Manager: Roberto Martinez
In recent tournaments Belgium have always been considered the dark horse, but are yet to make serious inroads towards the latter stages of the competition. With some incredible talents in the squad, plus coaching from Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry, the foundations are there. Will this be the year the Belgians make a huge impact?
Star Player: Kevin De Bruyne
This midfielder has already been crowned a champion this year with Manchester City, so can the former Wolfsburg and Chelsea star take that winning mentality on to the international scene? Judging by his outrageous passing ability and tendency for scoring a screamer, we think probably, yes.
Footy Fact: According to the FIFA rankings, Belgium are currently the third best team in the world, having previously sat atop the ranking tables between November 2015 and March 2016.
Manager: Gareth Southgate
It’s the same every time – massive hype, tonnes of excitement and over-expectancy on the England team. But, manager Gareth Southgate has instilled a pragmatic sense of calm over the 1966 winners this time around, playing down his team’s chances while also instilling a sense of optimism into a squad with one of the youngest average ages in the tournament. Is this their year?
Star Player: Harry Kane
Having roared to a monumental 56 goals in 2017 across all competitions (that’s better than Messi and Ronaldo, by the way), an ankle injury hampered the 24-year-old’s season a little. But Kane returned to fitness in time for the World Cup build-up, and England hopes will be pinned on his shooting boots and fans will be hoping he’s sharp. After all, it wouldn’t be England at a World Cup if there wasn’t a pre-tournament injury worry to a star player (see: David Beckham, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney).
Footy Fact: England are statistically the world’s worst team in penalty shoot-outs. Having lost seven of their eight shoot-outs in major tournaments, England fans will be hoping that the dreaded 12-yard decider isn’t needed this year.
Manager: Hernán Darío Gómez
With the USA surprisingly failing to make it to this year’s tournament, all eyes from the region are on Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica. The Central American nation will be making its debut in the World Cup this year, and despite being pooled in a tricky group, will be hopeful of causing an upset to some of the more established sides.
Star Player: Román Torres
The Seattle Sounders centre back is ready to lead his country in the World Cup for the first time, and, presuming he plays in Panama’s two pre-tournament warm-up matches, his 111th cap for his country against Belgium on Monday June 18 will be his most important.
Footy Fact: Panama scored more goals and accrued more points (in total) in the qualifying campaign for the 2014 WorldCup, but missed out on a play-off spot by three points last time.
Manager: Nabil Maâloul
It’ll be the first time since 2006 that Tunisia have made it to the World Cup, having made it to three consecutive tournaments before that. The North Africans will be hoping to make it out of the group phase for the first time in the country’s history, with 2018 being the fifth time of competing in the tournament.
Star Player: Wahbi Khazri
Technically still contracted to Sunderland (now in England’s League One), Khazri spent last season on loan at French Ligue 1 side Rennes. In 17 appearances the attacking midfielder has bagged nine goals (at the time of writing), and will be hoping to take this goal-scoring form to Russia.
Footy Fact: Tunisia were the first-ever winners of the Arab Nations Cup back in 1963. Sadly for The Eagles of Carthage, they haven’t won the tournament since.