The international break has been so far explosive with different teams mobilizing butterflies into their fans and citizens, by already booking their place in next years Russia 2018 FIFA World cup. The final round of qualifiers is taking place, and 14 countries have already booked their tickets alongside hosts Russia, at next years much anticipated 32-team tournament.
Five-time winners Brazil happened to have qualified early enough to have played their last four qualifiers with relief. Defending champions Germany unsurprisingly also have their name registered among teams already qualified as well as Belgium being the first team in Europe to book a place. Other teams to have qualified include the likes of Iran, Costa Rica, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Egypt, Japan, England, Spain, and Poland.
Each countries have their strengths and weaknesses; looking into past achievements with their current managers and key players.
Currently ranked 64th in latest FIFA Ranking, Russia didn’t participate in the qualifier for next summer being the host of the tournament. They’ve participated in ten FIFA World Cups, seven of which were as the Soviet Union. Their best performance was as the Soviet Union, reaching 4th place in England 1966. Their best performance after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was 18th place in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, hosted by the United States of America.
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov’s
Key Player: Igor Akinfeev
Belgium reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014, losing to eventual runners-up Argentina, having failed to qualify for the previous two tournaments . The Red Devils’ are currently ranked 5th in the latest World FIFA ranking – their best finish was fourth in 1986.
Coach: Roberto Martinez.
Key Player: Eden Hazard.
Being the defending champions and currently sitting at the top in the latest FIFA Rankings, Germany who happens to have won the world cup four times unsurprisingly already have their names in the list of countries at Russia 2018 already.
Coach: Joachim Low.
Key Player: Toni Kroos.
England, currently ranked 15th in the latest FIFA World rankings, have not enjoyed the luxury of winning a trophy since their solitary World Cup success in 1966. They have reached the semi-finals just once in 1990, when they finished fourth. In 2013, the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stage which made it 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.
Coach: Gareth Southgate.
Key Player: Harry Kane.
Spain, currently ranked 11th in the world, had a time when it looked like every international competition belonged to them. They were the king of the world of football for five consecutive years holding the number one spot between 2008 and 2013. They were world champions in 2010, as well as European champions in 2008 and 2012.
Coach: Julen Lopetegui.
Key Player: Isco.
Poland who have never won the World Cup before are currently ranked 6th in the world even ahead of Spain and just a spot below the prolific Belgium. They attained their highest feat in the World cup after coming third and winning the bronze in 1974 and 1982.
Coach: Adam Nawalka.
Key Player: Robert Lewandowski.
Nigeria has reached their sixth ever World cup appearance and their third in a row after defeating Zambia at the Godswill Akpabio stadium two days ago. They have never advanced beyond the last 16 which they have reached only three times in 1994, 1998 and 2014. The West African side are currently ranked 44th in the world and 5th in Africa.
Coach: Gernot Rohr.
Key Player: John Mikel Obi.
Egypt, currently rated 30th in FIFA’s World Rankings – one place below Netherlands and 1st in Africa – qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, having missed out on the 2010 and 2014 competitions after play-off defeats. They qualified for Russia when Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scored a dramatic 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.
Coach: Argentine Hector Cuper
Key Player: Mohammed Salah
Five time winners Brazil won the tournament in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. They were beaten 7-1 at the semi-final stage by the top ranked Germany last time out – a day the Brazilians will never forget. Brazil are currentlyranked 2nd behind Germany and are believed to be one of the strongest contenders for the FIFA 2018 World Cup based on their current squad and previous performances.
Coach: Adenor Leonardo Bacchi [Tite].
Key Player: Neymar.
NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA and CARIBBEAN
Mexico – one spot above England, are currently ranked 14th and have reached the knockout stages in each of the past six World Cups. They made the quarter-finals as hosts in 1986.
Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio.
Key Player: Javier Hernandez.
Los Ticos have secured qualification to their fifth World Cup ever – one less than Nigeria. 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.
Coach: Oscar Ramirez.
Key Players: Giancarlo Gonzale.
Iran, currently ranked 25th in the World, will also be participating at the World Cup for the fifth time, going into Russia 2018: but have had a poor run in each of the occasions after their only recorded victory in the tournament remains a 2-1 win over the United States at France ’98 till date.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz.
Key Player: Sardar Azmoun.
Saudi Arabia – unlike Iran – has had just two victories at the World Cup which came in their first appearance in 1994, when they won two group matches and reached the second round. Their second win was against Belgium: A slim 1-0 win which featured one of the greatest goals of all time in the World Cup, when forward Saeed Al Owairan ran from his own half and beat half the Belgian defence to score.
Coach: Bert van Marwijk.
Key Player: Nasser Al Shamrani.
Japan has been a regular at the World Cup since 1998. Currently ranked 40th in the world, they have reached the second round just twice, including in 2002 when they jointly hosted the tournament with South Korea.
Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic.
Key Player: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki.
Despite their poor ranking – 124th on current FIFA world ranking – No Asian team has a better World Cup pedigree than the Taegeuk Warriors side: They have qualified for their 9th World Cup in a row going into Russia 2018, after their goalless draw against Uzbekistan. This would be their 10th time coming to the world cup.
Coach: Shin Tae-yong.
Key Player: Ki Sung-yueng , Son Heung-min.