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World Cup guide: Groups E-H analysed

Brazil and Germany are the standout sides in the second half of the draw.

World Cup guide: Groups E-H analysed

The World Cup finals kick off in Russia on Thursday. Here, we take a look at Groups E to H.

Group E

Brazil

Five-time winners Brazil qualified in style to lift the gloom after their humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-finals on home soil four years ago. They are favourites, but doubts remain over star man Neymar’s fitness after a foot injury.

Coach: Tite
Key man: Neymar
Best World Cup performance: Winners 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002

Switzerland

Switzerland have targeted the quarter-finals after qualifying for their fourth straight World Cup, despite needing a dubious penalty to beat Northern Ireland in a play-off. They have progressed from their group in two of the previous three tournaments.

Coach: Vladimir Petkovic
Key man: Xherdan Shaqiri
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 1934, 1938, 1954

Costa Rica

Finished second in CONCACAF qualifying, but on the evidence of their recent 2-0 friendly defeat to England will be hard pushed to repeat their 2014 heroics when they reached the quarter-finals before losing to Holland in a penalty shootout.

Coach: Oscar Ramirez
Key man: Keylor Navas
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 2014

Serbia

Finished top of a qualifying group featuring the Republic of Ireland and Wales, but sacked coach Slavoljub Muslin after cruising to their first major tournament since the 2010 World Cup, with Mladen Krstajic appointed permanently in December.

Coach: Mladen Krstajic
Key man: Nemanja Matic
Best World Cup performance: First round 2010 (Yugoslavia finished fourth in 1930 and 1962, Serbia and Montenegro reached the second round in 1998)

Group F

Germany

The reigning champions qualified in style, winning all 10 of their games, and scoring a European record 43 goals. Their golden generation is ageing, but new talent has emerged and they will be heavily backed to lift the trophy for a fifth time.

Coach: Joachim Low
Key man: Toni Kroos
Best World Cup performance: Winners 2014 (West Germany were champions in 1954, 1974 and 1990)

Mexico

Mexico qualified with three games to spare and are traditionally the strongest team in the CONCACAF region. They have reached the second round at the last six tournaments, but have only twice reached the quarter-finals, in 1970 and 1986 when they were hosts .

Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio
Key man: Javier Hernandez
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 1970, 1986

Sweden

Qualified for their first World Cup since 2006 with a play-off win over four-time champions Italy after finishing above Holland in a qualifying group headed by France, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is unlikely to return from international retirement.

Coach: Janne Andersson
Key man: Emil Forsberg
Best World Cup performance: Runners-up 1958

South Korea

Secured their ninth straight World Cup finals appearance, but have only won two matches since finishing fourth as co-hosts in 2002. Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Ki Sung-yeung (Swansea) and Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace) are Premier League regulars.

Coach: Shin Tae-yong
Key man: Son Heung-min
Best World Cup performance: Fourth place 2002

Group G

Belgium

Belgium’s exceptionally talented squad will be hoping to build on their quarter-final appearance four years ago having reached the same stage at Euro 2016. Time is running out for their ‘Golden Generation’ and the pressure is on coach Roberto Martinez to make them click.

Coach: Roberto Martinez
Key man: Eden Hazard
Best World Cup performance: Fourth place 1986

Panama

Panama, with a population of just four million, have been edging closer to reaching the World Cup finals for the first time and finally crossed the line thanks to a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in their final qualifier.

Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez
Key man: Blas Perez
Best World Cup performance: Debut

Tunisia

Missed out on the last two tournaments after appearing at the previous three, but have never won a group game. Unbeaten in qualifying, they defeated DR Congo to Russia by a point, with a last-round draw against Libya proving enough.

Coach: Nabil Maaloul
Key man: Wahbi Khazri
Best World Cup performance: Group stage 1978, 1998, 2002, 2006

 England

Past disappointments at major tournaments have seen expectation levels plummet despite a comfortable qualification campaign. Coach Gareth Southgate’s first major tournament is viewed by many as preparation for a brighter future.

Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key man: Harry Kane
Best World Cup performance: Winners 1966

Group H

Poland

Comfortably topped their qualifying group and looking to make the knockout stages for the first time since 1986. Poland are likely to be followed to Russia by large numbers of fans and will be looking to build on their quarter-final appearance at Euro 2016.

Coach: Adam Nawalka
Key man: Robert Lewandowski
Best World Cup performance: Third place 1974, 1982

Senegal

Best remembered for stunning holders France on their way to the last eight at the 2002 World Cup, Senegal have missed the last three tournaments. Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is a world-class striker, who can pose problems for any defence.

Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key man: Sadio Mane
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-final 2002

Colombia

James Rodriguez was one of the stars of the show at Brazil 2014 when Colombia lost narrowly – and controversially – to the hosts in the quarter-finals, but they struggled to book their place in Russia after finishing fourth in the South American qualifying group.

Coach: Jose Pekerman
Key man: James Rodriguez
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 2014

Japan

Appearing at their sixth consecutive World Cup finals, but did not win a group game at the 2014 tournament. Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa and Leicester forward Shinji Okazaki are two players with European pedigree in an experienced squad.

Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic
Key man: Shinji Kagawa
Best World Cup performance: Second round 2002, 2010

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