Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Sports Focus

World Cup team profiles: Star player, fixtures, kits, how each nation qualified for Russia 2018 (PT III)

Here’s every team profile for the World Cup in Russia this summer…

France

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Star man: Antoine Griezmann – The Atletico Madrid striker will be expected to spearhead a star-studded attack for France in Russia.

How they qualified: Group A winners in European qualifying, finishing four points clear of Sweden.

History: 14 World Cup appearances, having featured in the inaugural tournament back in 1930. Have reached the semi-finals five times, lifting the trophy on home soil in 1998 after beating Brazil. Went on to lose in the 2006 final to Italy.

Fun fact: France have won just three of their last 12 group-stage games at the World Cup.

Best World Cup moment: The nation’s only World Cup triumph, which happened on familiar territory at the Stade de France. The resounding 3-0 win over defending champions Brazil came courtesy of two Zinedine Zidane headers and a late Emmanuel Petit strike.

Player you’ve never heard of: Presnel Kimpembe – The 22-year-old PSG defender was labelled as the future of the French team by former Arsenal and Chelsea player William Gallas back in January.

Kit: Home – all blue; Away – all white

Group C fixtures: Australia (11am, June 16, Kazan), Peru (4pm, June 21, Ekaterinburg), Denmark (3pm, June 26, Moscow)

Iceland

Manager: Heimir Hallgrimsson

Star man: Gylfi Sigurdsson – The Everton midfielder has been named the Icelandic Footballer of the Year for the past six years.

How they qualified: Group I winners in European qualifying, picking up 22 points from 10 games to finish two points clear of runners-up Croatia.

History: 2018 will be their first World Cup appearance, having failed to qualify for the finals on 12 occasions.

Fun fact: Iceland are the smallest ever nation to qualify for the World Cup. With a population of approximately 335,000, they take the record from Trinidad and Tobago (1.3m), who reached the 2006 tournament in Germany.

Best World Cup moment: History is waiting to be written for Iceland – walking out in Moscow to face two-time champions Argentina on June 16 will be some moment for the nation, who will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages.

Player you’ve never heard of: Alfred Finnbogason – Scored 12 goals in 19 games for Augsburg in the Bundesliga this season.

Kit: Home – blue, red and white; Away – white, red and blue.

Group D fixtures: Argentina (2pm, June 16, Moscow), Nigeria (4pm, June 22, Volgograd), Croatia (7pm, June 26, Rostov-On-Don)

Iran

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Star man: Sardar Azmoun – The 23-year-old plays his club football at Rubin Kazan, and is scoring at a fantastic rate for Iran – 22 goals in 30 games as of March 2018.

How they qualified: Group A winners in Asian qualifying, going unbeaten in their 10 games to finish seven points clear of runners-up South Korea.

History: Four finals appearances in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 – yet to progress beyond the groups.

Fun fact: Iran have reached back-to-back World Cups for the first time ever.

Best World Cup moment: A 2-1 win over the United States in the 1998 groups handed Iran their first and only win to date at the finals.

Player you’ve never heard of: Jalal Hosseini – The experienced defender, 36, has more than 100 caps for Iran, having made his debut in 2007.

Kit: Home – white; Away – red.

Group B fixtures: Morocco (4pm, June 15, St Petersburg), Spain (7pm, June 20, Kazan), Portugal (7pm, June 25, Saransk)

Germany

Manager: Joachim Low

Star man: Toni Kroos – The Real Madrid midfielder has long been an integral player for Germany, and was instrumental in their 2014 World Cup-winning campaign.

How they qualified: Group C winners in European qualifying, winning all 10 games and scoring 43 goals to boot.

History: Four-time winners of the World Cup, winning three times as West Germany in 1954, 1974 and 1990 before being crowned champions as a unified Germany in 2014. Finished runners-up on four occasions, having featured at the finals 18 times.

Fun fact: No nation has played more World Cup matches than Germany – 106 in total. As a result, they have scored the most (124) and conceded the most (121) goals in the tournament.

Best World Cup moment: Germany may have ended their 24-year wait for World Cup glory in 2014 thanks to an extra-time winner from Mario Gotze against Argentina, but it was their 7-1 semi-final win over hosts Brazil which will live long in the memory. It was a total humiliation for Brazil, and the tears were flowing from home fans after just 30 minutes as Germany stormed to a stunning 5-0 lead.

Player you’ve never heard of: Julian Brandt – The Bayer Leverkusen winger has featured prominently for Germany since making his debut in 2016.

Kit: Home – white and black; Away – green.

Group F fixtures: Mexico (4pm, June 17, Moscow), Sweden (7pm, June 23, Sochi), South Korea (3pm, June 27, Kazan)

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