The list of qualified nations to the 2014 World Cup is set after the playoffs, completing the list of 32 nations going to Brazil, so it’s only fair to learn a little bit about each team going into the tournament, with the hosts, Argentina, Germany and Spain looking like the four main favorites to win it all.
Outside chance? The list is very long, but Portugal and France, despite needing the playoffs to make it through, shouldn’t be counted out due to the individual talent and Cristiano Ronaldo. Bosnia, who didn’t need the playoffs, are the only side who have their World Cup Finals debut to look forward to this time.
Algeria – Making the World Cup for a second consecutive time and fourth overall. They haven’t won a World Cup match since 1982, and finished with one point (against England) four years ago. They barely got past Burkina Faso in the playoffs, going through on away goals. Islam Slimani was their leading scorer with 5 goals.
Argentina – Probably one of the four big favorites to win the competition after finishing first in the South American qualifying group, led with 10 goals from Lionel Messi. It’s the 16th tournament for the two-time champions, not making it past the quarterfinals on their last two tournaments, twice losing to Germany.
Australia – The move to Asia hasn’t made life more difficult for Australia, no longer having to deal with a tough playoff. They make the tournament for a third consecutive time and fourth overall after finishing second behind Japan in the qualifying group, ahead of Jordan, Oman and Iraq. They didn’t make it out of a very tough group stage in South Africa.
Belgium – Belgium are back in the World Cup for the first time since 2002, when they made the round of 16. Finishing first in a group that included Croatia, Serbia, Scotland and Wales has made the Belgians somewhat of dark horse candidates in Brazil, with their sights on matching their biggest achievement – the semifinal in 1986.
Bosnia – No playoffs in the way, only first place over Greece, and the first tournament ever they’ve made it to. Edin Dzeko, scoring 10 goals, led them through a easy group, making history.
Brazil – The hosts have never missed a World Cup, making it a perfect 20 for 20, not to mention hoping to add a sixth World Cup trophy to their cabinet, failing to do so last time they hosted the competition in 1950. Brazil lost in the quarterfinals of the 2010 edition to the Netherlands, not making it past that stage since 2002.
Cameroon – The sixth World Cup for Cameroon, who have failed to make it out of the group stage on their last four visits. They had a very easy time against Tunisia in the playoffs, going through on a 4-1 aggregate score.
Chile – Finished third in the qualifying group, led by Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas, scoring 5 goals each. It is the 8th World Cup for Chile, making consecutive tournaments for the first time since 1966. They were knocked out in the round of 16 four years ago by Brazil.
Colombia – An excellent tournament for Colombia, finishing second in the group, led by Radamel Falcao scoring 9 goals. They haven’t been in the World Cup since 1998, and have never made it past the round of 16, which they’ve reached only once, in 1990.
Costa Rica – A fantastic qualifying campaign for Costa Rica, finishing second in the final group stage behind the United States, getting automatic qualification, led by 8 goals from Álvaro Saborío. It is the fourth World Cup for Costa Rica, last playing in 2006, not making it out of the group stage.
Croatia – Had to beat Iceland in the playoffs after a disappointing ending to their qualifying campaign, finishing behind Belgium. It is the fourth World Cup for Croatia, who missed out on the tournament four years ago. They’ve made it out of the group stage only once: In 1998, when they reached the semifinal.
Ecuador – Finished fourth in the qualifying group, led by Felipe Caicedo who scored 7 goals for them. It is the third World Cup for Ecuador and first since 2006, when they made it to the round of 16.
England – Not the easiest group, but finished first, ahead of Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro, led by 7 goals from Wayne Rooney. It is the 14th World Cup for England, who won the competition in 1966, but were knocked out rather early (round of 16) four years ago against Germany.
France – Their playoff matchup with Ukraine provided quite a lot of fireworks and red cards, eventually making it through despite a 2-0 loss in the first leg, winning 3-0 in Paris. It’s the 14th World Cup for the one-time World champions, who failed to make it out of the group stage in 2010.
Germany – One of the “big four” heading into the World Cup, easily finishing first in their qualifying campaign, led by 8 goals from Mesut Ozil. Three time World Champions (as West Germany), it’ll be their 18th World Cup, getting stopped two consecutive times in the semifinal, finishing third overall in the tournament.
Ghana – Most likely the strongest of the African sides, Ghana got past Egypt mostly thanks to a 6-1 win in the first leg and 7-3 on aggregate. Asamoah Gyan, with 6 goals, led them in scoring during the qualifiers. The Black Stars have now made the World Cup for a third consecutive time, stopped by Uruguay and penalty kicks last time during the quarter finals.
Greece – The playoffs didn’t pose much of a problem, beating Romania, led by Kostantinous Mitroglou with 5 goals. It’ll be only the third World Cup for Greece, who have never been out of the group stage.
Honduras – Finished third in the qualifying group, making it in automatically, led by Jerry Bengtson with 9 goals. It is the third World Cup for Honduras, who are still looking for their first ever win in the competition.
Iran – Iran make the World Cup for the fourth time and their first since 2006 in Germany, where they only got one point in their group stage. They finished first in their qualifying group, even ahead of South Korea, leaving Uzbekistan, Qatar and Lebanon behind, getting a fantastic qualifying tournament from Javad Nekounam, scoring six goals.
Italy – The four time World champions finished first in their qualifying group, led by 5 goals from Mario Balotelli. It is the 18th World Cup for the Italians, who failed to make it out of the group stage in 2010, not winning a single match.
Ivory Coast – A fourth consecutive World Cup for a team that usually disappoints in the finals tournament, still not making it out of the group stage. The Ivorians got through thanks to a 4-2 aggregate win over Senegal, being led by Salomon Kalou in the qualifiers, scoring 5 goals.
Japan – Shinji Okazaki was the top scorer of the qualifying campaign, scoring 8 goals, leading Japan to the top spot in their group, making their fifth consecutive World Cup tournament. They made it to the round of 16 last time, losing to Paraguay.
Mexico – Almost missed out on the competition but had no problem getting past New Zealand in the inter-continental playoffs with a 9-3 aggregate score, led by Oribe Peralta scoring 10 goals for the side. Mexico have made the World Cup 14 times in the past, getting to the round of 16 and not further on their last five visits.
Netherlands – Kings of the qualifiers as usual, providing goals and near perfection, including Robin van Persie, leading all goalscorers with 11. It is the 10th World Cup for the Dutch, who have already piled up three finals losses, including in extra time against Spain four years ago.
Nigeria – The African champions had a comfortable 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia, winning both matches. The 2014 tournament will be the fifth World Cup for Nigeria, not making it out of the group stage on their last two visits to the competition.
Portugal – Came through the tough playoff matchup with Sweden thanks to four goals from Cristiano Ronaldo on a massive year. It is the sixth World Cup and fourth in a row for Portugal, who peaked in 2006 with a semifinal (losing to France) and were knocked out in the round of 16 by Spain four years ago.
Russia – Finished first in their qualifying group ahead of the Portuguese, led by five goals from Aleksandr Kerzhakov. It is only the third World Cup since the USSR fell apart, and have never made it past the group stage since the collapse of the Eastern Block.
South Korea – Finished second in their group, still making it to their ninth World Cup and eighth in a row. Last time, in South Africa, was the first tournament in which South Korea made it past the group stage without hosting the competition, losing to Uruguay. Lee Keun-Ho was their top scorer in the qualifiers with 4 goals.
Spain – The World and European champions finished first in their qualifying group, ahead of France. It’ll be the 14th tournament for La Roja, making every single one since 1978, winning last time thanks to Andres Iniesta coming through in extra time against the Netherlands.
Switzerland – Finished first in a group that included Iceland, Norway and Slovakia. It’ll be the ninth World Cup for the Swiss and third in a row, failing to make it out of the group stage in South Africa despite beating Spain on the opening match.
United States – Undoubtedly the strongest side at the moment in North-Central America, finishing first in the qualifying group, led by Clint Dempsey (8 goals). It’ll be the 10th World Cup for the United States and 7th in a row, making the round of 16 last time before losing to Ghana.
Uruguay – Surprisingly, they needed the playoffs to qualify for a 12th time and second in a row, something that hasn’t happened since 1990. Luis Suarez led them with 10 goals in the competition, as the two time World Champions hope that Brazil will provide the same kind of happy ending it did in 1950, when they won the World Cup for a second time, although no one will complain about a semifinal like four years ago.