Germany are the defending world champions having beaten Argentina 1-0 in the 201…

Germany are the defending world champions having beaten Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 final World Cup qualifying is in full swing and five countries have already booked their places alongside hosts Russia at next summer's tournament. Five-time winners Brazil are there as are Roberto Martinez's Belgium the impenetrable Iran plus Mexico and Japan. So how did they get there? Who will be their star performers? And who are the coaches who masterminded their qualification? BBC Sport finds out. EUROPE Russia Prospects: Stanislav Cherchesov's side failed to make it out of their group at the Confederations Cup losing to both Mexico and Portugal after an opening win over New Zealand and their performance on home turf will be heavily scrutinised. South Africa are the only World Cup hosts to have failed to make it past the first stage.Pedigree: Cherchesov's side will be the fourth Russia team to play at a World Cup – they first appeared at USA '94 – though the Soviet Union had finished fourth in 1966. Spotlight on the hosts All of Russia's 2017 Confederations Cup squad played their club football in their homeland Key player: Veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev has won more than 100 caps and his experience could be vital. The 31-year-old who has spent his entire career at CSKA Moscow is likely to captain the hosts.Premier League players: None.Who's the boss? Cherchesov rallied behind his side after the Confederations Cup saying his players would "mature" because of the experience. A former Soviet Union and Russia goalkeeper he has been given the target of reaching the semi-finals next summer. Belgium Prospects: Belgium became the first European side to join hosts Russia in the finals as they navigated a potentially tricky qualifying group containing Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece with two games to spare. Premier League fans will be familiar with a Belgium squad including players such as Moussa Dembele Marouane Fellaini Christian Benteke Romelu Lukaku Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Packed with individual talent but yet to really realise their potential on the international stage 2018 could be the year a Belgium side boasting world-class performers in almost every position finally comes of age.Pedigree: Having failed to qualify for the previous two tournaments Belgium reached the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014 losing to eventual runners-up Argentina. The Red Devils' best finish was fourth in 1986.Eden Hazard made his Belgium debut as a 17-year-old in 2008Key player: Eden Hazard. The twinkle-toed Chelsea forward unlocks defences with his rapid change of pace close control and eye for a pass. He also wears the captain's armband for Roberto Martinez's side.Premier League players: Michy Batshuayi Thibaut Courtois Eden Hazard (all Chelsea) Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) Toby Alderweireld Moussa Dembele Jan Vertonghen (all Tottenham) Kevin de Bruyne Vincent Kompany (both Manchester City) Marouane Fellaini Romelu Lukaku (both Manchester United) Steven Defour (Burnley) Nacer Chadli (West Brom) Kevin Mirallas (Everton) Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) Divock Origi (Wolfsburg on loan from Liverpool) Christian Kabasele (Watford).Who's the boss? Roberto Martinez's greatest achievement in English football was guiding Wigan to FA Cup success in 2013 though they were relegated three days later. The former Swansea and Everton manager's attacking prowess has never been in question but there were concerns over his defensive aptitude at club level. That shouldn't be a problem with this Belgium outfit who have the likes of Tottenham defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany in their ranks. SOUTH AMERICA Brazil Prospects: Brazil became the first side to qualify booking their place in Russia back in March. Always ranked among the favourites the five-time winners look back to their world-beating best under new coach Tite. With the world's most expensive player in their ranks Brazil have rediscovered the attacking verve and flair that is synonymous with the yellow shirt and top the South American qualifying section by 11 points.Pedigree: Winners in 1958 1962 1970 1994 and 2002 Brazil were beaten 7-1 at the semi-final stage by Germany last time out.Paris St-Germain forward Neymar is the world's most expensive footballerKey player: Neymar. The 200m forward is averaging a goal and an assist a game since his world record move to Paris St-Germain. Brazil legend Pele says the 25-year-old is the country's best player and has backed him to win the Ballon d'Or.Premier League players: Ederson Fernandinho Gabriel Jesus (all Manchester City) Philippe Coutinho Roberto Firmino (both Liverpool) Willian (Chelsea).Who's the boss? Brazil were sixth with a third of the qualifying campaign gone when journeyman coach Tite replaced former Brazil midfielder Dunga. The former Corinthians boss 56 has since guided his country 11 points clear of Colombia with three games to go. "What a difference a coach makes. Out went the snarling Dunga and in came Tite – charismatic and intelligent – and he made an immediate impact" South American football expert Tim Vickery told BBC Radio 5 live. NORTH CENTRAL AMERICA and CARIBBEAN Mexico Prospects: Mexico secured their spot in Russia with a 1-0 win over Panama and remain unbeaten in qualifying though coming through the North Central and Caribbean section is the absolute minimum for El Tri. Juan Carlos Osorio's side are top-loaded with attacking players but have relied on a number of narrow wins in qualifying. Defence could be a concern with uncertainty over captain Rafael Marquez's availability following US accusations – which he denies – that he has links with a drugs cartel.Pedigree: Mexico have reached the knockout stage in each of the past six World Cups and made the quarter-finals as hosts in 1986.

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