The 2018 World Cup might be missing some big nations, but that’s what makes this tournament the best in sports. Brazil are looking to bounce back from a travesty in 2014, while Spain, Argentina and France are hoping to dethrone defending champions Germany and their typically deep squad. Can Belgium or Portugal make a splash? Do England have what it takes to challenge too?
ESPN FC is previewing every team ahead of the opening game on June 14 in English, Spanish and Portuguese to give a truly global feel to our team profiles. Here’s what you need to know about the 32 teams set to do battle in Russia beginning on June 14.
GROUP A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
– Russia: Do weak hosts have easiest group ever?
– Saudi Arabia: New coach faces tall task to gel average squad
– Egypt: Pharaohs’ fortunes come down to one player… Salah
– Uruguay: Suarez and Cavani’s goals enough to reach the semifinals
GROUP B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
– Portugal: Can Ronaldo lead Euro 2016 champs to global glory?
– Spain: Andres Iniesta, Spain poised to reclaim World Cup from Germany
– Morocco: Escaping the group will require some serious upsets
– Iran: “Team Melli” are fighting for pride in 2018
GROUP C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
– France: Semifinals a realistic aim if Pogba, Griezmann & Co. unite
– Australia: Socceroos facing uphill battle under new manager
– Peru: Hope rests with defence, Guerrero and Farfan
– Denmark: Eriksen the key if Danes are to escape the group
GROUP D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
– Argentina: Messi has to bring home the trophy
– Iceland: Don’t expect underdogs to escape the group
– Croatia: Modric, Rakitic the key to a last-16 appearance
– Nigeria: Goalkeeping issues will ruin a talented squad
GROUP E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
– Brazil: Selecao, Neymar hungry to avenge 7-1 humiliation in 2014
– Switzerland: Don’t expect Shaqiri & Co. to stick around
– Costa Rica: Ticos hoping for repeat run to quarterfinals
– Serbia: Raw squad led by Mitrovic, Milinkovic-Savic hoping to shock
GROUP F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
– Germany: Champs boast depth but Manuel Neuer’s fitness a concern
– Mexico: Is this the year they finally crack the round of 16?
– Sweden: They’re united without Zlatan Ibrahimovic but struggling for form
– South Korea: Son Heung-Min not enough in tournament’s hardest group
GROUP G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
– Panama: First World Cup should provide platform to build for future
– Tunisia: Injuries will derail underdogs before they get started
– England: Can Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling carry the Three Lions?
GROUP H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
– Poland: Underestimate Lewandowski & Co. at your peril
– Senegal: It will take more than Sadio Mane to make an impact
– Colombia: James Rodriguez & Co. will accept nothing less than Round of 16
– Japan: Sudden coaching change spells doom
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW
– All World Cup 2018 squads
– World Cup news
– World Cup fixtures
– Vickery: Few surprises in Brazil’s 23-man squad
– Udoh: Nigeria squad is as expected
– Dove: Injuries leave Tunisia woefully short
– Marshall: Guardado surgery gives Mexico, Osorio a headache
– Ogden: Who will make the England squad?