What’s On brings you a World Cup bluffer’s guide, part of a bigger feature on where to watch the World Cup in Dubai, including sports bars in Dubai.

Brazilian food in Dubai
– Fabio Cannavaro interview

What’s On has everything you need to know about the World Cup in Brazil, includes guides to each team and their respective group, star players, manager and stadiums.

Remember, we’ve got the definitive list on the best sports bars in Dubai to watch the World Cup, so chose your spot and unleash all yournew-found knowledge on friends.


World ranking: 4
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Star man: Neymar (Barcelona)
Previous Winners: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002
Prediction: Semi-finals
Young gun: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk)
No nation has as impressive a World Cup history as the five-time winners. Be it Pele, Garrincha, Zico, Socrates, Romário, Ronaldo or countless others, the Selecão have never been short on attacking flair – until now. Neymar aside, this Brazil team is more about solidity and industry than step-overs and wonder strikes, but they are proving just as effective. Scolari knows what’s required – he won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil – and has built a cohesive, spirited team with bags of belief in place of the usual bag of tricks. At last year’s Confederations Cup, they defeated the undefeatable Spain 3-0 in the final and the expectation is they will go all the way again. As host nation though, the pressure is immense. How they cope when things don’t go to plan will be key in deciding their fate this summer.

World ranking: 20
Manager: Niko Kovač
Star man: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Previous: Semi-finals (1998)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Mateo Kovacic (Inter Milan)
On their day, the Balkan nation can prove a match for anybody. With Luka Modric dictating the pace in midfield and his searching through-balls directed towards the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic, Croatia are always a threat. Consistency is, however, an issue for Kovac’s team. After collecting 16 points from a possible 18 at the start of qualifying, they then took just one point from their next four games and required a playoff to finally book their place in Brazil. Finished third in their debut tournament in 1998, but have failed to come close since and with Mandzukic suspended for their opening match with Brazil in São Paulo, they face an uphill – but certainly not impossible – battle to progress.

World ranking: 50
Manager: Volker Finke
Star man: Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea)
Previous: Quarter-finals (1990)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Fabrice Olinga (Malaga)
Cameroonians feel it is time the Indomitable Lions prove their worth again. Having made history in their 1982 finals debut by becoming the only team to exit a World Cup without losing a match, they polished their reputation eight years later when they beat holders Argentina on route to becoming the first African side to reach the quarter-finals. Since then though, they have fell at the group stages of each of their past four tournaments. Qualifying saw them overcome Tunisia in their playoff and with Samuel Eto’o playing his last global showpiece, the Lions will be determined to leave their mark on a finals once more.

World ranking: 19
Manager: Miguel Herrera
Star man: Javier Hernandez (Man United)
Previous: Quarter-finals (1970, 1986)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: Alan Pulido (Tigres UANL)
A near-catastrophic qualifying campaign saw El Tri only manage two wins from their first ten qualifying matches, yet two games and two managerial changes later they managed to sneak into, and comfortably win, an intercontinental play-off against New Zealand. A quick and dangerous team with potential to punish slackness through attacking trio Javier Hernandez, Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos, Mexico can never be discounted. They will be appearing at the finals for the 15th time in their history, but which team will turn up? Consider their passionate evergreen fans coupled with the experience of last summer’s Confederations Cup and Mexico can certainly progress; consider their utter lack of consistency and their tactical instability and it is not quite so clear cut.


World ranking: 1
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
Star Man: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Previous: Winners (2010)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: Isco (Real Madrid)
Without an international title since 1964, Spain’s victory at the 2008 European Championships suddenly sparked them to life. World champions in 2010, in 2012 they became the first country to win three consecutive tournaments. While their fashionable brand of possession football has its critics, so long as it remains ruthlessly effective it’s unlikely to change. Age is creeping into the legs of stars such as Xavi and David Villa, so performances by the new blood – Cristian Tello, Isco, Diego Costa – will be crucial. A tough group means they cannot afford any slip-ups such as 2010, when they lost their opening game. If they fail to qualify top of their group, they will likely face Brazil in the Round of 16.

World ranking: 15
Manager: Louis Van Gaal
Star man: Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)
Previous: Final (1974, 1978, 2010)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord)
The Dutch dazzled in qualifying, racking up a joint-record 28 points from a possible 30, scoring 34 goals – a total bettered only by Germany – and becoming, alongside Italy, the first European team to secure automatic qualification. Three-time finalists, including last time out in 2010, the Oranje arrive as one of the favourites, but the draw has been unkind. With the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie four years older, the core of their squad is shifting, and whether Jeremain Lens and Daley Blind can take their fine qualifying form onto the world stage will prove key.

World ranking: 13
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Star man: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona)
Previous: Semi-finals (1962)
Prediction: Quarter-finals
Young gun: Ángelo Henríquez (Manchester United)
Being tipped as potential winners by Brazilian legend Pelé has become somewhat of a curse for teams in previous years. Chile, however, will hope to buck that trend and in the likes of Arturo Vidal and Mathias Fernandez pulling the midfield strings behind Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas, they have the attacking strength to do so, as exemplified by their 29 goals in qualifying. It’s defence where the questions will be asked though: no team from South America conceded more times on route to automatic qualification than Chile. If they can keep it tight at the back, their familiarity with the climate and fast-thinking forward line can lead them to take some big scalps.

World ranking: 59
Manager: Ange Postecoglou
Star man: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)
Previous: Second round (2006)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Curtis Good (Newcastle United)
The Socceroos laboured through qualifying, which included shock defeats to Oman and Jordan, so the eventual decision to replace Holger Osieck came as little surprise. Ange Postecoglou, the national youth team’s coach, received the call and will look to blend experience with potential. The tournament’s lowest ranked team could hardly have been handed a more difficult draw, facing both 2010 finalists and a much-fancied Chile. Eliminated in the 2010 group stages on goal difference, such a result this summer would be mightily impressive – especially given the decision of UAE-based midfielder Brett Holman to retire. The boys from Down Under could be down and out by the end of their second match.


World ranking: 5
Manager: José Pékerman
Star man: Jackson Martinez (Porto)
Previous: Second round (1990)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: James Rodriguez (AS Monaco)
Not since 1994 when Colombia boasted the worldly talents of Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla have Los Cafeteros arrived at a World Cup amid so much hype. A strong qualifying campaign saw them finish with the meanest defence in their group and they outscored all but two of their continental rivals. Doubts about the fitness of star striker Radamel Falcao have tempered expectations slightly, but the South Americans are no one-man team. In James Rodriguez, they have arguably the most exciting young player in the world and in Jackson Martinez they have a prolific striker on the radar of all of Europe’s top clubs. They have progressed through the group stages just once in four attempts, but that is the absolute minimum Colombia should expect.

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni
World ranking: 47
Star man: Keisuke Honda (AC Milan)
Previous: Second round (2002, 2010)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Yuya Osako (1860 Munchen)
Alberto Zaccheroni arrived with 30 years of experience coaching in Italy and has instilled structure and stability into the Blue Samurai. Slow out of the blocks in Asian qualifying, they improved and were the first team to secure their place in Brazil. Zaccheroni led them to Asian Cup success, which also saw them compete in last year’s Confederations Cup. Shinji Kagawa, the Manchester United playmaker, and Shinji Okazaki of Mainz are the attacking threat, playing ahead of AC Milan’s intelligent midfielder Keisuke Honda. Skilful and disciplined, Japan are technically excellent and notoriously difficult to break down. Against stronger, more physical opponents, however, there is always the risk of being outmuscled – and none of their Group C opponents are particularly slight.

World ranking: 21
Manager: Sabri Lamouchi
Star man: Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
Previous: Group stage (2006, 2010)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: Serge Aurier (Toulouse)
For Ivory Coast’s golden generation, this summer represents a final opportunity to leave their mark on the global game. It is fair to say the Elephants have failed to live up to their billing at their two previous World Cups. It would also be fair to say they were handed particularly tough draws at both tournaments. This year has provided them with a more palatable set of fixtures. Qualifying was a breeze – save for a nervy playoff – and with Yaya Touré and Didier Drogba in the side, Ivory Coast should be fighting not just to progress, but to progress as group winners. They have a habit of failing to turn up when it matters most, yet for a team of stars facing their last shot at something special, no matches will matter more than this month’s.

World ranking: 10
Manager: Fernando Santos
Star man: Konstantinos Mitroglou (Fulham)
Previous: Group stage (1994, 2010)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Sotiris Ninis (Panathinaikos)
Greece arguably over-relied on a solid defence when they won the European Championships a decade ago and their tactics have not changed much since. It will be more of the same this month. The Greeks conceded just four times in ten games during qualifying and three of those goals were in a defeat to Bosnia. Still though, they struggle to score: five of their eight wins were 1-0 and they managed just 12 goals. Such statistics do not point towards attractive football, yet it has proved effective. In their two-legged playoff with Romania, they surprisingly scored four times with Konstantinos Mitroglou bagging three of them. He will be expected to score as Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Roma’s Vassilis Torosidis keep things tight at the back.


World ranking: 6
Manager: Oscar Tabarez
Star man: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Previous: Winners (1930, 1950)
Prediction: Semi-finals
Young gun: Abel Hernandez (Palermo)
Somewhat of a surprise package in South Africa four years ago as they reached the semi-finals, Uruguay started their 2014 qualifying campaign with high expectations. Two points from six games, however, caused great concern and they eventually had to rely on a play-off victory over Jordan. Nevertheless, in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Uruguay have arguably the best forward pairing in international football. Couple that with the experience of last summer’s Confederations Cup and the added inspiration that Uruguay famously triumphed the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950, and Oscar Tabarez’s team could progress deep into the tournament.

World ranking: 11
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Star man: Wayne Rooney (Man United)
Previous: Winners (1966)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Ross Barkley (Everton)
The Three Lions are at their most dangerous when everybody writes them off. An unconvincing qualifying campaign followed by injuries to key players such as Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Andros Townsend – the latter two of which are ruled out entirely – mean they arrive in Brazil with modest expectations: mere progress would be success. Not lacking in big match experience, however, England also have a set of young guns up there with the very best, particularly Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Everton’s Ross Barkley. It is Roy Hodgson’s task to instil the belief and tactics to make these players play to their abilities – only without too many people taking note.

World ranking: 34
Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto
Star man: Bryan Ruiz (Fulham)
Previous: Second round (1990)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Joel Campbell (Arsenal)
Inevitably billed as no-hopers in a group that includes three previous world champions, Costa Rica are looking to cause an upset. An explosive counter-attacking side, they already did better than many imagined by finishing second – ahead of Mexico – in the final stages of qualifying. A surprise package when they reached the second round on their debut finals in 1990, they will this year be looking for creative captain Bryan Ruiz to lead them through. In Joel Campbell, a 21-year-old Arsenal forward, they have a player with undoubted talent. If they can carry their defensive solidity on to the game’s grandest stage, they will prove a tricky team to beat.

World ranking: 9
Manager: Cesare Prandelli
Star man: Mario Balotelli
Previous: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Prediction: Quarter-finals
Young gun: Marco Verratti (PSG)
The Italians coasted through qualifying undefeated, despite a relatively tricky draw, and arrive in Brazil with the experience of last summer’s Confederations Cup – where they finished third – in their locker. Finalists at the 2012 European Championships, Prandelli’s Italy is a more attack-minded team than is traditional of La Squadra Azzura – only two players from the triumphant 2006 campaign survive: Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo. Nowadays, the enigmatic Mario Balotelli is complemented by AC Milan teammate Stephan El Shaarawy up front, while Daniele De Rossi and Pirlo pull the strings behind. Defensively sound, a mixture of youth and experience should see Italy prove a tough team to break down.


World ranking: 8
Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld
Star man: Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich)
Previous: Quarter-finals (1934, 1938, 1954)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: Granit Xhaka (Börussia Monchengladbach)
The Swiss produced the shock of South Africa when they defeated Spain in their opening match four years ago. They quickly nullified that result though with one point from their next two matches to exit at the group stage. Qualifying for Brazil proved a similarly inconsistent affair and included a 4-1 lead over Iceland being pulled back to 4-4. Ottmar Hitzfeld has already confirmed he will retire after the summer so his technically gifted team will be keen to send him off content. That would mean progressing from a draw that has been favourable to them. With plenty of pace and creativity in midfield, the Swiss will rely on Napoli duo Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami, as well as the highly-coveted Xherdan Shaqiri for goals, such is their lack of a recognised striker.

World ranking: 28
Manager: Reinaldo Rueda
Star man: Antonio Valencia (Man United)
Previous: Second round (2006)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Felipe Caicedo (Al Jazira)
Los Tricolor turned capital city Quito into a fortress during qualifying, dropping just two points at home in a draw with Argentina. On their travels, though, they proved abysmal, failing to notch a single victory. Yet they finished ahead of Uruguay on goal difference to automatically qualify for only their second finals. Felipe Caicedo, the former Man City forward who now plays in Abu Dhabi, will lead the line following the untimely death of Christian Benitez in Qatar last summer. A quick and strong striker, Caicedo will look to get on the end of deliveries from captain Antonio Valencia and Christian Noboa, who both operate from the flanks. If the South Americans make the most of their ‘home’ advantage once again, progress to the second round is a genuine possibility.

World ranking: 16
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Star man: Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
Previous: Winners (1998)
Prediction: Quarter-finals
Young gun: Paul Pogba (Juventus)
While it is true France were handed a difficult qualifying group that contained world champions Spain and that they only slipped up once, their performances throughout were hardly scintillating. A play-off contest was the most they deserved. Having fought back from 2-0 down to beat Ukraine though, Les Bleus can now believe again. With a kind draw in the finals and a squad peppered with stars, the French can be confident. Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris, Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane are just a few of the big names that can take France as far as they want to go. Squad morale is often key with the French, but in Didier Deschamps they have a man who has been there, done that and commands respect.

World ranking: 30
Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez
Star man: Jerry Bengtson (New England Revolution)
Previous: Group stage (1982, 2010)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Andy Najar (Anderlecht)
Honduras stuttered after their disappointing 2010 campaign, but the arrival of coach Luis Fernando Suarez helped them find direction. The Colombian has put his trust in youth and it paid off as Los Catrachos topped their qualifying group and then beat Mexico at the famous Azteca to take third place overall. In attack, gangly Carlos Costly has the experience while the blossoming Jerry Bengtson was pivotal in his country’s run to the last eight of the 2012 Olympics. Bengtson also netted nine times in World Cup qualifying, but will know only too well there is a big difference between scoring against Cuba and Canada and finding the net against the world’s best. He will have to be on top form if Honduras are to stand a chance.


World ranking: 7
Manager: Alejandro Sabella
Star man: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Previous: Winners (1978, 1986)
Prediction: Final
Young gun: Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan)
Nobody in the world doubts Lionel Messi’s immense talents, yet until he lifts the World Cup he will never be fully accepted alongside Pelé and, more importantly, his compatriot Diego Maradona, as one of the best ever. After a disappointing quarter-final exit in 2010, Messi knows he must take his team by the scruff of the neck and drag them to the final, much like Maradona did in 1986. With Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in fine form though, Messi will have more help than he did four years ago. Argentina are frightening in attack and have tightened up the rear-guard of late too. With Brazil being so close to home, La Albiceleste will bring masses of support and will feel this is their time. It may well be.

World ranking: 37
Manager: Carlos Queiroz
Star man: Javad Nekounam (Al Kuwait)
Previous: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Reza Ghoochannejhad (Charlton Athletic)
They struggled to break down their opponents in the later stages of Asian qualifying and it almost cost them. Only a 1-0 win at home to South Korea in the final game ensured their place at football’s grandest showcase for the third time in their history. Lacking international experience, Iran will need to keep their focus while continuing to play their own game if they are to stand a chance of making history and progressing to the Round of 16. Captain Javad Nekounam played alongside Masoud Shojaei at Osasuna and as an Iranian midfield pairing it produces a good balance. Coach Queiroz has been here before and knows his team’s limits but believes his team can get the necessary results.

World ranking: 44
Manager: Stephen Keshi
Star man: Jon Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
Previous: Second round (1994, 1998)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow)
When Nigeria first arrived on the world scene in 1994 reaching the second round, they were the African nation most people predicted would go on to start challenging for titles. Four years later, they did well again, but have floundered since. Short on stars, Nigeria have come to rely on organisation, understanding and strength and it helped them win last year’s African Cup Of Nations. Yet they still fell a goal behind to lowly Ethiopia in their qualifying play-off and had to rely on a penalty to turn things around. Jon Obi Mikel leads the midfield, behind an attacking line that often includes Liverpool’s Victor Moses and rising star Ahmed Musa. Stephen Keshi is a headstrong coach who won’t baulk at dropping some of his more high-profile names if they fail to perform. From a group with three teams of similar ability, progress is a realistic target.

World ranking: 25
Manager: Safet Sušić
Star man: Miralem Pjanic (Roma)
Previous: Debutants
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: Muhamed Bešic (Ferencváros)
The only team this summer to have never contested a finals before, Bosnia And Herzegovina are the new kids on the block. How they adapt to the big stage will prove fascinating. Qualifying was mightily impressive, racking up eight wins from ten and scoring 30 goals. Crucially, they conceded only six times and such solidity in defence will be essential if they are to progress. Only Holland’s Robin van Persie scored more goals than Edin Dzeko in European qualifying and with Roma’s masterful Miralem Pjanic feeding the Manchester City forward, Bosnia will offer a serious goal threat. Cope with the pressure – and the South American climate – and they can leave a memorable mark on the tournament.


World ranking: 2
Manager: Joachim Löw
Star Man: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich, below)
Previous: Winners (1954, 1974, 1990)
Prediction: Final
Young gun: Julian Draxler (Schalke 04)
Germany have such an abundance of exciting young talent they could have fielded two separate teams throughout qualifying and both would have progressed. No team has more individual talent than the Germans: Marco Reus, Mario Göetze, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng… the list goes on. Unbeaten in qualifying and having scored more goals than any other European team, it’s easy to see why the three-time champions arrive in Brazil as one of the favourites. A lack of focus defensively and potential problems with Brazil’s varied climate can be their downfall, but this is a side that will have underachieved if they don’t reach at least the semi-finals.

World ranking: 3
Manager: Paulo Bento
Star Man: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Previous: Semi-finals (1966)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: William Carvalho (Porto)
It’s easy to complete Portugal’s page in the Panini sticker album, or so the joke goes, because once you get Cristiano Ronaldo, you’ve got the whole team. The Portuguese are as close to a one-man side as the tournament has, yet in Ronaldo they have a phenomenon who proved his worth once again in the play-off with Sweden where he scored all four of his country’s goals. Without him, they are considerably weaker; with him, they can beat anybody. A draw at home to Northern Ireland in qualifying is proof that Ronaldo can be stopped – but then in the away tie he scored a hat-trick. Defensively, Pepe and Bruno Alves keep things tight; Joao Moutinho creates the magic in midfield, while Nani can be a goal threat on his day.

World ranking: 38
Manager: James Kwesi Appiah
Star man: Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus)
Previous: Quarter-finals (2010)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht)
The Ghanaians were only beaten in their 2010 quarter-final by way of a Luis Suarez handball, so will be looking to pick up where they left off this summer. Without a continent cheering them on though and drawn alongside the second and third highest ranked countries in the world they are outsiders to emulate their previous feat. Michael Essien, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari provide the basis of a solid midfield while Al Ain’s Asamoah Gyan continues to be the lone striker. It is Kwadwo Asamoah, however, who is the driving force of the Black Stars: If he shines, Ghana have the ingredients to go far. Qualifying suggests consistency is a problem so a positive start against familiar foes the USA is essential.

World ranking: 14
Manager: Jürgen Klinsmann
Star man: Michael Bradley (Toronto)
Previous: Third-place (1930)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Julian Green (Bayern Munich)
The USA return to the country that was site of their greatest World Cup moment, when a team of US amateurs defeated a hotly-tipped England in 1950. It will require similar fight and against-all-odds results for the Americans to win the group, but they are by no means a bunch of amateurs any more. Professionalism abounds and as well as experienced players such as Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, they also have plenty of young potential already employed in Europe, including Besiktas’ Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore of Sunderland. Team spirit and self-belief are always evident within the American camp and with Jürgen Klinsmann tweaking tactics, expect an organised, solid side.


World ranking: 12
Manager: Marc Wilmots
Star man: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Previous: Semi-finals (1986)
Prediction: Quarter-finals
Young gun: Adnan Januzaj (Man United)
Arguably only Germany have a more high-profile squad than the Belgians. Everywhere you look on Marc Wilmots’ roster you see quality: Atletico Madrid’s Thibault Courtois in goal, Premier League winning-captain Vincent Kompany in defence, Zenit’s Dhs202 million midfielder Axel Witsel bossing the centre and Chelsea’s prolific striker Romelu Lukaku in attack. And then there’s Eden Hazard. On paper, Belgium could go all the way, but there is a question of experience. Having failed to qualify for the past two tournaments, few of Belgium’s squad have played at a World Cup and elevated expectations may prove too much for a young squad. A relatively easy group should allow them to settle early though and, once through to the knockout stages, calm heads could take them further.

World ranking: 18
Manager: Fabio Capello
Star man: Viktor Fayzulin (Zenit St Petersburg)
Previous: Group stage (1994, 2002)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow)
Few fancied Russia to top their qualifying group when they were drawn alongside Portugal, but that soon changed when Fabio Capello’ side defeated the Portuguese in Moscow. Unsurprising considering their coach, the Russians are a solid defensive unit conceding just five times during their campaign. They also offer fluidity in midfield courtesy of Roman Shirokov and Viktor Fayzulin, who played together at Zenit St Petersburg and were responsible for six of Russia’s 20 goals. Alan Dzagoev, the tricky winger, shone at Euro 2012. While Alexander Kerzhakov may not be a regular starter, he always has goal potential. With no players based outside Russia, few will fancy the Eastern Europeans to progress – but that will suit them just fine.

World ranking: 25
Manager: Vahid Halilhodžić
Star Man: Madjid Bougherra (Lekhwiya SC)
Previous: Group stages (1982, 1986, 2010)
Prediction: Group stage
Young gun: Saphir Sliti Taider (Inter Milan)
After a comfortable start to the qualifying campaign, the Desert Foxes endured a nervy finish, holding on desperately to a solitary away goal lead for a play-off win against Burkina Faso. Since then, Vahid Halilhodzic has called up Tottenham’s young pass-master Nabil Bentaleb and suggested he may tweak his tactics for the world stage. It would be well advised. While defensively Algeria have been sound, they have struggled for goals and at the 2010 World Cup on African soil, they lost two matches and drew one to exit without finding the net even a single time. Improvement is imperative. Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani – their top scorer in qualifying – will be the man primarily charged with the task of coming up with the goal to steal three points.

South Korea
World ranking: 55
Manager: Hong Myung-Bo
Star Man: Koo Ja-Cheol (Mainz)
Previous: Semi-finals (2002)
Prediction: Second round
Young gun: Son Heung-Min (Bayern Leverkusen)
A shaky qualifying campaign and a series of managerial changes resulted last summer in the appointment of 45-year-old Hong Myung-Bo, a former international who competed at four of Korea’s eight consecutive World Cup campaigns. With a new coach came a new direction and Bundesliga-based duo Koo Ja-Cheol and Son Heung-Min were handed the reins and responsibility to dictate play. Park Chu-Young, the forgotten Arsenal striker, has been included for his experience while Swansea’s Ki Sung-Yeung and Augsburg’s Ji Dong-Won bring further European pedigree. Disciplined, with quick thinking and quicker feet mean that, if Korea are allowed to play their game, they can do damage.