Manager: José Pékerman
Everyone loves the South American teams at the World Cup, and Colombia are no exception. Los Cafeteros (The Coffee Growers) will be out to build on last year’s impressive run to the quarter-finals, where they were somewhat unfortunate to lose 2-1 to hosts Brazil. With talismanic forwards James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao leading the line, this pacey team will pose a threat to any side in the tournament.
Star Player: James Rodríguez
There’s nothing like scoring an absolute beauty at the World Cup to put you on the map. A 22-year-old midfielder at the time, Rodríguez’s career really took off after scoring a screaming turn-and-volley effort against rivals Chile in the 2014 tournament. Following Colombia’s World Cup exit, Rodríguez secured a move to Real Madrid, and now plies his trade at Bayern Munich as one of the world’s most talented attackers.
Footy Fact: Despite going out in the quarter-finals at the 2014 tournament, Rodríguez won two awards at the tournament – the Golden Boot (shared), with six goals, and the best goal, for the aforementioned screamer against Chile.
Manager: Akira Nishino
Japan are one of the most successful teams in Asia (as the only team to have won the AFC Asian Cup four times), and have secured themselves a spot in the World Cup for the sixth successive time. In each of the past five tournaments, they’ve alternated between group stage and the round of 16 finishes, and they’ll have to overcome some tough teams to qualify from their group this time.
Star Player: Shinji Okazaki
A close call this, with Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa also impressive, but Okazaki currently has 50 international goals to his name, and having won the Premier League with Leicester City since the country last took part, Okazaki will be looking to bring his experience and goals to Japan’s World Cup hopes.
Footy Fact: Since first qualifying for the World Cup in 1998, Japan have never failed to reach the tournament.
Manager: Adam Nawałka
Having failed to qualify for the past two World Cups, Poland will have a point to prove this time. Quarter-finalists at the UEFA Euro 2016 championships in France, Poland went out on penalties to eventual champions Portugal. If they can replicate their achievement from two years ago, Poland could be on for a best-ever performance in the World Cup.
Star Player: Robert Lewandowski
He’s Poland’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 52 goals, and at 29 years old he’s still got plenty of time to keep adding to that tally. The Bayern Munich striker has had his best ever goal scoring season with 29 goals in the Bundesliga and 41 in total, and will lead Poland’s charge at the country’s first World Cup in 12 years.
Footy Fact: At Euro 2016, Poland exited the tournament with the rare achievement of having not lost a single game.
Manager: Aliou Cissé
At their first-ever World Cup, back in 2002, Senegal boldly smashed their way on to the international football scene by slaying the reigning World and European champions France in the first game of the tournament. Senegal, having not been to a World Cup since, will be keen to make a similar impact and better their 2002 quarter-final appearance.
Star Player: Sadio Mané
Probably one of the quickest players in the tournament, the Liverpool forward has the pace to frighten any defence in the world. With 14 international goals to date and a prolific season alongside Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah at club level, the forward has got the finishing touch to match his searing speed.
Footy Fact: Senegal striker Moussa Sow is also one of the founding partners of the US soccer franchise San Diego 1904, along with Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Chelsea’s Hazard.