victory over Costa Rica that took advantage of the United States’ defeat by Trinidad & Tobago. They were runners-up at Concacaf’s Gold Cup in 2013.
Key player: Roman Torres, 31, is a central defender who plays for Seattle Sounders and whose composure and leadership will be vital if Panama are to have any chance of making an impression in Russia. His name has already been etched indelibly into Panama’s history after scoring the winning goal against Costa Rica that clinched their qualification.
Premier League players: None. Only three of the current squad play in Europe.
Who’s the boss? Colombian Hernan Dario Gomez has had a varied international coaching career, including managing his homeland twice. This will be his third World Cup after taking Colombia to the 1998 finals, where they lost to England, and Ecuador to the 2002 tournament.
Tunisia (pot 3)
Pedigree: Next summer will represent the first time Tunisia have appeared at a World Cup finals since the tournament in Germany in 2006, at which they failed to make it beyond the group stage. In three finals appearances prior to that – 1978, 1998 and 2002 – they failed to make the knockout rounds.
Key player: Centre-back Aymen Abdennour is an experienced and talented figure in Tunisia’s defence. Currently, on loan at French club Marseille from Valencia, he has 57 international caps and has scored twice. Previously linked with moves to the Premier League with both Everton and Chelsea, the 28-year-old was recently reported to be on Watford’s radar.
Premier League players: None
Championship players: Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland, on loan at Rennes)
Who is the boss? Nabil Maaloul is in his second spell as Tunisia coach. His first lasted just seven games in 2013, which ended in his resignation after he failed to take his country to the 2014 World Cup finals. He returned in April of 2017, following spells with El Jaish SC in Qatar and the Kuwait national team. Prior to all this, he was assistant to then head coach Roger Lemerre as Tunisia won the 2004 African Cup of Nations and led ES Tunis to an historic treble in 2011. He won 74 caps for Tunisia during his playing days as a midfielder in the 1980s and 1990s, representing them at the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.
England (pot 2)
Pedigree: Since their solitary World Cup success in 1966, England have reached the semi-finals only once – in 1990, when they finished fourth. In 2014, the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stage. That was the first time since 1958 they failed to get out of their group, and the only time they have been eliminated after just two matches.
Key player: With 13 goals for club and country in September, Harry Kane is one of the world’s most in-form strikers. His 27 goals in 2017 puts him only nine behind Lionel Messi.
Premier League players: The entire England squad play in the Premier League.
Who’s the boss? Gareth Southgate will take charge of his first major tournament. England have lost twice under his stewardship – to Germany and France – and are unbeaten in qualification.
Poland (pot 1)
Pedigree: Poland are ranked sixth in the world. They have never won the World Cup but many believe this is one of the country’s strongest squads. Their highest previous finish is third, which they achieved in 1974 and 1982.
Key player: Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski has scored 16 goals in nine qualifying matches for Poland and is their all-time record goal-scorer. The skipper has scored 51 international goals in 91 games.
Premier League players: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Bromwich Albion).
Championship players: Pawel Wszolek (Queens Park Rangers), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City).
Who’s the boss? Adam Nawalka has been in charge since November 2013 and has overseen 39 matches as Poland manager. His contract is due to run out in December but he guided the team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, just two years after they failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, so he is expected to remain in charge for his second major tournament.
Senegal (pot 3)
Pedigree: This is the first time Senegal have qualified for the World Cup since 2002 – and only the second time in history. In 2002, they reached the quarter finals where they were beaten 1-0 by Turkey.
Key player: Sadio Mane is the West African team’s most experienced player with 48 caps and 14 goals since his debut in 2012. In 2015 he set a new Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick after scoring three times in 176 seconds during a 6-1 Southampton win over Aston Villa. When he transferred to Liverpool in 2016, he became the most expensive African player in history at the time, for a fee of £34m.
Premier League players: Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Diafra Sakho (West Ham), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Sadio Mane (Liverpool).
Championship players: Alfred N’Diaye (Wolves), Cheikh N’Doye (Birmingham City),
Who is the boss? Aliou Cisse is a former Senegal, Pompey and Birmingham City player. The 41-year-old briefly became head coach of the team in a caretaker role after Amara Traore’s sacking in 2012. He then coached Senegal’s under-23 side from 2012-2013 before heading back to the national team in a permanent position.
Colombia (pot 2)
Pedigree: Colombia produced their best ever performance at a World Cup in Brazil in 2014 when they reached the quarter-finals, before losing 2-1 to hosts Brazil.
Key player: James Rodriguez. The attacking midfielder, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid, won the Golden Boot in the 2014 World Cup, awarded to the top goalscorer in the competition. He scored six goals in that World Cup.
Premier League players: David Ospina (Arsenal), Jose Izquierdo (Brighton), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham)
Who’s the boss: Jose Pekerman has been in charge of the Colombia team since 2012 and has won the South American Coach of the Year on three occasions since then.
Japan (pot 4)
Pedigree: Mainstays in the competition since 1998, Japan have twice reached the second round, including in 2002 when they jointly hosted the tournament with South Korea.
Key player: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Leicester forward Shinji Okazaki will of course be key, but a young forward on the books at Arsenal could be leading the line come next summer.
Takuma Asano has already netted three times for his country and helped Stuttgart win promotion to the Bundesliga last season while on loan from the Gunners. Arsene Wenger has called the 22-year-old “a talented young striker and very much one for the future”.
Premier League players: Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Takuma Asano (Stuttgart, on loan from Arsenal).
Who’s the boss? Vahid Halilhodzic, although that could change come the finals if reports of unrest in the camp are true. The Bosnian, however, has already proved his worth on the World Cup stage by leading Algeria to the knockout stages for the first time in the country’s history in 2014.
The former Yugoslavia forward has also coached teams such as Paris St-Germain, Dinamo Zagreb and the Ivory Coast.