2014 World Cup team guide: USA

USA defender Geoff Cameron.

Credit: PA


Group G fixtures:

Ghana v USA
June 16 Natal, 2300

USA v Portugal
June 22 Manaus, 2000

USA v Germany
June 26 Recife, 1700

FIFA World Ranking: 14

Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

How they qualified: Comfortably, winning seven of their ten games and scoring 15 goals in the process. An early defeat to Honduras had critics questioning Jurgen Klinsmann's tactics, but the Germany legend turned things around in the end.

World Cup pedigree: Finished third in 1930, still a high point for any team outside of Europe and South America. Since then their fortunes have been mixed, with group-stage exits in 1934, 1990, 1998 and 2006. Almost reached the last four in 2002, but lost 1-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals. In 2010, the States kicked off with a 1-1 draw against England before bowing out in the last 16 after an extra-time loss to Ghana.

2014 World Cup team guide: Uruguay

Edinson Cavani is one of the world's most dangerous strikers.

Credit: PA


Group D fixtures:

Uruguay v Costa Rica
June 14 Fortaleza, 2000

Uruguay v England
June 19 Sao Paulo, 2000

Italy v Uruguay
June 24 Natal, 1700

FIFA World Ranking: 6

Head coach: Oscar Tabarez

How they qualified: A terrible start left Uruguay with just two points from a possible 12, and cast doubts over the future of head coach Tabarez. They did improve, though, enough to earn a play-off tie with Jordan. A 5-0 first-leg win in Jordan did the damage, before a goalless draw in Montevideo sealed their qualification.

World Cup pedigree: A grand old team of world football, Uruguay have two World Cup wins to their name, in 1930 (the inaugural tournament), and – an omen? – in Brazil in 1950. There's not a lot to report between 1950 and 2006, but in 2010 they made it to the last four, thanks mostly to the shooting boots of Diego Forlan.

2014 World Cup team guide: Switzerland

Xherdan Shaquiri.

Credit: PA


Group E fixtures:

Switzerland v Ecuador
June 15 Brasilia, 1700

Switzerland v France
June 20 Salvador, 2000

Honduras v Switzerland
June 25 Manaus, 2100

FIFA World Ranking: 8

Head coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld

How they qualified: A relatively easy group for Switzerland was not as straightforward as they'd have liked. Qualified in the penultimate match after a few nervy draws along the way, including a 4-4 draw with Iceland despite leading 4-1.

World Cup pedigree: Have punched above their weight. Appeared in nine World Cup finals and have reached the quarter-finals on three occasions (1934, 1938, 1954).

2014 World Cup team guide: Spain

Sergio Busquets protects Spain's back four brilliantly.

Credit: PA


Group B fixtures:

Spain v Holland
June 13 Salvador, 2000

Spain v Chile
June 18 Rio de Janeiro, 2300

Australia v Spain
June 23 Curitiba, 1700

FIFA World Ranking: 1

Head coach: Vicente Del Bosque

How they qualified: The reigning world (and European) champions Spain went unbeaten in qualification, winning six times and drawing twice in a group that contained just five teams. One slightly worrying sign: they scored just 14 goals in those eight matches.

World Cup pedigree: More cursed even than England, so they said, but then Spain's golden generation – epitomised by Barcelona playmakers Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta – ended the World Cup hoodoo by going all the way in South Africa in 2010.

2014 World Cup team guide: Russia

Aleksandr Kerzhakov celebrates a goal against Portugal in qualifying.

Credit: PA


Group H fixtures:

Russia v South Korea
June 17 Cuiaba, 2300

Belgium v Russia
June 22 Rio de Janeiro, 2300

Algeria v Russia
June 26 Curitiba, 2100

FIFA World Ranking: 22

Head coach: Fabio Capello

How they qualified: Fabio Capello's qualifying record with England was impeccable and he continued that trend as Russia head coach despite one slip-up against Northern Ireland. Russia beat Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal to first place in Group F.

World Cup pedigree: Poor, which is rather mysterious for such a massive, resource-rich country. A Lev Yashin-inspired USSR finished fourth in 1966, their best performance to date. They reached the quarter-finals in 1958, 1962 and 1970 but have done nothing of note since then and indeed failed to qualify for the last two tournaments.

2014 World Cup team guide: Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo guided Portugal to Brazil.

Credit: PA


Group G fixtures:

Germany v Portugal
June 16 Salvador, 1700

USA v Portugal
June 22 Manaus, 2000

Portugal v Ghana
June 26 Brasilia, 1700

FIFA World Ranking: 5

Head coach: Paulo Bento

How they qualified: For the second time in successive qualifying campaigns, Portugal did it the hard way via the play-offs. Cristiano Ronaldo, who else, scored all four goals as the Portuguese beat Zlatan's Sweden 4-2 over two thrilling legs.

World Cup pedigree: Portugal didn't play in a World Cup finals until 1966 but they (Eusebio above all) made their mark on that tournament, losing to hosts England in the semi-finals. It took them another 20 years to qualify for the main event, but they didn't get out of their group at Mexico '86, then missed out on all three finals in the Nineties. They made it to the last four for the second time in 2006, going down against France, and in 2010 Ronaldo and co. were edged out by winners Spain in the Round of 16.

2014 World Cup team guide: Nigeria

John Obi Mikel is far more influential for Nigeria than he is for Chelsea.

Credit: PA


Group F fixtures:

Iran v Nigeria
June 16 Curitiba, 2000

Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina
June 21 Cuiaba, 2300

Nigeria v Argentina
June 25 Porto Alegre, 1700

FIFA World Ranking: 36

Head coach: Stephen Keshi

How they qualified: The 2013 African Cup of Nations winners lived up to their new top billing as they went unbeaten in qualifying. They did draw three times, though, and so had to seal a place in Brazil via the playoffs, where they beat Ethiopia comfortably over two legs.

World Cup pedigree: Nigeria's golden generation impressed in 1994 and 1998, reaching the last 16 on both occasions. They have since struggled with three early exits and just two points taken from their last eight group matches.