The Germany national football team is one of the most successful national teams at the FIFA World Cup, winning four titles, earning second-place and third-place finishes four times each and one fourth-place finish.
If you consider 3rd place or better for a winning campaign, Germany’s 12 victories in 18 tournaments—a 66.6667 percent success rate—surpasses every other team. In addition, Germany are the only team which has stood on the podium (3rd place or better) every decade they entered the tournament—1930s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Along with Argentina , Brazil and Spain , they are one of the four national teams to win outside their continental confederation, with the title of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in South America. The team was present in 18 out of the 20 tournaments, the second most frequent along with Italy , and only once did not reach the quarterfinals, in 1938 . With this, Germany’s 8th place or better (quarterfinals) in 17 out of 18 tournaments (94%) ranks highest in FIFA World Cup Finals history.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: Germany, the defending Champions won all their Group C games during the qualifiers, beating Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino, Azerbaijan, and Czech Republic en route to Russia 2018. They scored 43 goals in the process.
THEIR CHANCES: There is hardly any World Cup finals where Germany is not among the contenders. Die Mannschaft are huge favourites for the trophy again. They will try to defend the trophy they won in 2014.
STARS OF THE TEAM: In Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Leroy Sane, Toni Kroos and Emre Can, the Germans have the arsenal to go all the way again in Russia.
KEY MAN: Toni Kroos. The two-time Champions League winner is capable of leading his side to World Cup glory.
The Mexico national team has competed in the tournament since the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup , and has entered ever since, for a total of 15 tournaments, although it has failed to qualify for the finals proper on 3 occasions,
1934 (Italy), 1974 (West Germany) and 1982 (Spain). In addition, it withdrew from the finals in the 1938 (France), and was banned by FIFA from entering the 1990 (Italy) after having been found fielding over-aged players during the 1988 Olympic Games qualifiers which was a youth tournament. Mexico holds the record for most 2nd round eliminations. Their best appearances have come in the 1970 and 1986 finals where they made it to the quarter finals.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: In the fifth round of CONCACAF qualification, Mexico finished first ahead of Costa Rica and Panama both of whom qualified; but Honduras, United States and Trinidad and Tobago failed to make it to the finals. Mexico lost only once in during the final qualification round, with 3 draws and were winners 6 times.
THEIR CHANCES: Mexico kept 5 clean sheets during the final qualification round, and their tight defence could be a vital tool in Russia.
STARS TO WATCH: Hirving Lozano, Javier Hernandez, Raul Jimenez, Rafael Marquez.
KEY PLAYER: HIRVING LOZANO; the 22-year old scored three goals during the qualifiers and have been a key player at PSV since joining from Pachuca. His 3 goals in 3 games tell the story. Peeps, watch out for ‘Chucky’.
Sweden will be appearing in their 12th World Cup finals in Russia next summer. They have reached 4 semi-finals. Their best outing was in the 1958 finals in Sweden, where they reached the finals, but were beaten 5-2 by a Brazilian side inspired by a then 17-years old Pele. Sweden failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, after loosing the two-legged UEFA play-offs against Portugal.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: A decent run in Group A with 6 wins and 1 draw couldn’t guarantee Sweden an automatic qualification. France won the group which also had the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Belarus. However, The Blue-yellow have to settle for second spot and a playoff date with Italy; a double-header, which Sweden won 1-0 on aggregate.
THEIR CHANCES: Janne Andersson have assembled a very youthful and disciplined side that can go all the way in the finals. It was no mean feat knocking the Italians out in the playoffs.
They have a chance of progressing from this group.
STARS TO WATCH: Andreas Granqvist, Emil Peter Forsberg, Victor Lindelof.
KEY MAN: Emil Forsberg; Leipzig of Germany winger can be unplayable on his day. You can bet on him to stare for Sweden in Russia.
South Korea have appeared in the finals of the FIFA World Cup on nine occasions in 1954 and 1986 to 2014. Their best ever performance was a fourth place in the 2002 tournament held in Korea and Japan. In that tournament, they won a group that had United States, Portugal and Poland in it. They also beat Italy in the knockout phase and sent Spain packing in the quarter finals. However, Michael Ballack’s 75th minute goal in the semifinal ended South Korea’s remarkable run. They also lost the third place match 2-3 against Turkey.
ROAD TO RUSSIA: South Korea were runners up to Iran in Group A of AFC qualifiers. The group also had Syria, Uzbekistan, China PR and Qatar. It was a very rough road to Russia for South Korea. They lost 3 and drew 3 during the qualifiers. Their goalless draw in Uzbekistan on September 5, 2017 was what bought them the ticket to Russia.
THEIR CHANCES: South Korea should be tightening up a defence that leaked 10 goals in 10 qualifying games. They are certainly not the most attacking team coming to Russia, but fancy them to score a few goals in the finals.
The Taegeuk Warriors must do extraordinarily well to progress from this group.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ki Sung-yueng, Koo Ja-cheol, Son Heung-min.
KEY PLAYER: Son Heung-min; the Tottenham forward will be leading the line for the Taegeuk Warriors.