World Cup 2018: complete guide to all 736 players | Football

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Russia

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The hosts are under pressure to perform but they are one of the lowest-ranked teams at the World Cup and the squad has been depleted by injuries. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Igor Akinfeev

Strengths

Russia have a clear gameplan and have benefited from a switch to a back three, which most players use at club level. There are also a number of good box-to-box players in the squad.

Weaknesses

Russia will sorely miss the injured striker Aleksandr Kokorin while the wing-backs are arguably too old and the centre-backs too young and inexperienced.





Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia have been much better in possession since Juan Antonio Pizzi took over from Bert van Marwijk and are less of a counterattacking team now. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Nawaf al-Abed

Strengths

The three attacking midfielders in Pizzi’s 4-2-3-1 – Salem al-Dawsari, Yahya al-Shehri and Fahad al-Muwallad – are talented players who will expect to test any defence in Russia.

Weaknesses

The defence is experienced but susceptible to pace and rarely plays against the kind of top-calibre attackers you find at the World Cup.





Egypt

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Egypt’s World Cup campaign has, understandably, been overshadowed by the injury suffered by Mohamed Salah. The team need him if they are to get out of the group. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Mohamed Salah

Strengths

Héctor Cúper, as always, builds his team on a solid defence and Egypt conceded only 18 goals in his first 32 games in charge.

Weaknesses

With Mohamed Salah in a race to get fit in time for the finals, Egypt may struggle to score with Ahmed Hassan “Koka” often left isolated up front.





Uruguay

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The side have developed in recent years, with the midfield far more creative thanks to players such as Federico Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur and Matías Vecino. Read a tactical analysis here.

Strengths

The obvious strength of this team lies up front with Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani forming one of the tournament’s most potent partnerships.

Weaknesses

No obvious weaknesses but the left-sided midfielder Cristian Rodríguez, at 32, is not getting any quicker and that sometimes leaves the full-back Martín Cáceres exposed.

Profiles written by Jorge Señorans





Portugal

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The European champions are no longer underdogs after their triumph in France but with Cristiano Ronaldo two years older they surely cannot go all the way again. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Cristiano Ronaldo

Strengths

Ronaldo is still the focal point but players such as Bernardo Silva, André Silva and Gelson Martins have gained more experience and are able to support him better up front.

Weaknesses

The central defence is a worry with only Pepe – who is not getting any younger – guaranteed a starting place, with Bruno Alves and José Fonte out of form.





Spain

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La Roja have rediscovered their mojo under Julen Lopetegui, with players such as Isco and Marco Asensio emerging. Read a tactical analysis here.

Strengths

Spain have one of the strongest squads at the World Cup, with the midfield, led by Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Asensio and Isco, particularly impressive.

Weaknesses

There is not a natural finisher in the squad, such as a David Villa, and Diego Costa has struggled to connect with the midfield when he has played.





Iran

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This is a second consecutive World Cup for Team Melli and Carlos Queiroz says “they have improved”. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Sardar Azmoun

Strengths

Iran look far stronger up front than they did in Brazil four years ago, with players such as Sardar Azmoun, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Karim Ansarifard and Saman Ghoddos in good form.

Weaknesses

Central defence is a concern as Jalal Hosseini has been dropped, with Queiroz seemingly undecided about who is going to partner Morteza Pouraliganji.





France

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Didier Deschamps has one of the most talented squads at the World Cup but they blew hot and cold in qualifying and seem to lack consistency. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Antoine Griezmann

Strengths

The attack is simply frightening with players such as Anthony Martial and Alexandre Lacazette not even making the squad. Three out of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, Olivier Giroud and Thomas Lemar will start up front.

Weaknesses

Lack of consistency – they lost to Sweden and drew with Belarus and Luxembourg in qualifying – and the full-backs, Djibril Sidibé and Benjamin Mendy, have just returned from injuries.





Peru

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The buildup was dominated by whether Paolo Guerrero would be able to play in Russia and now he is going hopes have been raised back home. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Jefferson Farfán

Strengths

Ricardo Gareca has made Peru go back to their roots and they now play with a blend of determination, discipline and creativity. Edison Flores is a wonderful attacking midfielder.

Weaknesses

Guerrerro has not played since November and, no matter how important he is to the rest of the team, he will lack match practice when he steps on the pitch in Russia.





Denmark

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Åge Hareide has taken over from Morten Olsen and plays a more direct football than his predecessor while setting up the team to get the best out of Christian Eriksen. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Christian Eriksen

Strengths

Eriksen is one of the best playmakers in Europe and there is pace on the left side with Celta Vigo’s Pione Sisto.

Weaknesses

Hareide’s first-choice defensive midfielder, William Kvist, has lost his place at his club, FC Copenhagen, and may not start in Russia, potentially leaving a gap for opponents to exploit.





Argentina

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Argentina have one of the most fearsome attacks in the world but so far Jorge Sampaoli has not been able to get the players to click. Read a tactical analysis here.

Strengths

Lionel Messi deserves a mention but the Barcelona forward is backed up by players such as Sergio Agüero, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuaín and Ángel Di María.

Weaknesses

A central defence pairing of Federico Fazio and Nicolás Otamendi does not instil confidence and none of the goalkeepers had more than 10 caps going into the tournament.





Iceland

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Will be playing at their first World Cup after the success in France two years ago but are sweating on the fitness of Gylfi Sigurdsson. Read a tactical analysis here.

Star player

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Strengths

The team are more flexible now that Heimir Hallgrimsson is in sole charge and the work ethic and togetherness that saw them eliminate England in France remain.

Weaknesses

If Sigurdsson is not 100% then they may struggle to create chances. He is so important to this team.





Croatia

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Zlatko Dalic presides over a hugely talented squad but also one of the oldest in the tournament. Read a tactical analysis here.

Strengths

Any team with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in midfield are going to have a lot of possession and create chances.

Weaknesses

Defence is a concern with Dejan Lovren likely to partner Domagoj Vida in the centre after injury to the veteran Vedran Corluka.



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