Manager Jorge Sampaoli
Star man Lionel Messi – Is this the year the Barcelona forward finally tastes international glory? After losses in the World Cup (2014) and Copa America (2015, 2016) finals, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will hope to end his nation’s 32-year wait for victory.
How they qualified Finished third in the South American standings, with a Lionel Messi hat-trick against Ecuador on the final matchday lifting Argentina from the brink of a shock failure.
History Two-time winners in 1978 and 1986, having featured at 16 World Cups. Three-time runners-up, having lost the final in 1930, 1990 and most recently to Germany in 2014.
Fun fact No nation has featured in more World Cup penalty shootouts than Argentina – they have won four out of five.
Best World Cup moment That Diego Maradona double against England in the 1986 quarter-final. A moment of sheer audacity saw the little Argentine score his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal, where he punched the ball in ahead of the onrushing Peter Shilton. Just four minutes later, Maradona scored arguably the greatest ever World Cup goal. On this occasion it was a moment of sheer class, as his mazy run took him past five players before rounding Shilton and slotting it home from a narrow angle.
Player you’ve never heard of Giovani Lo Celso – The 21-year-old PSG midfielder will hope to break into Argentina’s starting XI at the World Cup, having made his debut last year.
Kit Home – sky blue and white; Away – black.
Group D fixtures Iceland (2pm, June 16, Moscow), Croatia (7pm, June 21, Nizhny Novgorod), Nigeria (7pm, June 26, St Petersburg)
Manager Bert van Marwijk
Star man Tim Cahill – The evergreen 38-year-old broke Syrian hearts in October when scoring an extra-time winning goal in the second-leg play-off.
How they qualified Prevailed 3-1 aggregate winners over Honduras in the intercontinental play-off.
History Having first reached the World Cup in 1974, Australia have gone on to appear at every World Cup since 2006. Their best showing of those four appearances was a last-16 finish in 2006, where they lost 1-0 to Italy.
Fun fact Tim Cahill has scored 45 per cent of Australia’s goals at World Cups – five of 11.
Best World Cup moment After ending their 32-year wait to appear at a World Cup, Australia found themselves 1-0 down going into the final 10 minutes of their opening group game against Japan in 2006. Step up Tim Cahill, who netted twice in five minutes before an injury-time John Aloisi goal sealed a famous 3-1 win, in what was their first ever victory at the finals.
Player you’ve never heard of Robbie Kruse – The Vfl Bochum forward netted in Australia’s first-leg play-off against Syria in October – the Socceroos won that tie 3-2 on aggregate before beating Honduras to qualify.
Kit Home – yellow; Away – dark green.
Group C fixtures France (11am, June 16, Kazan), Denmark (1pm, June 21, Samara), Peru (3pm, June 26, Sochi)
Manager Roberto Martinez
Star man Eden Hazard – The Chelsea forward scored six goals in qualifying for Belgium, and is expected to captain the side in Russia.
How they qualified Group H winners in European qualifying, winning nine games and drawing one, scoring a staggering 43 goals in the process.
History 12 World Cup appearances to date, with their best showing coming in 1986 when reaching the semi-finals, losing to eventual winners Argentina.
Fun fact Belgium’s last eight World Cup goals have come in the 70th minute or after.
Best World Cup moment A shock 1-0 group-stage win in 1982 against a Diego Maradona-led Argentina side, who were the reigning world champions. Erwin Vandenbergh scored in front of a 95,000-strong crowd at the Nou Camp, in what was the opening game of the tournament in Spain.
Player you’ve never heard of Laurent Ciman – The defender, now of Los Angeles FC, impressed for Montreal Impact between 2015 and 2017, featuring in two MLS All-Star games (2015 and 2016).
Kit Home – red; Away – yellow.
Group G fixtures Panama (4pm, June 18, Sochi), Tunisia (1pm, June 23, Moscow), England (7pm, June 28, Kaliningrad)
Star man Neymar – The PSG forward faces a race to be fit for the World Cup, but will be desperate to feature after missing the damaging 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany in 2014 through injury.
How they qualified Topped the South American standings, becoming the first nation to join hosts Russia after an impressive campaign. Ended the 18-match group stage with 12 wins and just one defeat.
History The most successful nation with five World Cup titles. Brazil have also finished runners-up twice in 1950 and 1998, having featured in all 20 tournaments since its inception in 1930. Have progressed from the initial group stage on each occasion from 1970 onwards.
Fun fact The only side to feature at every World Cup, Brazil are also the last side to have successfully defended their title – winning in 1958 and 1962.
Best World Cup moment Older football fans wax lyrical over Brazil’s 1970 World Cup side, and their crowning moment came in last moments of the final against Italy, when Carlos Alberto rounded off a fine team move to seal a 4-1 win. It’s regarded as one of the greatest goals in World Cup history.
Player you’ve never heard of Pedro Geromel – The Gremio centre-back has just two caps for Brazil but earned a surprise call-up after impressing in their Copa Libertadores victory.
Kit Home – yellow; Away – royal blue.
Group E fixtures Switzerland (7pm, June 17, Group E), Costa Rica (1pm, June 22, St Petersburg), Serbia (7pm, June 27, Moscow)
Manager Jose Pekerman
Star man James Rodriguez – The breakout star at the 2014 World Cup went on to score six goals in qualification for this summer’s tournament.
How they qualified Finished fourth in the South American standings, confirming their spot on the final matchday thanks to a 1-1 draw in Peru.
History Five World Cup appearances, with their best showing coming in 2014, when they exited at the quarter-final stage to Brazil.
Fun fact None of Colombia’s last 18 World Cup matches have ended goalless.
Best World Cup moment James Rodriguez announced himself to the world in 2014, and on his way to picking up the Golden Boot, a stunning volley on the turn against Uruguay saw him claim Goal of the Tournament, while it also won him the Puskas Award. A move to Real Madrid followed his star showing in Brazil.
Player you’ve never heard of Duvan Zapata – Has broken into the national side after impressing on a loan spell at Sampdoria from Napoli.
Kit Home – yellow; Away – blue.
Group H fixtures Japan (1pm, June 19, Saransk), Poland (7pm, June 24, Kazan), Senegal (3pm, June 28, Samara)
Manager Oscar Ramirez
Star man Bryan Ruiz – Now in the 100-cap club, the Sporting winger will look to lead Costa Rica out once more in Russia, having netted twice in the 2014 World Cup.
How they qualified Finished second behind Mexico in the North, Central America and Caribbean standings.
History Four World Cup appearances (1990, 2002, 2006, 2014), most recently reaching the quarter-finals four years ago, where they lost on penalties to the Netherlands.
Fun fact Costa Rica were one of three unbeaten teams (before penalties) at the 2014 World Cup, along with Germany and the Netherlands, who beat Costa Rica on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Best World Cup moment No one gave Costa Rica a chance when drawing Uruguay, Italy and England in 2014’s ‘Group of Death’. However, victories over Uruguay and Italy, followed by a 0-0 draw with England, saw them top the group against all the odds.
Player you’ve never heard of Marco Urena – The 28-year-old forward, who recently moved to Los Angeles FC, scored three goals during qualification, and was on target in their 3-1 win over Uruguay in 2014.
Kit Home – red; Away – white.
Group E fixtures Serbia (1pm, June 17, Samara), Brazil (1pm, June 22, St Petersburg), Switzerland (7pm, June 27, Nizhny Novgorod)
Manager Zlatko Dalic
Star man Luka Modric – The Real Madrid midfielder has been named Croatia’s Footballer of the Year six times.
How they qualified Beat Greece 4-1 on aggregate in the European play-offs after finishing runners-up to Iceland in Group I.
History Four appearances, having first qualified in 1998 where they reached the semi-finals. After defeat to eventual winners France, a 2-1 win over the Netherlands saw Croatia secure a third-place finish.
Fun fact Davor Suker was the only Croatian to feature in Pele’s list of the 125 greatest players of all time – selected back in 2004 to mark FIFA’s 100th anniversary.
Best World Cup moment Overwhelming giants Germany 3-0 in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals. Davor Suker sealed the memorable victory with Croatia’s third goal, and the then-Real Madrid striker went on to pick up the Golden Boot with six goals from seven matches, as well as claiming the Silver Ball (behind winner Ronaldo) and featuring in the team of the tournament.
Player you’ve never heard of Milan Badelj – The midfielder is a regular starter for Fiorentina, and has featured more than 30 times for Croatia since his debut in 2010.
Kit Home – red and white; Away – black and dark blue.
Group D fixtures Nigeria (8pm, June 16, Kaliningrad), Argentina (7pm, June 21, Nizhny Novgorod), Iceland (7pm, June 26, Rostov-On-Don)
Manager Age Hareide
Star man Christian Eriksen – The Dane’s hat-trick in the second-leg play-off sent the Republic of Ireland packing.
How they qualified A 5-1 aggregate victory over the Republic of Ireland in the European play-offs after finishing as runners-up behind Poland in Group E.
History Four World Cup appearances (1986, 1998, 2002, 2010) – have progressed from the groups in each tournament but for 2010, going furthest in 1998 when making the quarter-finals.
Fun fact All 27 of Denmark’s World Cup goals have come from inside the box.
Best World Cup moment Denmark made quite the introduction in their first ever finals appearance back in 1986, winning all three of their group games against Scotland, Uruguay and West Germany. A heavy 5-1 defeat to Spain followed in the last 16, but Elkjaer Larsen’s hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Uruguay will live long in the memory for Danish fans.
Player you’ve never heard of Nicolai Jorgensen – Scored twice in qualifying, and netted 21 times for Feyenoord last season.
Kit Home – red; Away – white.
Group C fixtures Peru (5pm, June 16, Saransk), Australia (1pm, June 21, Samara), France (3pm, June 26, Moscow)
Manager Gareth Southgate
Star man Harry Kane – The Tottenham striker has continued his fine goalscoring form this year, having netted 56 times for club and country in 2017.
How they qualified Group F winners in European qualifying, winning eight games and drawing two to finish on 26 points, eight clear of Slovakia.
History Have appeared at 14 World Cup finals, winning the tournament on home soil in 1966. The best the Three Lions have done since is a semi-final finish in 1990.
Fun fact Only Italy can match England’s record of three penalty shootout defeats in the competition. The Three Lions crashed out on penalties in 1990 (West Germany), 1998 (Argentina) and 2006 (Portugal).
Best World Cup moment ‘Some people are on the pitch… They think it’s all over… It is now!’ England’s 1966 World Cup triumph at Wembley was secured with a 4-2 extra-time victory over West Germany. Those immortal words were uttered as Geoff Hurst smashed in his hat-trick goal in the final minute of extra time.
Player you’ve never heard of Trent Alexander-Arnold – Called up to the England squad at 19 after a breakthrough campaign with Liverpool.
Kit Home – white; Away – dark blue.
Group G fixtures Tunisia (7pm, June 18, Volgograd), Panama (1pm, June 24, Nizhny Novgorod), Belgium (7pm, June 28, Kaliningrad)
Manager Hector Cuper
Star man Mohamed Salah – The Liverpool winger scored 71 per cent of Egypt’s goals in their qualifying campaign.
How they qualified Group E winners in African qualifying with a game to spare.
History Two appearances at the World Cup finals, crashing out in the first round to Hungary in 1934, exiting at the group stages in 1990.
Fun fact Egypt became the first African team to qualify for the World Cup when featuring in 1934.
Best World Cup moment Yet to win at the World Cup. Magdi Abdelghani’s 83rd-minute penalty secured a group-stage draw in 1990 against a Netherlands side featuring Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.
Player you’ve never heard of Ahmed Fathy – The right back had short spells at Sheffield United (2007) and Hull City (2013), and has more than 100 caps for Egypt.
Kit Home – red, black and white; Away – yet to be revealed.
Group A fixtures Uruguay (1pm, June 15, Ekaterinburg), Russia (7pm, June 19, St Petersburg), Saudi Arabia (3pm, June 25, Volgograd)
Manager Didier Deschamps
Star man Antoine Griezmann – The Atletico Madrid striker will be expected to spearhead a star-studded attack for France in Russia.
How they qualified Group A winners in European qualifying, finishing four points clear of Sweden.
History 14 World Cup appearances, having featured in the inaugural tournament back in 1930. Have reached the semi-finals five times, lifting the trophy on home soil in 1998 after beating Brazil. Went on to lose in the 2006 final to Italy.
Fun fact France have won just three of their last 12 group-stage games at the World Cup.
Best World Cup moment The nation’s only World Cup triumph, which happened on familiar territory at the Stade de France. The resounding 3-0 win over defending champions Brazil came courtesy of two Zinedine Zidane headers and a late Emmanuel Petit strike.
Player you’ve never heard of Presnel Kimpembe – The 22-year-old PSG defender was labelled as the future of the French team by former Arsenal and Chelsea player William Gallas back in January.
Kit Home – all blue; Away – all white.
Group C fixtures Australia (11am, June 16, Kazan), Peru (4pm, June 21, Ekaterinburg), Denmark (3pm, June 26, Moscow)
Manager Heimir Hallgrimsson
Star man Gylfi Sigurdsson – The Everton midfielder has been named the Icelandic Footballer of the Year for the past six years.
How they qualified Group I winners in European qualifying, picking up 22 points from 10 games to finish two points clear of runners-up Croatia.
History 2018 will be their first World Cup appearance, having failed to qualify for the finals on 12 occasions.
Fun fact Iceland are the smallest ever nation to qualify for the World Cup. With a population of approximately 335,000, they take the record from Trinidad and Tobago (1.3m), who reached the 2006 tournament in Germany.
Best World Cup moment History is waiting to be written for Iceland – walking out in Moscow to face two-time champions Argentina on June 16 will be some moment for the nation, who will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Player you’ve never heard of Alfred Finnbogason – Scored 12 goals in 19 games for Augsburg in the Bundesliga this season.
Kit Home – blue, red and white; Away – white, red and blue.
Group D fixtures Argentina (2pm, June 16, Moscow), Nigeria (4pm, June 22, Volgograd), Croatia (7pm, June 26, Rostov-On-Don)
Manager Carlos Queiroz
Star man Sardar Azmoun – The 23-year-old plays his club football at Rubin Kazan, and is scoring at a fantastic rate for Iran – 22 goals in 30 games as of March 2018.
How they qualified Group A winners in Asian qualifying, going unbeaten in their 10 games to finish seven points clear of runners-up South Korea.
History Four finals appearances in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 – yet to progress beyond the groups.
Fun fact Iran have reached back-to-back World Cups for the first time ever.
Best World Cup moment A 2-1 win over the United States in the 1998 groups handed Iran their first and only win to date at the finals.
Player you’ve never heard of Jalal Hosseini – The experienced defender, 36, has more than 100 caps for Iran, having made his debut in 2007.
Kit Home – white; Away – red.
Group B fixtures Morocco (4pm, June 15, St Petersburg), Spain (7pm, June 20, Kazan), Portugal (7pm, June 25, Saransk)
Manager Joachim Low
Star man Toni Kroos – The Real Madrid midfielder has long been an integral player for Germany, and was instrumental in their 2014 World Cup-winning campaign.
How they qualified Group C winners in European qualifying, winning all 10 games and scoring 43 goals to boot.
History Four-time winners of the World Cup, winning three times as West Germany in 1954, 1974 and 1990 before being crowned champions as a unified Germany in 2014. Finished runners-up on four occasions, having featured at the finals 18 times.
Fun fact No nation has played more World Cup matches than Germany – 106 in total. As a result, they have scored the most (124) and conceded the most (121) goals in the tournament.
Best World Cup moment Germany may have ended their 24-year wait for World Cup glory in 2014 thanks to an extra-time winner from Mario Gotze against Argentina, but it was their 7-1 semi-final win over hosts Brazil which will live long in the memory. It was a total humiliation for Brazil, and the tears were flowing from home fans after just 30 minutes as Germany stormed to a stunning 5-0 lead.
Player you’ve never heard of Julian Brandt – The Bayer Leverkusen winger has featured prominently for Germany since making his debut in 2016.
Kit Home – white and black; Away – green.
Group F fixtures Mexico (4pm, June 17, Moscow), Sweden (7pm, June 23, Sochi), South Korea (3pm, June 27, Kazan)
Manager Vahid Halilhodzic
Star man Keisuke Honda – The Pachuca forward is nearing the 100-cap mark for Japan, and averages more than one goal every three games for his country.
How they qualified Group B winners in Asian qualifying, finishing on 20 points from 10 games, just one point ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia.
History Have featured at every World Cup since first reaching the finals in 1998. Made the last 16 in both 2002 and 2010.
Fun fact Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki has scored one goal in each of the last two World Cups (v Denmark in 2010, v Colombia in 2014).
Best World Cup moment After a point-less showing in the 1998 groups, Japan co-hosted the 2002 tournament alongside South Korea, securing a point against Belgium before beating Russia and Tunisia to top Group H. A bleach-blonde Junichi Inamoto firing Japan ahead against Belgium sparked wild celebrations.
Player you’ve never heard of Makoto Hasebe – The Japanese captain, who plays defensive midfield for Eintracht Frankfurt, has more than 100 international caps, and will be looking to feature in his third World Cup.
Kit Home – blue; Away – white and grey.
Group H fixtures Colombia (1pm, June 19, Saransk), Senegal (4pm, June 24, Ekaterinburg), Poland (3pm, June 28, Volgograd)
Manager Juan Carlos Osorio
Star man Javier Hernandez – Averaging a goal every two games for his country, having first made his debut back in 2009.
How they qualified Group winners in the North, Central America and Caribbean standings, securing a spot in Russia with three games to spare.
History With 15 finals appearances from 15 qualifying attempts, Mexico have reached the quarter-finals just twice (1970 and 1986), while they have lost in the round of 16 on the last six occasions.
Fun fact With Mexico set to feature at their 16th World Cup, no nation has appeared more times without lifting the trophy – Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina all have more appearances.
Best World Cup moment With just one knockout-stage victory to date (v Bulgaria in 1986), Mexico will perhaps look to their 2010 group win over France as proof that they can end this horrendous run of six straight last-16 exits. The 2-0 victory came courtesy of Javier Hernandez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco strikes, though it was somewhat overshadowed by Nicolas Anelka’s half-time outburst aimed at coach Raymond Domenech, which subsequently saw the striker sent home
Player you’ve never heard of Hirving Lozano – The 22-year-old PSV forward has featured more than 20 times since making his Mexico debut in 2016 – scored four times during qualification.
Kit Home – green; Away – white.
Group F fixtures Germany (4pm, June 17, Moscow), South Korea (4pm, June 23, Rostov-On-Don), Sweden (3pm, June 27, Ekaterinburg)
Manager Herve Renard
Star man Medhi Benatia – The Juventus defender netted a vital goal against the Ivory Coast in November, and has featured more than 50 times for Morocco.
How they qualified Group C winners in African qualifying after beating Ivory Coast in a winner-takes-all clash on the final matchday.
History Four finals appearances, having last qualified in 1998. Best achievement is a run to the last 16 at the 1986 World Cup.
Fun fact Morocco are bidding to host the 2026 World Cup, and are competing against a joint bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States – a decision will be made on June 13.
Best World Cup moment After two 0-0 draws with Poland and England in the 1986 group stages, Morocco’s 3-1 victory over Portugal was their first ever win at the finals, and booked a spot in the last 16 – they lost that encounter 1-0 to eventual runners-up West Germany.
Player you’ve never heard of Hakim Ziyech – The Ajax midfielder has scored seven goals in 13 appearances since making his international debut in 2015.
Kit Yet to be revealed.
Group B fixtures Iran (4pm, June 15, St Petersburg), Portugal (1pm, June 20, Moscow), Spain (7pm, June 25, Kaliningrad)
Manager Gernot Rohr
Star man Victor Moses – The Chelsea wing-back was voted Nigeria’s Player of the Year back in February.
How they qualified Group B winners in African qualifying, five points clear of Zambia and six ahead of Cameroon.
History Since making their World Cup debut in 1994, Nigeria have only missed the 2006 edition in Germany. Of their five appearances, their best achievement has been reaching the last 16 in 1994, 1998 and 2014.
Fun fact Nigeria have been drawn in the same group as Argentina in five of their last six World Cup outings.
Best World Cup moment Rashidi Yekini opening Nigeria’s account against Bulgaria in 1994, in what was their first ever World Cup finals game. The forward, who died aged 48 back in 2012, memorably celebrated inside the goal, shaking the net with sheer elation. Nigeria went on to win 3-0.
Player you’ve never heard of Ikechukwu Ezenwa – The goalkeeper who will likely be tasked with keeping Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain at bay on June 26.
Kit Home – green and white; Away – dark green.
Group D fixtures Croatia (8pm, June 16, Kaliningrad), Iceland (4pm, June 22, Volgograd), Argentina (7pm, June 26, St Petersburg)
Manager Hernan Dario Gomez
Star man Blas Perez – With more than 100 appearances for Panama, the 37-year-old forward scored twice in qualifying, having first found the net for his country in 2001.
How they qualified Finished third in the North, Central America and Caribbean standings, pipping Honduras on goal difference.
History 2018 will be Panama’s first World Cup appearance, having previously attempted to reach the finals on 11 occasions.
Fun fact This will be the third World Cup for Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez, who took charge of his native Colombia in 1998 before guiding Ecuador to the finals in 2002.
Best World Cup moment With Belgium and England in Panama’s World Cup group, victory – or even a point – against one of these nations will send the country into a footballing frenzy.
Player you’ve never heard of Roman Torres – The Seattle Sounders centre back scored an 88th-minute winner in Panama’s final qualifying game against Costa Rica back in October, which saw them edge out Honduras to qualify.
Kit Yet to be revealed.
Group G fixtures Belgium (4pm, June 18, Sochi), England (1pm, June 24, Nizhny Novgorod), Tunisia (7pm, June 28, Saransk)
Manager Ricardo Gareca
Star man Jefferson Farfan – The 33-year-old Lokomotiv Moscow forward scored one and assisted the other in Peru’s 2-0 play-off victory against New Zealand.
How they qualified A 2-0 aggregate victory over New Zealand in their intercontinental play-off came after finishing fifth in the South American standings.
History Four World Cup appearances, first qualifying in 1930 before reaching the quarters in 1970 and 1978. Their last appearance came in 1982.
Fun fact Peru’s 36-year gap from their last World Cup to this current outing is the longest absence of any nation competing in Russia (not including first-timers Iceland and Panama).
Best World Cup moment A spectacular 4-2 defeat to Brazil in the 1970 quarter-finals. Peru failed to win at the 1930 World Cup, and after beating both Morocco and Bulgaria in the groups, they gave Brazil a run for their money in a thrilling display of attacking football. Peru never led the tie, but certainly kept one of the best teams in history on their toes.
Player you’ve never heard of Edison Flores – The 23-year-old AaB winger scored five goals in qualification.
Kit Home – white with red stripe; Away – red with white stripe.
Group C fixtures Denmark (5pm, June 16, Saransk), France (4pm, June 21, Ekaterinburg), Australia (3pm, June 26, Sochi)
Manager Adam Nawalka
Star man Robert Lewandowski – Scored 16 goals in qualifying, including hat-tricks against Denmark, Romania and Armenia.
How they qualified Group E winners in European qualifying, winning eight games (D1 L1) to finish five points clear of Denmark.
History Seven appearances at the World Cup, securing third-place finishes in 1974 and 1982. Last qualified in 2006.
Fun fact Poland have only scored in two of their last eight World Cup games.
Best World Cup moment A first World Cup win in 1974, which came at the expense of Argentina. The 3-2 group-stage victory was their first of five consecutive wins, though a 1-0 defeat to eventual winners West Germany saw them ultimately playing for third – which they achieved when beating Brazil 1-0.
Player you’ve never heard of Piotr Zielinski – The Napoli midfielder has featured regularly for Poland since making his debut in 2013.
Kit Home – red; Away – white.
Group H fixtures Senegal (4pm, June 19, Moscow), Colombia (7pm, June 24, Kazan), Japan (3pm, June 28, Volgograd)
Manager Fernando Santos
Star man Cristiano Ronaldo – Who else but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner – the 33-year-old has been in fine goalscoring form for Real Madrid in 2018.
How they qualified Group B winners in European qualifying, pipping Switzerland to first on goal difference after beating the Swiss 2-0 in the final round of matches.
History Six World Cup appearances, first reaching the finals in 1966, where they progressed to the semi-finals, losing to eventual winners England. A run to the semis in 2006 was ended by France.
Fun fact Portugal will look to become the fourth nation to hold both the World Cup and European Championship titles – West Germany (1972, 1974), France (1998, 2000), Spain (2008, 2010, 2012).
Best World Cup moment The great Eusebio lit up the 1966 World Cup. The forward scored nine goals to finish as the tournament’s top scorer, netting in all but one game. Fresh from scoring four goals in the 5-3 quarter-final win over North Korea, Eusebio was powerless to prevent England from reaching the final, despite scoring a late penalty in the 2-1 semi-final defeat.
Player you’ve never heard of Goncalo Guedes – The on-loan Valencia winger, 21, was named in Portugal’s squad for March’s friendlies after impressing in Spain.
Kit Home – Red and green, Away – All white
Group B fixtures Spain (7pm, June 15, Sochi), Morocco (1pm, June 20, Moscow), Iran (7pm, June 25, Saransk)
Manager Stanislav Cherchesov
Star man Igor Akinfeev – Russia’s captain has featured more than 100 times for his nation between the sticks, and has won six league titles with CSKA Moscow.
How they qualified As hosts.
History Ten appearances at the World Cup finals but have not progressed from the group stage since the break up of the Soviet Union. Best finish – as Soviet Union – remains fourth in 1966.
Fun fact The distance between Russia’s westernmost stadium (Kaliningrad) and easternmost stadium (Ekaterinburg) is more than 1500 miles – roughly the same distance as Moscow to London.
Best World Cup moment Oleg Salenko’s record haul. The striker made history at the 1994 finals against Cameroon by becoming the first – and still only – player to score five goals in a World Cup match.
Player you’ve never heard of Aleksei Miranchuk – The 22-year-old Lokomotiv Moscow forward has four goals in 14 games for Russia since making his debut in 2015.
Kit Home – red and white; Away – white and blue.
Group A fixtures Saudi Arabia (4pm, June 14, Moscow), Egypt (7pm, June 19, St Petersburg), Uruguay (3pm, June 25, Samara)
Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi
Star man Mohammad Al-Sahlawi – Averaging a goal a game for Saudi Arabia since making his debut in 2015.
How they qualified Group B runners-up in Asian qualifying, pipping Australia on goal difference after finishing one point behind Japan.
History Four straight appearances at the World Cup between 1994 and 2006. Their best showing was a run to the last 16 in 1994, where they lost 3-1 to Sweden.
Fun fact No goalkeeper has conceded more goals at World Cups than Mohamed Al-Deayea, who shipped in 25 goals over four World Cups from 1994 to 2006.
Best World Cup moment Saudi Arabia may have lost 2-1 to the Netherlands in the 1994 group stages, but Fuad Anwar handed them a shock lead after 18 minutes in their first ever World Cup game – second-half goals from Wim Jonk and Gaston Taument turned the game on its head.
Player you’ve never heard of Yahya Al-Shehri – The winger, currently on loan at Leganes, scored five goals in World Cup qualifying.
Kit Home – white; Away – green.
Group A fixtures Russia (4pm, June 14, Moscow), Uruguay (4pm, June 20, Rostov-On-Don), Egypt (3pm, June 25, Volgograd)
Manager Aliou Cisse
Star man Sadio Mane – The influential Liverpool forward is the first name on the team sheet for Senegal.
How they qualified Group D winners in African qualifying, not losing a game en route to finishing five points clear of Burkina Faso.
History Senegal’s one World Cup appearance to date came back in 2002, where they reached the quarter-finals, losing 1-0 to Turkey after extra time.
Fun fact Senegal’s 23-man squad at the 2002 World Cup comprised of 21 players plying their trade in France.
Best World Cup moment Undoubtedly the 1-0 victory over reigning champions France in the first game of the 2002 World Cup. Papa Bouba Diop memorably celebrated Senegal’s first ever World Cup goal by taking his shirt off and dancing around it by the corner flag with his team-mates.
Player you’ve never heard of Keita Balde – Scored eight league goals in his debut season with Monaco after joining from Lazio.
Kit Home – yet to be revealed; Away – white.
Group H fixtures Poland (4pm, June 19, Moscow), Japan (4pm, June 24, Ekaterinburg), Colombia (3pm, June 28, Samara)
Manager Mladen Krstajic
Star man Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – The 23-year-old Lazio midfielder is reportedly attracting interest from Europe’s elite after impressing in Italy this season.
How they qualified Group D winners in European qualifying, finishing two points clear of runners-up Republic of Ireland.
History 11 appearances in total, eight as part of Yugoslavia from 1930 to 1990, two as Serbia and Montenegro in 1998 and 2006, before most recently featuring as Serbia in 2010. Reached the semi-finals in both 1930 and 1962.
Fun fact Milorad Arsenijevic became the first person to play and manage at a World Cup, featuring for Yugoslavia in 1930 before taking charge in 1950.
Best World Cup moment Serbia handed Germany their first group-stage defeat since 1986 when beating them 1-0 in 2010. Milan Jovanovic, who went on to join Liverpool that summer, scored the winner with a 35th-minute volley – their only shot on target all match.
Player you’ve never heard of Andrija Zivkovic – The 21-year-old featured in Serbia’s U20 World Cup-winning side in 2015, and is now a regular for Benfica.
Kit Home – red, Away – white.
Group E fixtures Costa Rica (1pm, June 17, Samara), Switzerland (7pm, June 22, Kaliningrad), Brazil (7pm, June 27, Moscow)
Manager Julen Lopetegui
Star man Sergio Ramos – The captain is the nation’s second-most capped player, and continues to play a key role having already won the World Cup in 2010 and European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
How they qualified Group G winners in European qualifying, taking four points from Italy to finish five clear of the four-time World Cup winners.
History 14 World Cup appearances since first featuring in 1934. Crowned world champions in 2010 after beating the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time. Previous best was fourth place in 1950.
Fun fact Spain have not drawn any of their last 14 World Cup matches, winning 10 and losing four.
Best World Cup moment The World Cup-winning moment in the 2010 final from Andres Iniesta. After a bruising encounter against the Netherlands, which saw 14 yellow cards dished out (including two for John Heitinga), the Barcelona midfielder slotted home with four minutes to spare to spark jubilant scenes for Spain and hand their opponents a third defeat in the final.
Player you’ve never heard of Alvaro Odriozola – The 22-year-old defender earned a call-up for the World Cup squad after an impressive season with Real Sociedad.
Kit Home – red and yellow, Away – white and red.
Group B fixtures Portugal (7pm, June 15, Sochi), Iran (7pm, June 20, Kazan), Morocco (7pm, June 25, Kaliningrad)
Manager Shin Tae-Yong
Star man Heung-Min Son – The forward has shone for Tottenham this season, and scored seven goals for his country in the qualifying campaign.
How they qualified Group A runners-up in Asian qualifying, finishing seven points behind Iran, but crucially two clear of third-place Syria.
History Ever-presents at the World Cup since 1986, South Korea first reached the finals in 1954. A run to the semi-finals as hosts in 2002 ended with a 1-0 loss to Germany.
Fun fact With South Korea set to feature at their 10th World Cup, no Asian nation has featured more times at the tournament.
Best World Cup moment Ahn Jung-hwan’s golden-goal winner against giants Italy in the last 16 in 2002. It goes down as a controversial 2-1 victory for hosts South Korea, with an outraged Italy believing they were victims of poor decisions from Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno, who awarded South Korea a debatable early penalty, disallowed a Damiano Tomassi goal and sent off Francesco Totti for diving in extra time.
Player you’ve never heard of Ja-cheol Koo – Scored four goals in qualifying, currently playing club football for FC Augsburg in Germany.
Kit Home – red; Away – white.
Group F fixtures Sweden (1pm, June 18, Nizhny Novgorod), Mexico (4pm, June 23, Rostov-On-Don), Germany (3pm, June 27, Kazan)
Manager Janne Andersson
Star man Andreas Granqvist – Named Sweden’s player of the year in 2017, the national team captain has been a rock in their defence since 2006.
How they qualified Secured a 1-0 aggregate victory over Italy in the European play-offs, having finished runners-up to France in Group A.
History 11 appearances since first featuring in 1934. Lost the 1958 final on home soil to Brazil, and have reached a further three semi-finals, most recently in 1994.
Fun fact Sweden have met Brazil seven times at the World Cup, failing to winning any of them (D2 L5).
Best World Cup moment For those who remember, it will be their 1958 run to the final as hosts. Brazil were resounding 5-2 winners in the Stockholm showdown, but Sweden impressed when toppling both the Soviet Union and West Germany in the knock-out stages.
Player you’ve never heard of Ola Toivonen – The 31-year-old forward made just 12 appearances for Sunderland in 2015-16, and scored three goals during Sweden’s qualifying campaign.
Kit Home – yellow; Away – blue.
Group F fixtures South Korea (1pm, June 18, Nizhny Novgorod), Germany (7pm, June 23, Sochi), Mexico (3pm, June 27, Ekaterinburg)
Manager Vladimir Petkovic
Star man Xherdan Shaqiri – The Stoke winger assisted five goals in the Swiss’ qualifying campaign.
How they qualified A 1-0 aggregate victory over Northern Ireland in the European play-offs, having been pipped to first on goal difference by Portugal in Group B.
History 10 finals appearances, reaching the quarter-finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954.
Fun fact Became the first team to exit the World Cup without conceding a goal in 2006 – the 3-0 loss on penalties to Ukraine also saw them become the first side not to score in a shootout.
Best World Cup moment A 1-0 victory against Spain in 2010 stunned the world – it was in the group-stage opener against the Euro 2008 champions, leaving many in doubt over Spain’s credentials, though they did indeed recover to lift the World Cup trophy.
Player you’ve never heard of Dimitri Oberlin – The 20-year-old Basel forward, on loan from RB Salzburg, earned his first call-up in March after impressing for the Swiss side.
Kit Home – red; Away – white.
Group E fixtures Brazil (7pm, June 17, Rostov-On-Don), Serbia (7pm, June 22, Kaliningrad), Costa Rica (7pm, June 27, Nizhny Novgorod)
Manager Nabil Maaloul
Star man Wahbi Khazri – The Sunderland midfielder is set to take the reins in attack after an injury to Youssef Msakni.
How they qualified Group A winners in African qualifying, finishing one point above DR Congo.
History First qualified in 1978 before appearing in three straight tournaments in 1998, 2002 and 2006. Failed to progress from any of their groups.
Fun fact Tunisia have drawn one game and lost two in each of their last three World Cup group-stage campaigns.
Best World Cup moment Tunisia’s only win at the World Cup happened to be their first ever game at the finals in 1978. Having gone a goal down to Mexico, Tunisia rallied in the second half to win 3-1 in Argentina.
Player you’ve never heard of Aymen Mathlouthi – The 33-year-old goalkeeper is the Tunisian captain, and will be tasked with shutting out England and Belgium this June.
Kit Home – white; Away – red.
Group G fixtures England (7pm, June 18, Volgograd), Belgium (1pm, June 23, Moscow), Panama (7pm, June 28, Saransk)
Manager Oscar Tabarez
Star man Luis Suarez – The Barcelona forward will hope to reach the 100-cap club come summer, having averaged more than a goal every other game for Uruguay to date.
How they qualified Finished second in the South American standings, 10 points behind Brazil.
History Two-time winners, picking up the inaugural trophy on home soil in 1930 before winning again in 1950. With 12 appearances to date, they have since reached the semi-finals three times, most recently in 2010, where they lost to the Netherlands.
Fun fact Uruguay are one of four teams to have won all of their games at a World Cup. After winning all four matches to clinch the 1930 edition, Italy did so in 1938 (four matches), while Brazil achieved the feat twice, in 1970 (six matches) and 2002 (seven matches).
Best World Cup moment Winning the first World Cup in 1930 was one thing, but beating hosts Brazil to seal glory 20 years later was a monumental achievement. The near 200,000-strong crowd at the Maracana were left stunned, with the 2-1 defeat seen as a national tragedy in Brazil.
Player you’ve never heard of Lucas Torreira – The 22-year-old Sampdoria midfielder will hope to breaking into the first team after earning his first call-up in March.
Kit Home – Sky blue and black; Away – white.
Group A fixtures Egypt (1pm, June 15, Ekaterinburg), Saudi Arabia (4pm, June 20, Rostov-On-Don), Russia (3pm, June 25, Samara)
News Source SkyNews