Just to make it easier for you, after last night, here are all the 32 nations that made it to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa –
Brazil – This will be their 19th World Cup (never missed one) and an attempt to win their 6th trophy (all time leader with 5). Came out first from the qualifying groups despite a rough start. Kaka is unquestionably their biggest star, but the most important man is their head coach, Dunga.
Spain – The 2008 Euro champions will play in their 13th World Cup and ninth in a row. They’ve never made it further than the quarter finals, but this time Spain are maybe THE favorites to win. Stars? Torres, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta. Deeper and more talented than any other nation in Europe.
Netherlands – The Dutch finished their qualifying group, like Spain, with a perfect record (8 for 8). It’ll be their 9th World Cup. They’ve made it twice to the Final (1974, 1978) and anything less than quarter finals will probably be regarded as a disappointment.
Italy – The World Champions made it undefeated from the qualifying group despite the usual unimpressive style. It’ll be their 17th World Cup (13th in a row) and they won’t be favored to win their 5th Mondial. Maybe the low expectations can help.
Germany – The three time World Champions (as West Germany) made it to their 17th World Cup (15th straight) after an undefeated run in the qualifying group. The national side’s recent revival since the 2006 World Cup played in Germany probably makes the Germans fancy themselves as potential winners, but a Semi Final finish will be a great achievement in my eyes considering the competition.
Argentina – Maradona’s side made it, eventually, to their 15th World Cup (10th in a row) from the fourth place in the qualifying group after a very turbulent time, including an embarrassing 6-1 defeat in Bolivia. Favorites? They have the talent up front, but considering the way things went during the qualifiers, anything more than a Quarter Final would be surprising.
England – 13th Time for England in the World Cup, and as always, there’s some sort of feeling that this time, things are going to click and they’re going all the way. Does have anything to do with reality? Maybe. They made it comfortably through the qualifying stage, getting their revenge on Croatia and having a coach like Capello on the sidelines probably gives a bit more confidence to the players and the fans. Can Gerrard, Rooney and Lampard lead England to their second World Cup triumph (1966 being the only one)? Because of the high expectations from home, anything less than a semi final will probably be considered a disappointment.
France – Everyone seems to hate Raymond Domenech, but the French side made it, with an illegal goal in the playoff against Ireland (Henry hand-balled). The 1998 Champions will make their 13th World Cup appearance but don’t look like a team that can make it further than the quarters with the way they’re playing right now. Maybe with a healthy and brilliant Ribery, it’ll be different.
Portugal – No Cristiano Ronaldo? No problem. While the Real Madrid phenom was injured, the Portuguese made it through the playoffs, knocking off Bosnia, who seemed to have everyone rooting for them. This will be Portugal’s 5th World Cup appearance, and with a healthy Ronaldo and a strong and solid side, might be a dark horse candidate to go very far in the tournament.
United States – One of the three CONCACAF sides to make it to 2010, it will be the 9th World Cup for the Americans and sixth in a row. After getting only one point in the group stage back in 2006, qualifying out of the group stage should be rather pleasing for Bob Bradley’s guys.
Switzerland – The Swiss made it to their 9th World Cup and their second in a row, something they haven’t achieved since 1966. They finished first in their qualifying group and will probably be pleased with an appearance in round 2.
Cameroon – The Indomitable Lions will play in their 6th World Cup after missing it in 2006. Paul Le Guen’s side, with Samuel Eto’o as Captain and undisputed alpha-dog of the side aren’t the strongest African side right now (Ivory Coast is probably better) but can still make it through the group stage without anyone raising a brow.
Greece – Another qualifier from the playoffs, the Greeks, one of the more hated sides in Europe since that 2004 European Championship victory, made it to the World Cup for only the second time (first was in 1994) and it’s hard to see them making it very far. It’s a fair bet to say that anything resembling attractive soccer won’t be seen in their games.
Chile – Making it to the big stage for the 8th time and the first since 1998, the Chileans finished second in the South American qualifying group, with Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa, former Argentina Head Coach, leading La Roja since 2007. Humberto Suazo finished as the South American group leading scorers, with 10 goals.
Mexico – After a horrible start under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Javier Aguirre (former Atletico Madrid coach) came to the rescue. Eventually, the quality and tradition prevailed, as Mexico finished second in the group behind the USA and made it to their 14th World Cup. The Mexicans would love to finally make it to the quarter finals after four consecutive round 2 exits, but a group stage exit this time won’t be so surprising, as most of the teams key players, including Blanco and Guillerme Franco are on the wrong side of 30.
Ivory Coast – Making it to their second straight and overall World Cup, Les Elephants showed last time around that they are one of the more entertaining and fun to watch sides in soccer right now, despite not making it out of the group stage (a death group with Holland, Argentina and Serbia helped). This time the expectations will be higher, as Didier Drogba’s side are no longer an unknown to anyone.
Serbia – The Serbians had a fantastic qualifying campaign, finishing first in their group, above France and Romania. It’ll be their third World Cup since the Yugoslav Republic has fallen apart, and hopefully will have a better tournament this time after not getting one point in their group matches in 2006, including a 6-0 defeat against Argentina.
Paraguay – No longer a surprise, finishing third in their qualifying group and making it to their fourth straight World Cup, the Paraguayans will display their usual tough and gritty style, all based on a solid and aggressive defense. Not likely to see them getting past round 2, but don’t be shocked if they make it there.
Australia – The move to the Asian qualifying groups didn’t harm the Socceroos, making it to their second consecutive World Cup and third overall. They clinched their spot in South Africa with two games to spare, finishing an impressive qualifying campaign, finishing undefeated in the final group stage, with Tim Cahill and Brett Emerton leading the scoring with four goals each.
Uruguay – TheTwo time World Champions (1930, 1950) needed to beat Costa Rica in the playoffs to make it to their 10th World Cup and only second since 1990 (last time around was 2002). The Uruguayans have a strong striking tandem with Forlan and Luis Suarez. Maybe it’ll be enough to get them into the second round for the first time since 1990.
Denmark – The Olsen gang make it through to their fourth World Cup after missing out in 2006. They made it through a very difficult group, finishing above Portugal and leaving Sweden home for the first time since 1998. The Danes don’t have any outstanding superstar players but have made it through the group stage every time they’ve participated in the WC, expect it to happen again.
Algeria – The surprise winners from the war-like atmosphere with their clash with Egypt. Algeria won that Neutral match in Sudan and made it to their third World Cup and first since 1986. The teams best and most known players is probably Wolfsburg’s Karim Ziani.
Nigeria – Making it to their fourth World Cup, after missing the one in Germany 2006. The Nigerians had to beat Kenya in their final match to clinch their spot, but are loaded with talent and potential, so it’s hard to predict their fate in South Africa. My Guess? First round exit.
Slovakia – The most surprising group in the UEFA qualification, as Slovakia finished first and made it to their first big tournament since the Czechoslovakian split. They left Poland and the Czech Republic at home, with Stanislav Sestak leading the way with 6 goals. A win in the group stages will be a great debut appearance for Slovakia.
Honduras – The Hondurans made it to the World Cup for the second time, with 1982 being their first and last visit. They finished third, beating Costa Rica to the WC spot by goal difference. 36 Year old Carlos Pavon was their leading scorer in the qualifying rounds, with 7 goals.
Ghana – The black stars made it to their second World Cup, and will be looking to repeat their achievement in 2006 by making it through the group stage and maybe this time take it to another level. Ghana are loaded with players from the big leagues, with Michael Essien from Chelsea being the highest-profile player in the squad.
Japan – The Soccer Nippon Daihyo make it to their fourth World Cup in a row, hoping to erase their win-less performance in 2006. Japan finished second in their group with Australia but they were actually the first team to clinch a spot in the WC besides hosts South Africa.
Korea Republic/South Korea – The KR made it to their 8th World Cup and 7th in a row. They finished their qualifying campaign undefeated, also achieving a huge 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia, their first win over their middle eastern rivals in 19 years.
Slovenia – The lowest ranked (according to the FIFA rankings) European side to make it into South Africa, Slovenia finished second in group 3, behind Slovakia, and were able to beat favorites Russia in the playoffs on away goals – Scoring a late one in the 2-1 loss at Russia and beating the Soviets 1-0 at home. It’s Slovenia’s second World Cup, the first one back in 2002, when they lost all three group games.
New Zealand – The big winners from Australia’s move to the Asian qualifiers, the All Whites, making it to their second World Cup (1982 the first) after beating Bahrain in the playoffs. Most of the NZ players play for local teams, although a few others are found in the different football leagues in England, including Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn) and Rory Fallon (Plymouth).
South Africa – The hosts, the Bafana Bafana, like the United States in 1994 and Korea & Japan in 2002, threaten to be the first hosts to not make it out of the group stage, but maybe a home crowd will be enough to carry them into the second round. In 1996 South Africa hosted the African Nation Championships, winning it for the first and only time. Chances of that hapenning are about 0.0001%, and it wouldn’t be surprising if South Africa don’t win one game, but hosts tend to surprise everyone during these tournaments.
Korea DPR – The only communist nation to make it to South Africa and the lowest ranked team (91st according to FIFA), the North Koreans make it to the World Cup for the first time since 1966 and their second time in all. They were able to finish infront of Saudi Arabia by having a better goal difference than the Saudi’s. They are probably the weakest side to make it to South Africa and anything better than zero points should be quite an achievement.