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Football-Russia 2018: All you need to know about 28 teams that have already qualified

The final round of World Cup qualifying is taking place, and 27 countries are already assured of their places alongside hosts Russia at next summer's 32-team tournament.

Five-time winners Brazil are there, as are defending champions Germany, plus Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, England, France, Iceland, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia and Uruguay.

 

 

So how did they get there? Who will be their star performers? And who are the coaches who masterminded their qualification?

EUROPE

Russia (hosts)

Pedigree: Stanislav Cherchesov's side will be the fourth Russia team to play at a World Cup - they first appeared at USA '94 - although the Soviet Union had finished fourth in 1966.

Spotlight on the hosts
All of Russia's 2017 Confederations Cup squad played their club football in their homeland

Key player: Veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has won more than 100 caps and his experience could be vital. The 31-year-old, who has spent his entire career at CSKA Moscow, is likely to captain the hosts.

Who's the boss? Cherchesov rallied behind his side after the Confederations Cup, saying his players would "mature" because of the experience. A former Soviet Union and Russia goalkeeper, he has been given the target of reaching the semi-finals next summer.

Belgium

Pedigree: Having failed to qualify for the previous two tournaments, Belgium reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014, losing to eventual runners-up Argentina. The Red Devils' best finish was fourth in 1986.

Eden Hazard made his Belgium debut as a 17-year-old in 2008

Key player: Eden Hazard. The twinkle-toed Chelsea forward unlocks defences with his rapid change of pace, close control and eye for a pass. He also wears the captain's armband for Roberto Martinez's side.

Premier League players: Michy Batshuayi, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard (all Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Toby Alderweireld, Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, (all Tottenham), Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany (both Manchester City), Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku (both Manchester United), Steven Defour (Burnley), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Divock Origi (Wolfsburg, on loan from Liverpool), Christian Kabasele (Watford).

Who's the boss? Roberto Martinez's big achievement in English football was guiding Wigan to FA Cup success in 2013, although they were relegated three days later.

The former Swansea and Everton manager's prowess in organising an attack has never been in question, but there were concerns over his defensive aptitude at club level. That shouldn't be a problem with this Belgium outfit, who have the likes of Tottenham defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany in their ranks.

Croatia

Pedigree: Croatia gained admission to Fifa in June 1993, meaning they were too late to compete for a place at the finals in the United States in 1994. However, they qualified for a finals at the first time of asking at France 98 and have reached all but one of the five summer tournaments since. Their best performance to date remains their first, when Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban et al helped them to a third place finish after losing to hosts and eventual winners France in the semis.

Key player: Luka Modric - once of Tottenham, now at Real Madrid - is the creative force at the heart of the Croatia side. Blessed with superb touch and vision, the 32-year-old has won the Champions League three times with his current club. He recently clocked up a century for his country, for whom he has scored 12 times.

Luke Modric moved to Real Madrid from Tottenham for £30m in August 2012

Premier League players: Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Nikola Vlasic (Everton)

Who's the boss? Zlatko Dalic's reign as Croatia national team boss has been short and sweet thus far. He only took over in October 2017, replacing Ante Cacic, who left with one qualifying game left and the country at serious risk of failing to make the play-offs. Dalic led Croatia to a 2-0 win in Ukraine in his first game in charge to seal a play-off spot, where they dispatched Greece 4-1 on aggregate. A midfielder in his playing days, he spent the first seven years of this decade coaching in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

England

Pedigree: Since their solitary World Cup success in 1966, England have reached the semi-finals only once - in 1990, when they finished fourth. In 2014, the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stage. That was the first time since 1958 they failed to get out of their group, and the only time they have been eliminated after just two matches.

England failed to progress from the group stages of the World Cup in 2014

Key player: With 13 goals for club and country in September, Harry Kane is one of the world's most in-form strikers. His 27 goals in 2017 puts him only nine behind Lionel Messi.

Premier League players: The entire England squad play in the Premier League.

Who's the boss? Gareth Southgate will take charge of his first major tournament. England have lost twice under his stewardship - to Germany and France - and are unbeaten in qualification.

France

Pedigree: France won the World Cup when they hosted the tournament in 1998 and also reached the final eight years later, losing on penalties to Italy. They reached the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014 and were runners-up as hosts at Euro 2016.

Antoine Griezmann finished third in the 2016 Ballon d'Or, behind winner Cristiano Ronaldo and runner-up Lionel Messi

Key player: Antoine Griezmann. The Atletico Madrid striker was the top scorer with six goals as France reached the Euro 2016 final and scored the second as France beat Belarus 2-1 to secure their qualification on 10 October.

Premier League players: Laurent Koscielny, Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud (all Arsenal), Tiemoue Bakayoko and N'Golo Kante (both Chelsea), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Eliaquim Mangala and Benjamin Mendy (both Manchester City), Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba (both Manchester United), Kurt Zouma (Stoke, on loan from Chelsea), Hugo Lloris and Moussa Sissoko (both Tottenham).

Who's the boss? Didier Deschamps played 103 times for France and helped them win the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000. He has been national team boss since July 2012 and guided them to the final of Euro 2016, although they lost 1-0 to Portugal after extra time.

Germany

Pedigree: The defending champions, four-time winners and number one team in the world.

Toni Kroos has scored 12 goals in 78 appearances for Germany

Key player: Toni Kroos. Apart from Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil, the Real Madrid midfielder is the most experienced player in the squad and keeps things ticking over. Since helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup, he has won two Champions League titles, one La Liga title and two Fifa Club World Cup titles.

Premier League players: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Emre Can (Liverpool), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Manchester City).

Who's the boss? Joachim Low. Worked as assistant manager to Jurgen Klinsmann from 2004 to 2006, before being given the top job. The 57-year-old guided Germany to victory in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina, and also triumphed at the Confederations Cup last year.

The international clean sweep has eluded him, though, with Germany runners-up at Euro 2008 and third four years later.

Iceland

Pedigree: Iceland are heading to their first World Cup after victory over Kosovo on 9 October secured their place in Russia. This is clearly a golden era for the Icelanders after they reached Euro 2016, where they memorably defeated England in their second-round tie before losing 5-2 against hosts France in the quarter-finals.

Key player: It is difficult to look beyond Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson. The 28-year-old midfielder scored the opening goal against Kosovo and is a superb striker of the ball from long range.

Sigurdsson was on the scoresheet as Iceland reached the World Cup for the first time

Premier League players: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley).

Championship: Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), Horour Bjorgvin Magnusson (Bristol City), Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (Reading).

Scottish Premiership player: Kari Arnason (Aberdeen).

Who's the boss? Keep smiling. Heimir Hallgrimsson, 50, is a dentist who was in joint charge of the team in France alongside Swedish veteran Lars Lagerback. Hallgrimsson took sole charge after Euro 2016 and has presided over a successful qualification campaign.

Poland

Pedigree: Poland are ranked sixth in the world. They have never won the World Cup but many believe this is one of the country's strongest squads. Their highest previous finish is third, which they achieved in 1974 and 1982.

Bayern Munich forward Lewandowski will appear in a World Cup for the first time in Russia

Key player: Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski has scored 16 goals in nine qualifying matches for Poland and is their all-time record goal-scorer. The skipper has scored 51 international goals in 91 games.

Premier League players: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Bromwich Albion).

Championship players: Pawel Wszolek (Queens Park Rangers), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City).

Who's the boss? Adam Nawalka has been in charge since November 2013 and has overseen 39 matches as Poland manager. His contract is due to run out in December but he guided the team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, just two years after they failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, so he is expected to remain in charge for his second major tournament.

Portugal

Pedigree: Portugal are the reigning European champions, having beaten hosts France 1-0 in the final of Euro 2016. Their best performance at a World Cup came when they finished third in 1966 and they also reached the semi-finals in 2006 yet failed to make it out of the group phase in Brazil in 2014.

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 79 international goals for Portugal

Key player: Who else? Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been voted the best player in the world four times, he is the country's most capped player and also their record goalscorer. The Real Madrid forward, a four-time Champions League winner, scored 15 goals for Portugal during their World Cup qualification campaign.

Premier League players: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Renato Sanches (Swansea, on loan from Bayern Munich), Jose Fonte (West Ham).

Championship player: Nelson Oliveira (Norwich)

Scottish Premiership player: Bruno Alves (Rangers)

Who's the boss? Fernando Santos took charge in September 2014 and guided Portugal to their first international success with victory in Euro 2016. He was manager of Greece during the 2014 World Cup, taking the team into the last 16, where they lost to Costa Rica on penalties.

Serbia

Pedigree: Russia will be Serbia's 12th appearance at the World Cup - they did not get beyond the group stage in 2006 and 2010.

Branislav Ivanovic currently has 95 caps for Serbia

Key player: Branislav Ivanovic is closing in on his 100th cap and remains a key player for Serbia. He is their captain and leader. "We look forward to playing for you in Russia", he said in an address to the fans on the pitch after they secured qualification.

Premier League players: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Dusan Tadic (Southampton).

Who's the boss? Slavoljub Muslin, who was appointed in May 2016, is a widely travelled coach. He is in his first role at national level and has never been to a major tournament but he had domestic title success in Bulgaria.

Spain

Pedigree: Currently ranked 11th in the world. They held the number one spot from 2008 until 2013. Spain were world champions in 2010, as well as European champions in 2008 and 2012.

Isco scored two goals in Spain's 3-0 win over Italy in February

Key player: Real Madrid attacking midfielder Isco has been in fine form during qualifying, with six goals and an assist in Spain's past seven matches. He has seven goals in 23 appearances in his international career.

Premier League players: Juan Mata (Manchester United), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea), David de Gea (Manchester United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Ander Herrera (Manchester United), Pedro (Chelsea), David Silva (Manchester City).

Who's the boss? Julen Lopetegui was appointed in July 2016 and remains unbeaten in 13 matches in charge. He has won the European Championships with Spain's U21s and U19s, although he has never coached a side at a senior major tournament.

Switzerland

Pedigree: This is Switzerland's 11th World Cup, having reached the quarter-finals three times - including when they hosted the tournament in 1954. They lost to eventual finalists Argentina in extra time in the last 16 in 2014.

Switzerland beat Northern Ireland in a tense play-off to clinch their place in Russia

Key player: Xherdan Shaqiri. The talented Stoke City playmaker has scored 20 goals for his country, including a hat-trick against Honduras at the last World Cup.

Premier League players: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke), Edimilson Fernandes (West Ham), Shani Tarashaj (Everton), Florent Hadergjonaj (Huddersfield, on loan from Ingolstadt)

Championship player: Timm Klose (Norwich)

Who's the boss? Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge of the Swiss since 2014 and led them to the last 16 at Euro 2016. The Sarajevo-born coach has a Swiss passport and won the 2013 Coppa Italia as Lazio manager.

SOUTH AMERICA

Argentina

Pedigree: Argentina have won the World Cup twice - in 1978 and 1986 - and been runners-up on three occasions, in 1930, 1990 and in Brazil in 2014, when they lost 1-0 to Germany in the final.

Lionel Messi helped Argentina win Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008

Key player: Lionel Messi. Messi, who has been voted the best player in the world on five occasions, scored the hat-trick in the last round of South American Qualifying against Ecuador to take Argentina to the finals.

Premier League players: Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi (both Manchester City), Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham).

Who's the boss: Former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli, who guided Chile to the Copa America in 2015, became Argentina boss in May 2017. He succeeded in his first task - to ensure Argentina qualified for the World Cup.

Brazil

Pedigree: Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Brazil were beaten 7-1 at the semi-final stage by Germany in the World Cup they hosted four years ago.

Paris St-Germain forward Neymar is the world's most expensive footballer

Key player: Neymar. The £200m forward is averaging a goal and an assist per game since his world-record move to Paris St-Germain. Brazil legend Pele says the 25-year-old is the country's best player and has backed him to win the Ballon d'Or.

Premier League players: Ederson, Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus (all Manchester City), Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino (both Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea).

Who's the boss? Brazil were sixth with a third of the qualifying campaign gone when journeyman coach Tite replaced former Brazil midfielder Dunga. The former Corinthians boss, 56, guided his country 10 points clear of second-placed Uruguay by the time qualifying ended.

"What a difference a coach makes. Out went the snarling Dunga and in came Tite - charismatic and intelligent - and he made an immediate impact," South American football expert Tim Vickery told BBC Radio 5 live.

Colombia

Pedigree: Colombia produced their best ever performance at a World Cup in Brazil in 2014 when they reached the quarter-finals, before losing 2-1 to hosts Brazil.

James Rodriguez was in the Real Madrid squad that won the Champions League in both the last two seasons

Key player: James Rodriguez. The attacking midfielder, who is on loan at Bayern Munich from Real Madrid, won the Golden Boot in the 2014 World Cup, awarded to the top goalscorer in the competition. He scored six goals in that World Cup.

Premier League players: David Ospina (Arsenal), Jose Izquierdo (Brighton), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham)

Who's the boss: Jose Pekerman has been in charge of the Colombia team since 2012 and has won the South American Coach of the Year on three occasions since then.

Uruguay

Pedigree: Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 and then again in 1950, but they only reached the last 16 at Brazil 2014.

Luis Suarez has won the Golden Shoe, given to the top scorer in European club football, on two occasions

Key player: Luis Suarez. Barcelona forward Suarez is the country's record goalscorer and scored twice in their last qualifier against Bolivia to secure their qualification.

Championship player: Abel Hernandez (Hull)

Who's the boss: Oscar Tabarez has been in charge of Uruguay since 2006 and guided them to the Copa America title in 2011.

NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA and CARIBBEAN

Mexico

Pedigree: Mexico have reached the knockout stage in each of the past six World Cups, and made the quarter-finals as hosts in 1986.

Key player: Hirving Lozano has scored three goals in three games since leaving Pachuca for PSV Eindhoven this summer, and the 22-year-old is also becoming the star of the national team, netting Mexico's winner against Panama.

'Chucky' even impressed Argentina legend Diego Maradona on his Eredivisie debut, and the Philips Stadion crowd gave the winger a standing ovation following his first goal for PSV.

Premier League players: Javier Hernandez (West Ham).

Who's the boss? Former Manchester City assistant manager Juan Carlos Osorio is the man in charge, but missed his side's Gold Cup campaign this summer after being given a six-match ban by Fifa for "using insulting words and displaying an aggressive attitude towards officials" during the Confederations Cup.

The Colombian, who graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a diploma in science and football, has been backed by a number of experienced players in his squad following criticism from fans.

Costa Rica

Pedigree: Russia 2018 will be the fifth time Los Ticos have appeared at a World Cup finals. Last time out in Brazil, they finished top of a group containing Uruguay, Italy, and bottom-placed England, before going out in the quarter-finals on penalties to the Netherlands.

Key player: Bologna defender Giancarlo Gonzalez made the BBC pundits' team of the tournament in 2014, but the man on whom Costa Rica's recent success is built is Keylor Navas. The 30-year-old goalkeeper's performances at the last World Cup earned him a move to Real Madrid. Since then he has established himself as the number one there, winning one Spanish league title and two Champions Leagues.

Navas celebrates qualifying for the 2018 World Cup

Premier League players: Arsenal striker Joel Campbell is Costa Rica's only Premier League player - although he is on a season-long loan at La Liga side Real Betis.

Who's the boss? Oscar Ramirez was a player when Costa Rica made their World Cup debut in 1990. Since ending his playing career and moving into coaching, he has carved out a reputation for being tactically astute and creative, winning several league titles in club football before taking over from Paulo Wanchope, who resigned after being involved in a brawl during a match against Panama, at the helm of the national side in 2015.

Panama

Pedigree: None. Panama reached their first World Cup finals with a victory over Costa Rica that took advantage of the United States' defeat to Trinidad & Tobago. They were runners-up at Concacaf's Gold Cup in 2013.

Key player: Luis Tejada. He may be 35 now but the country's record goalscorer with 42 goals could be their best hope of goals in Russia.

Hernan Dario Gomez has done a remarkable job by steering Panama to the finals

Premier League players: None. Only three of the current squad play in Europe.

Who's the boss? Colombian Hernan Dario Gomez has had a varied international coaching career, including managing his homeland twice. This will be his third World Cup after taking Colombia to the 1998 finals, where they lost to England, and Ecuador to the 2002 tournament.

ASIA

Iran

Pedigree: This is the fifth time Iran have qualified for a World Cup, but their only victory in the tournament remains a 2-1 win over the United States at France '98.

Carlos Queiroz has led Iran to back-to-back World Cups

Key player: Striker Sardar Azmoun is arguably Asia's best striker since his compatriot Ali Daei, who scored more international goals than any other male player. The 22-year-old Azmoun is strong with both feet, and in the air, and plays his club football for Russian side Rubin Kazan.

Premier League players: None

Who's the boss? Carlos Queiroz has a CV to rival any manager in international football. Via Sporting Lisbon, South Africa, Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United and two stints in charge of Portugal, it is with Iran that Queiroz has spent the past six years.

"They fight for their lives, they fight for history, they fight for their reputations," said the Portuguese, having seen Iran become the highest-placed Asian side in Fifa's rankings at 24th.

Japan

Pedigree: Mainstays in the competition since 1998, Japan have twice reached the second round, including in 2002 when they jointly hosted the tournament with South Korea.

Key player: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Leicester forward Shinji Okazaki will of course be key, but a young forward on the books at Arsenal could be leading the line come next summer.

Takuma Asano has already netted three times for his country and helped Stuttgart win promotion to the Bundesliga last season while on loan from the Gunners. Arsene Wenger has called the 22-year-old "a talented young striker and very much one for the future".

Premier League players: Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Takuma Asano (Stuttgart, on loan from Arsenal).

Who's the boss? Vahid Halilhodzic, although that could change come the finals if reports of unrest in the camp are true. The Bosnian, however, has already proved his worth on the World Cup stage by leading Algeria to the knockout stages for the first time in the country's history in 2014.

The former Yugoslavia forward has also coached teams such as Paris St-Germain, Dinamo Zagreb and the Ivory Coast.

Nasser Al Shamrani has 19 goals in 77 caps for Saudi

Saudi Arabia

Pedigree: Saudi Arabia's only victories at a World Cup came in their first appearance in 1994, when they won two group matches and reached the second round. Their second win - 1-0 against Belgium - featured one of the greatest goals of all time when forward Saeed Al Owairan ran from his own half and beat half the Belgian defence to score.

Key player: Veteran striker Nasser Al Shamrani will play a vital role. The 2014 Asian Player of the Year can be a bit volatile - he was once banned for eight games for spitting at Western Sydney Wanderers player Matthew Spiranovic before trying to headbutt him after his Al Hilal side lost in the 2014 Champions League final.

Premier League players: None

Who's the boss? Bert van Marwijk, who has been in charge since 2015. The Dutchman, 65, led the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final and has coached the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Feyenoord and Hamburg.

South Korea

Pedigree: No Asian team has a better World Cup pedigree than the side nicknamed the Taegeuk Warriors. South Korea's goalless draw against Uzbekistan secured a place at a 10th finals and the tournament in Russia will be the ninth World Cup in a row in which they have featured.

Lee Dong-gook will be 39 by the time the World Cup begins in Russia

Key player: Son Heung-min has showcased his trickery at Tottenham and is the stand-out name on the team sheet. He has managed just one international goal since the start of 2016 however, as the side have struggled in front of goal. And keep an eye out for Lee Dong-gook who came on as a substitute in their final qualifier and will be 39 by the time the World Cup comes around. The former Middlesbrough striker boasts 105 caps spanning 19 years.

Premier League players: Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea), Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

Who is the boss? Shin Tae-yong has been nicknamed 'the Asian Mourinho' but he has come under pressure as a result of their hit-and-miss displays in qualifying. However, having only taken charge in July, he is likely to be given time to get things right. The 48-year-old spent 12 years as a player in South Korea's K-League and then made a single league appearance in Australia before retiring in 2005.

AFRICA

Egypt

Pedigree: Egypt are currently 30th in Fifa's world rankings - one place below the Netherlands. Having missed out on the 2010 and 2014 competitions after play-off defeats, they qualified for Russia when Liverpool's Mohamed Salah scored an injury-time winner against Congo on 8 October. Their last notable success at a major tournament was in 2010, when they lifted the Africa Cup of Nations for the seventh time.

Mohamed Salah will be making his World Cup debut in Russia

Key player: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool's major summer signing, is Egypt's most talented player. The speedy forward has scored 32 goals in 56 international appearances, including five during qualifying for Russia.

Premier League players: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Hegazy (West Brom), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke),

Championship players: Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa).

League One players: Sam Morsy (Wigan).

Who's the boss? Argentinian Hector Cuper, who previously coached Valencia and Inter Milan, was appointed in March 2015. He also managed Georgia between 2008 and 2009. His only major tournament was the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations - where Egypt were defeated 2-1 in the final by Cameroon.

Morocco

Pedigree: Morocco will be making their first appearance at a World Cup finals in 20 years next summer. In 1998 in France, a win, a draw and a defeat was not enough for them to qualify from the group stage. They have managed this feat just once in four attempts at finals, in Mexico in 1986 when they reached the last 16, where they were beaten 1-0 by eventual runners-up West Germany.

Key player: He has not been a regular with club side Juventus this season (there is some stiff competition there at the back) but defender Medhi Benatia is extremely highly rated at the Italian champions, who signed him on a permanent deal from Bayern Munich this year following a successful loan spell. The 30-year-old is Morocco's captain and has 52 caps to his name, five of which came during a 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in which they did not concede a goal. He also scored one of the goals in the 2-0 win over Ivory Coast that sealed their place in Russia.

Medhi Benatia joined Juventus from Bayern Munich on a permanent deal in May

Premier League players: Sofiane Boufal (Southampton)

Championship players: Romain Saiss (Wolves)

Who is the boss? Frenchman Herve Renard has had something of a nomadic coaching career since retiring from playing in 1998. One of his early roles was as boss of Cambridge United, who he joined in the summer of 2004 and left 25 games later with the club second bottom of League Two. Since then he has won the Africa Cup of Nations twice, with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015. After an unsuccessful stint as Lille boss, he took over as Morocco head coach in 2016.

Nigeria

Pedigree: This will be Nigeria's sixth appearance at a World Cup - and their third in a row. They have reached the last 16 three times - 1994, 1998 and 2014 - but have never advanced beyond that stage.

Key player: Captain John Mikel Obi, the most experienced member of the squad with 80 caps, will be a key figure for the Super Eagles in Russia. This will be the former Chelsea midfielder's second World Cup - the 30-year-old helped the team reach the knockout stages in 2014 for the first time since 1998. He now plays in China with Tianjin Teda.

John Mikel Obi helped Nigeria win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations

Premier League players: Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Ahmed Musa (Leicester City) and Ola Aina (on loan at Hull City from Chelsea).

Who is the boss? Gernot Rohr has managed all over the world. From Nice to Gabon, Burkina Faso to Nigeria, the 64-year-old German has extensive knowledge. Rohr played at Bayern Munich and Bordeaux. He then coached Bordeaux when they lost to Bayern in the 1996 Uefa Cup final. Previous managerial jobs also include French club Nantes, Young Boys Berne in Switzerland, Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel and the Niger national team.

Senegal

Pedigree: This is the first time Senegal have qualified for the World Cup since 2002 - and only the second time in history. In 2002, they reached the quarter finals where they were beaten 1-0 by Turkey.

Key player: Sadio Mane is the West African team's most experienced player with 48 caps and 14 goals since his debut in 2012. In 2015 he set a new Premier League record for the fastest hat-trick after scoring three times in 176 seconds during a 6-1 Southampton win over Aston Villa. When he transferred to Liverpool in 2016, he became the most expensive African player in history at the time, for a fee of £34m.

Mane became the most expensive African player in history at the time, for a fee of £34m

Premier League players: Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Diafra Sakho (West Ham), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Sadio Mane (Liverpool).

Championship players: Alfred N'Diaye (Wolves), Cheikh N'Doye (Birmingham City),

Who is the boss? Aliou Cisse is a former Senegal, Pompey and Birmingham City player. The 41-year-old briefly became head coach of the team in a caretaker role after Amara Traore's sacking in 2012. He then coached Senegal's under-23 side from 2012-2013 before heading back to the national team in a permanent position.

Tunisia

Pedigree: Next summer will represent the first time Tunisia have appeared at a World Cup finals since the tournament in Germany in 2006, at which they failed to make it beyond the group stage. In three finals appearances prior to that - 1978, 1998 and 2002 - they failed to make the knockout rounds.

Key player: Centre-back Aymen Abdennour is an experienced and talented figure in Tunisia's defence. Currently on loan at French club Marseille from Valencia, he has 57 international caps and has scored twice. Previously linked with moves to the Premier League with both Everton and Chelsea, the 28-year-old was recently reported to be on Watford's radar.

Wahbi Khazri began this season in the Championship with Sunderland but joined Rennes on loan in August

Premier League players: None

Championship players: Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland, on loan at Rennes)

Who is the boss? Nabil Maaloul is in his second spell as Tunisia coach. His first lasted just seven games in 2013, which ended in his resignation after he failed to take his country to the 2014 World Cup finals. He returned in April of 2017, following spells with El Jaish SC in Qatar and the Kuwait national team. Prior to all this, he was assistant to then head coach Roger Lemerre as Tunisia won the 2004 African Cup of Nations and led ES Tunis to an historic treble in 2011. He won 74 caps for Tunisia during his playing days as a midfielder in the 1980s and 1990s, representing them at the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

Source: BBC SPORT

Studied B.Sc Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Buea

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