The World Cup picture in Brazil is getting clearer and clearer with 21 teams overall securing their place in the tournament next summer, as only one of the nations up to this point, Bosnia, being a first-time qualifier, while teams like Colombia, Russia, Ecuador and Costa Rica make a return after missing one or more qualifications over the last few years.
We still have 11 teams left to be decided, with five coming from Africa, as the second leg of the playoffs will be held in Novemeber; four more coming from Europe, with a two-legged playoff taking place in November as well. Two more teams will be decided from intercontinental matches: Uruguay will play Jordan in November, and Mexico will play against New Zealand.
Brazil – Hosts, didn’t have to qualify. This is their 20th World Cup appearance, and they are five time winners, last time hoisting the cup in 2002. They were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2010. Their most recent result is a 2-0 win over Zambia.
Italy – The Italians finished first in their group that included Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia and Malta. It’ll be their 18th appearance in the World Cup, coming out as winners four times, the last of which in 2006. They didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2010.
Germany – Finished first and undefeated in their qualifying group, ahead of Sweden, Austria, Ireland, Kazakhstan and Faroe Island, winning 5-3 in Sweden on the last day. It’ll be their 18th World Cup appearance, coming out as winners three times, the last one coming in 1990. They made it to the semifinals in 2010.
Argentina – The South American qualifiers champions, who could afford to lose against Uruguay on the final day and still finish first. It’ll be the 16th World Cup for Argentina, a tournament they’ve won twice, the last time happening in 1986. They were knocked out in the quarterfinals four years ago.
England – England came through on the final two matches of the campaign, beating Montenegro and Poland to stay on top of their group, which also included Ukraine, Moldova and San Marino. It’ll be the 14th World Cup for England, winning it only once, in 1966. They were knocked out in the round of 16 in 2010.
Spain – Had no problem finishing first, undefeated, in a group that included France, Finland, Georgia and Belarus. It’ll be their 14th World Cup, a tournament which they are the defending champions in, beating the Netherlands in the 2010 finals.
Belgium – Back in the World Cup for the first time since 2002, the Belgians finished first in their group with an undefeated record, leaving Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Scotland and Wales behind. It’ll be their 12th World Cup. Their best achievement is finishing fourth in 1986.
Netherlands – Almost as always, did very well in the qualifying stages, winning nine out of 10 matches, finishing off with a 2-0 win in Turkey. It’ll be the 10th World Cup for the Dutch, who have been to three finals, losing them all, including in 2010.
United States – Finished first in the final qualifying group, which included saving Mexico by beating Panama in injury time 3-2. It’ll be their 10th appearance in the World Cup, with their semifinal from 1930 still their best achievement. They were knocked out in the round of 16 in South Africa.
Switzerland – Finished first in a group that included Iceland, Slovenia, Norway, Albania and Cyprus, making it to their 10th World Cup. Their best achievement is making it to the quarterfinals, happening three times, the last of which in 1954. They didn’t make it past the group stage in 2010.
South Korea – The 9th World Cup for South Korea, who finished as runners-up in their qualifying group behind Iran. Their biggest achievement has been the semifinal in 2002 when hosting the tournament and getting referee help. They were knocked out in the round of 16 three years ago.
Chile – Finished third in the South American group, beating Ecuador 2-1 to end the campaign. It’ll be their 9th world cup appearance, with their best coming in 1962, making it to the semifinal when hosting the tournament. They were knocked out in the round of 16 in 2010.
Japan – Finished first in their Asian qualifying group, making it to their 5th World Cup. They made the round of 16 in 2010, which is tied for their best ever finish in the tournament.
Colombia – Back in the World Cup for the first time since 1998, Colombia finished a surprising second in the South American group. It’ll be their 5th World Cup appearance. Their best showing was in 1990, the only time they made it past the group stage.
Australia – Finished behind Japan in their qualifying group, making it to their 4th World Cup. Their best achievement was in 2006, making it to the round of 16. They didn’t make it past the group stage in 2010.
Iran – Won their qualifying group, making it to the World Cup for the first time since 2006. It’s the fourth appearance for Iran in the tournament, and they still haven’t made it past the group stage.
Costa Rica – Qualified automatically from second place in the CONCACAF qualifying group, beating Mexico 2-1 on the final day and almost keeping them out of the tournament. It’s the 4th time they make it to the tournament, the last of which happened in 2006. They made it to the round of 16 in 1990.
Russia – Won group F, finishing ahead of Portugal, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg. It is the 10th World Cup for Russia if you include the USSR appearances. They haven’t made it to the tournament since 2002, and their best finish is a semifinal back in 1966.
Ecuador – Lost on the final day, but still finished fourth, making it into the World Cup for the 3rd time. Their previous appearance was in 2006, when they reached the round of 16.
Honduras – Finished third in the CONCACAF group, ahead of Mexico, Panama and Jamaica, making it to their 3rd World Cup and second in a row. Have yet to make it out of the group stage.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – The only team so far that will make its World Cup debut (actually any major tournament debut), finishing first in a group that included Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Liechtenstein.