2018 World Cup qualified nations

2018 World Cup qualified nations: Will Brazil banish the demons?

2018 World Cup qualified nations

FootyOn profile 2018 World Cup qualified nations with kick-off for the globe’s premier international competition less than a year away.

With less than 12 months to go until the world’s best descends upon Russia in hope of lifting the famous golden trophy, more and more nations are cementing their place at the festival of football.

So, with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at the 2018 World Cup qualified nations, starting with the hosts…

Russia

2018 World Cup qualified nations: Russia will look to make home advantage count.

How they qualified

As hosts, there was no need to qualify. However, the world’s largest country have taken part in a number of friendlies in preparation for their highly anticipated tournament.

Stanislav Cherchesov’s side have lost just four home friendlies in their last 23 clashes.

Home advantage will be huge for Russia if they are to progress next summer.

Challenges

Friendlies may be all well and good, but when it comes to competitive match preparation, it may be tough for Russia to shift gears.

Brazil

How they qualified

The first South American nation to qualify, Brazil came out on top during the CONMEBOL Round Robin.

Brazil have won their last nine qualifying games and are undefeated since the start of 2016.

Tite’s Samba Boys look back to their high-flying best and come into the competition as 6/1 shots with BetVictor to win the World Cup next year.

Challenges

Brazil were expected to go all the way during their home 2014 World Cup. However, were dramatically stopped in their tracks by eventual winners Germany, embarrassing them 7-1 in the semis.

After some Samba soul-searching and swapping Tite for Dunga in the dugout, they are showing real signs of recovery.

Brazil will need to banish the ghosts of their harrowing 2014 defeat, if they expect to challenge for their sixth title in Russia.

Iran

2018 World Cup qualified nations: This will be Iran’s second consecutive World Cup appearance.

How they qualified

Making their fifth appearance at the World Cup, Carlos Queiroz’s Iran have made it to their second consecutive finals under the former Manchester United assistant.

This nation is unlikely to be no country’s whipping boys either, having kept 12 successive clean sheets in qualifying – that’s more than 18 hours without conceding a goal.

Challenges

No one will have particularly high expectation for the footballing minnows, but if Queiroz can get his Iranian outfit out the group, it would be first time in the nation’s history.

Japan

Having qualified for every World Cup since 1998, Japan have twice reached the second round, including in 2002 when they co hosted the tournament with South Korea.

The Blue Samurai have only lost once in 19 World Cup qualifiers and come into next summer’s tournament looking very strong.

Challenges

Though strong in qualifying, Japan earned just one point in Brazil during the last World Cup and then lost their Asian Cup crown after a quarter-final defeat in 2015.

Vahid Halilhodzic’s side will need to bounce back from recent tournament failures.

Mexico

2018 World Cup qualified nations: Mexico need to make the knockout stages again.

How they qualified

Mexico secured their spot with a 1-0 win over Panama and remain unbeaten in qualifying.

However, this should be the bare minimum for El Tri as they have reached the knockout phase in each of the past six World Cups, making the quarter-finals as hosts in 1986.

Juan Carlos Osorio’s side are a top-heavy squad, boasting quality attackers, but have relied on a number of narrow wins in qualifying.

Challenges

Defence could be a real issue for Mexico in Russia, not just due to a thin defensive selection, but their captain Rafael Marquez has recently been accused of having ties to a drug cartel.

This may destabilise the squad and doubts now surround the veteran’s availability next summer.

Belgium

How they qualified

Unbeaten in their last 18 World Cup qualifiers, Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils are clicking and finished well ahead of challengers in their qualifying group.

The first European nation to qualify, Belgium’s squad is packed full of elite talent in every position and really should be challenging for the top prize next year (16/1 with Paddy Power).

Challenges

The problem Martinez faces in Russia will be finding the right blend, as the Red Devils have previously struggled to show up at major tournaments.

If it all comes together, however, Belgium are definite World Cup winning material.

Saudi Arabia

2018 World Cup qualified nations: Can the Green Falcons cause an upset?

How they qualified

This will be Saudi Arabia’s first World Cup since 2006 and their domestic league is one of the strongest in all of Asia.

As AFC Third Round Group A runners-up, their group campaign featured six wins that helped wrack up 19 points – one of which against Asian giants Japan.

Challenges

Ther Green Falcons haven’t won the Asian Cup since 1996 and the last time a Saudi club won the Asian Champions League was in 2005.

South Korea

How they qualified

The Taegeuk Warriors reached their ninth World Cup in a row with only four wins and 11 goals from their 10 qualifying matches.

Challenges

South Korean manager Shin Tae-yong, nicknamed ‘the Asian Mourinho’, faces a tough task emulating previous World Cup escapades – making the semi-finals in 2002 when they co-hosted the tournament.

Their key player Son Heung-min, has only scored once since the start of 2016. For Korea to progress, he needs to refind his scoring touch.

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