Manager: Joachim Löwe
The reigning champions will be hoping to make it consecutive World Cup titles following victory in Brazil in 2014. With star names like Thomas Müller, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Manuel Neuer and Mesut Özil, plus plenty of rising stars, Germany are again among the favourites to lift the trophy come Sunday July 15.
Star Player: Thomas Müller
With legions of stars to choose from, Müller is Germany’s most potent striker, and he loves the World Cup. Having scored five goals in each of the last two tournaments, Müller is just six goals away from equalling the all-time record, and aged 28, time is on his side.
Footy Fact: Germany hold the record for the largest margin of victory in a World Cup semi-final, having tonked hosts Brazil 7-1 in the Estádio Mineirão in the 2014 tournament.
Manager: Shin Tae-yong
Hailing from South Korea, the team’s success in the 2002 World Cup saw them become the first, and currently only, Asian team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, when they went out to eventual finalists Germany in a tournament they co-hosted with Japan.
Star Player: Son Heung-min
The Tottenham Hotspur forward will be hoping to make a big impression at the World Cup, and with 20 goals for his country in 63 appearances, South Korea will be turning to the wiry forward for inspiration.
Footy Fact: South Korea won the first two AFC Asian Cup tournaments (in 1956 and 1960), but haven’t won the tournament since, with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Japan having all lifted the trophy on more occasions.
Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio
Having only failed to qualify for three World Cups in the tournament’s history, Mexico are a perennial presence and always a fan favourite. They’re also adept at getting out of the group stages of the tournament, having qualified to the knockout stage in each of the last seven tournaments in which they’ve featured.
Star Player: Javier Hernandez
And he has been for some time. The West Ham forward, formerly of Man Utd and Real Madrid, leads the line for Mexico with 49 international career goals, and is the country’s all-time top goal scorer. Fun fact: he’s never scored a goal from outside the box in his Premier League career.
Footy Fact: The nickname for Mexico is El Tricolor, owing to the country’s green, white and red flag.
Manager: Janne Andersson
Also found in what might be this year’s dreaded “Group of Death” are Sweden, who have had a 12-year absence from the tournament. Having defeated Italy over two legs in the qualifying stage’s play-off round, the Swedes will be hoping to build on the Round of 16 finish they’ve had in their past two tournaments, in 2002 and 2006.
Star Player: Marcus Berg
While we doubt we’ve heard the last of self-aggrandising bore Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose transfer to LA Galaxy has seen them win just twice since he arrived, Sweden will be hoping Marcus Berg will be firing on all cyclinders in his absence. The 31-year-old striker has notched 18 goals during his international career.
Footy Fact: Sweden’s best ever finish in a World Cup came in 1958, a tournament that they hosted, when they lost 5-2 to champions Brazil (a win that landed the Brazilians their first World Cup crown).