Germany

Road to Russia: Germany cruised through the European qualifiers sealing a spot in Russia with a perfect 10 wins from 10 games becoming just the second team in history to achieve a perfect record after Spain managed the feat back in 2010. While they may have been placed in one of the easier pools throughout European qualification the German side have not missed a World Cup in 64 years now playing in their 17th consecutive tournament.

Coach: The man that needs no introduction, Joachim Low has seen his fair share of the spotlight in a 12-year reign at the helm of Die Mannschaft making both good and bad headlines for both being an excellent coach and an even better advocate for nose pickers rights. All jokes aside though Low is one of the world’s best tacticians and has turned his nation’s abundance of talent into the well-oiled machine that is looking to claim a second-straight World Cup trophy.

Key players: In a team so full of stars it’s hard to pick the standout talents but the big-hitters for Germany are undoubtedly World Cup veterans Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller. Neuer has been without a doubt one of the best gloves-men of our generation locking down the number one spot for Germany for eight years now playing in his third and possibly final World Cup tournament and he will be hoping to make it one to remember.

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Muller also broke into the national side in 2010 scoring an impressive five goals in six games before adding five more in Brazil four years ago and the now 28-year old needs just two more to match the exploits of World Cup legend Pele while an additional four would put him on par with tournament top-scorer Miroslav Klose who bagged 16 goals in 24 games.

Verdict: It’s hard to look past the reigning champions when looking at the tournament as a whole and although this year’s squad has a fresh young feel to it the experienced core make Germany the undeniable favourites for Group F and one of the top picks to reclaim the trophy next month.

Mexico

Road to Russia: Mexico are another side that cruised through their qualifying campaign with relative ease claiming a total of 11 wins, four draws and one loss, edging out past competitors in the tournament such as the United States and Honduras.

Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio is a man with a wealth of managerial experience having played head coaching or assistant coaching roles in five countries over an 18-year time frame. There was a cloud of doubt over Osorio’s temper at the helm after receiving a six-game suspension from FIFA following confrontations with officials at the Confederations Cup last year but the manager will look to use that passion elsewhere as he hopes to find success.

Key players: Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez’s career has somewhat staggered since a spell at Manchester United but the now West Ham man has always played with an enormous amount of passion and drive for his nation and he will be hoping to bring that energy to his side this time around. While Hirving Lozano will look to build on an impressive rise in the Eredivisie with PSV this year it is Rafael Marquez who will be leading the side for a record fifth straight World Cup campaign hoping to be the rock in the heart of the Mexican defence.

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Verdict: Mexico are always a tough competitor throughout the World Cup having made it out of the group stages six-years straight and there is no question that El Tri will fight to the end for a place in the next round with the match against Sweden potentially deciding their fate.

South Korea

Road to Russia: While South Korea seemed to have found relative ease in emerging from their region throughout the World Cup Qualifiers the Asian powerhouse felt the pressure from Syria and Uzbekistan who finished just two points behind them in Group A. Though it was a challenge this time around the Taegeuk Warriors are playing in their ninth straight tournament in Russia.

Coach: Shin Tae-yong is still relatively new to the role after being handed the job a year ago but Tae-yong has been involved with the national side as both a player and a coach throughout his entire career so the former Queensland Roar man knows his side inside and out.

Key players: South Korea’s squad are predominantly plying their trade in their home country but there are two stand-out players making their mark in the English Premier League. The first, Ki Sung-yeung, has been a key man for Welsh side Swansea proving to be a hard working tough-tackling holding midfielder and the second, Son Heung-min, has been one of the most exciting attacking threats in the league for Tottenham Hotspur over the past few years and will be a handful as he spearheads the attack.

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Verdict: South Korea are another nation with the talent required for success but the class and quality of the opposition in Group F could prove too much for the South Koreans although their explosive attacking power may surprise some come the group stages.

Sweden

Road to Russia: Perhaps taking the toughest route of all Sweden emerged from a difficult group during qualification battling high-profile opponents France and the Netherlands before edging out the latter of the two on goal difference. The Swedes then went on to pull off the biggest shock of the qualifiers knocking out tournament shoe-ins’ Italy at the final hurdle.

Coach: Janne Anderson is a relatively unknown man outside the realms his home nation but his ability to get the best out of his players is highly regarded and that has been shown in simply qualifying for the tournament for the first time in 12 years.

Key players: Much like Germany, Sweden are a machine relying on the performance of every man but pulling the strings from the middle of the park will be RB Leipzig man Emile Forsberg, who will be playing in front of veteran midfielder and captain Sebastien Larsson. Sweden will also be hoping for a good showing by Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof in the centre of their defence as they look to shut down the attacking threats of their pace opponents.

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Verdict: Sweden were a shock inclusion into the tournament after taking down Italy and the side will take a great deal of confidence from that triumph but the absence of retired talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic may hurt their chances as they battle Mexico for the second spot in the Round of 16.

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Recent Sports Media graduate from the University of Canberra. Love all things football and can't wait to be part of the growth of the game in Australia. Waiting for the day the FFA come to their senses and hand us an A-League team... but could be waiting a while.