World Cup 2018: A bluffer's guide to every team in Russia

Russian dolls

So, you're not a die-hard football fan?

That's fine! But if you don't want to feel left out of the endless World Cup chat over the next few weeks, we've got just the thing for you.

BBC Sport have created a bluffer's guide to each team at Russia 2018 to help you get through the next month and a bit.

There are even three levels of bluffery:

Mini bluff: This will help you learn a little about each team and their chances - perfect if you've drawn a team in the office sweepstake but know nothing about them.

Big bluff: Shock people into thinking you have the footballing brain of a statistician.

Mega bluff: Really go all out with these quirky facts. You will impress even the biggest football fan in your friendship circle.

You. Are. Welcome.


messi world cup
Could this be Lionel Messi's last chance to win the World Cup?

Mini bluff: "They aren't the side they used to be - Lionel Messi dragged them through qualifying almost single-handedly."

Big bluff: "They've dropped from first to fifth in the Fifa world rankings in the last year or so."

Mega bluff: "Did you know midfielder Ever Banega was run over by his own car in 2012? He left the handbrake off at a petrol station, and the vehicle rolled back, breaking his ankle and leg."


Tim Cahill
Tim Cahill, who played in the Premier League for Everton, is going for a record

Mini bluff: "They aren't known for their possession football so there will be a huge emphasis on their counter-attack."

Big bluff: "Tim Cahill has scored 45% of Australia's World Cup goals and is aiming to join the likes of Pele and Miroslav Klose as the only men to score in four finals."

Mega bluff: "Centre-back Trent Sainsbury plays for Chinese side Jiangsu Suning. He said he wanted to play in China to help pay for his parent's mortgage."


The Belgian Red Devils flew on a personalised plan

Mini bluff: "Before every major tournament, the press like to declare one team 'the dark horses'. This year, Belgium are the chosen ones."

Big bluff: "Did you know they scored 43 goals in qualifying - a new joint European high."

Mega bluff: "Eden Hazard's mother Carine was a professional footballer in the Belgian First Division. She only stopped playing when she found out she was pregnant with Eden."


Souvenirs for all...

Mini bluff: "It's not as much of a one-man-team as it was in 2014 - they've still got Neymar but they've also got Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus."

Big bluff: "They could shock us all. The five-time winners conceded 14 goals in 2014 - their worst ever total at a World Cup."

Mega bluff: "Interesting fact about Gabriel Jesus: he has a tattoo on his bicep of his mother Vera. She supervises his finances to ensure he stays grounded, and even vets his girlfriends. Don't mess with Vera."


James Rodriguez and David Ospina
Awks. James Rodriguez recently split from the sister of team-mate David Ospina

Mini bluff: "Their games could be goal-fests - none of their 18 World Cup matches has ended goalless."

Big bluff: "James Rodriguez scored six goals in Brazil in 2014 and has been playing well for Bayern Munich."

Mega bluff: "This could be awkward. Goalkeeper David Ospina's sister Daniela married team-mate James Rodriguez in 2011, but the couple have since split up."

Costa Rica

Oscar Ramirez and Keylor Navas
"Maybe we will shave the 'tache this time boss?"

Mini bluff: "Some may call it an 'experienced' squad - others could call it 'ageing'. Seven of the 11 that played most often in Brazil four years ago are likely to start again this year."

Big bluff: "Don't forget Costa Rica have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Keylor Navas. He has just won his third successive Champions League title with Real Madrid."

Mega bluff: "Head coach Oscar Ramirez promised to shave off his hair if Costa Rica qualified for Russia. Navas took great pleasure in taking the clippers to his boss' head."


Ivan Rakitic
Ivan Rakitic got the girl in the end

Mini bluff: "They have lost their opening game at their past three World Cups and haven't made it past the group stage at any of them."

Big bluff: "Playmakers Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric were in fine form this season for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively."

Mega bluff: "Did you know that when Rakitic moved to Seville, he married the first woman to serve him coffee? He met Raquel in the club hotel the night before his medical but it took three months before she agreed to go out with him."


Age Hareide
Denmark boss Age Hareide celebrated with his team when they qualified for Russia

Mini bluff: "The Danes were unbeaten in their final nine qualifiers. They could do all right..."

Big bluff: "Head coach Age Hareide is friends with Ireland boss Martin O'Neill and rented a house from him whilst playing for Norwich."

Mega bluff: "More than 11,000 people have signed an online petition to Fifa asking them to delay the World Cup until Nicklas Bendtner is fit."


Mo Salah
An Egyptian icon - Mo Salah

Mini bluff: "The team, at their first World Cup in 28 years, is set up to get Mo Salah on the ball as much as possible - think Gareth Bale and Wales at Euro 2016."

Big bluff: "Brilliantly, they are nicknamed The Pharaohs. If they manage to progress, they could face Spain in the last 16, setting up a potential rematch between Salah and the man who put his World Cup in jeopardy -Spanish captain Sergio Ramos."

Mega bluff: "Mo Salah's boots are on display at the British museum following his record-breaking season for Liverpool. The museum say the boots tell a story of a modern Egyptian icon."


Gary Cahill
"Gary! You're meant to be the grown up on this team..."

Mini bluff: "It's a young squad - Gary Cahill is the only player holding more than 40 caps. But they seem excited to get out there and play."

Big bluff: "Gareth Southgate helped England cruise through qualifying with the joint-best defensive record in Europe."

Mega bluff: "Midfielder Fabian Delph's wife Natalie is due to give birth just two days after the final group game against Belgium."


Didier Deschamps
Can Deschamps get his hands on the trophy again?

Mini bluff: "20 years after winning it as a player, Didier Deschamps is looking to lift the World Cup trophy as France's head coach. It's his best chance with this squad."

Big bluff: "Kylian Mbappe is still only 19 which makes him the first player born after the 1998 World Cup to represent France. Feel old?"

Mega bluff: "Guess what! Defender Adil Rami is going out with former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. She has publically thanked him for helping her through the menopause but she says they wish to keep their relationship private."


Mats Hummels
Hummels is from a sporty family...

Mini bluff: "Germany registered a 100% record of 10 wins from 10 in qualifying. Only Spain have done that before in European history and they went on to lift the trophy."

Big bluff: "Seven of their 10 wins in qualifying were by three goals or more and, at the other end, they only conceded four times."

Mega bluff: "Great fact: defender Mats Hummels' mother, Ulla Holthoff, is a sports journalist and was the first woman to commentate on a football match on German television."



Mini bluff: "Iceland are the smallest nation to ever grace the World Cup stage."

Big bluff: "World Cup first timers rarely do well and if Gylfi Sigurdsson isn't fit to play, then Icelandic hopes could swiftly melt away - but we all saw what happened at the Euros…"

Mega-bluff: "Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is also a qualified dentist."


Vahid Amiri
The first thing Amiri learned in his Masters degree? How to spin a ball on his finger...

Mini bluff: "Iran were the second country behind Brazil to secure their place at the tournament."

Big bluff: "Iran's head coach Carlos Queiroz will face his home nation and former side Portugal in the group stage. He was sacked as the national boss in 2010 and has locked horns with Cristiano Ronaldo on a number of occasions."

Mega-bluff: "Striker Vahid Amiri has a Master's degree in Physical Education."


Such a great idea from Japan's fans!

Mini bluff: "They've not had the smoothest qualifying or preparation, having just sacked their manager, and many of their top players are possibly past their best."

Big bluff: "A survey in May revealed almost 90% of Japan fans don't expect the side to get out of their group. Ouch."

Mega bluff: "This is brilliant: Japan's fans are renowned for cleaning up litter after games - something first seen on their World Cup debut in 1998."


Giovani Dos Santos
Giovani Dos Santos: "Overrated..."

Mini bluff: "It's an experienced squad. The core of the team has been together since youth level and contains 14 players with more than 50 caps and a total in excess of 1,400."

Big bluff: "They don't lose often under coach Juan Carlos Osorio but, when they do, they tend to lose big - their worst was 7-0 to Chile in 2015."

Mega bluff: "ESPN conducted a poll with 104 MLS players and they voted Mexico midfielder Giovani Dos Santos the most overrated player in the league."


Faycal Fajr
"How I scare dogs away now..."

Mini bluff: "In their first World Cup in 20 years, it is just bad luck they've ended up in a group with Spain and Portugal, but with their defensive solidity, they may be hard to break down."

Big bluff: "Fitness could play a part for the majority of their players as Ramadan ends the day before their opening game and many will have been fasting for a month."

Mega bluff: "Did you know midfielder Faycal Fajr is scared of dogs after breaking his leg when jumping six metres to avoid a pit-bull terrier."


Nigeria kit

Mini bluff: "They will win best kit if nothing else!"

Big bluff: "Did you know this is the fifth time Nigeria have been drawn in the same group as Argentina in just six appearances at the World Cup."

Mega bluff: "John Obi Mikel's wife is Russian."


Roman Torres
For the 'Gram...

Mini bluff: "The country's president declared a national holiday when Panama secured their place at an historic first World Cup finals."

Big bluff: "Defender Roman Torres secured 'national hero' status when he scored the goal against Costa Rica that secured qualification, and now has a World Cup tattoo on his calf."

Mega bluff: "If you fancy a read, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo has just released his autography entitled Nunca te Rindas, which translates to 'Never Give Up.'"


Christian Ramos
Christian Ramos - one of the "world's best-looking footballers"

Mini bluff: "This is Peru's first appearance at the World Cup in 36 years."

Big bluff: "Demand for Panini stickers in Peru has led to fights in shops and a mayoral candidate offering freebies in return for votes!"

Mega bluff: "Defender Christian Ramos was selected as one of the world's best-looking footballers by a major online media company in December, alongside the likes of Colombian Radamel Falcao and ex-England midfielder Michael Carrick."


Robert Lewandowski
"Everyone say 'Gladiator'"

Mini bluff: "They may have won eight out of nine qualifiers but only kept two clean sheets along the way."

Big bluff: "Captain Robert Lewandowski needs to continue his form from the Bundesliga where he's just won the golden boot."

Mega bluff: "Poland have fans in Hollywood! They were adopted by Russell Crowe during Euro 2016, who often tweeted his support."


Cristiano Ronaldo
"Minimum number of goals I want to score per game..."

Mini bluff: "The reigning European champions will probably stick to the game plan - give it to Cristiano Ronaldo and hope for the best."

Big bluff: "Ronaldo netted 15 goals in qualifying but has a point to prove with just three goals in 13 World Cup appearances to date."

Mega bluff: "Don't expect thrillers from Portugal - the manager Fernando Santos' mantra is to win first and entertain second."


Vladimir Granat
"Are we doing this yoga right?"

Mini bluff: "If the Russians want to satisfy the home supporters and progress further than the group stage, Fedor Smolov needs to be at his best."

Big bluff: "The instinctive striker has scored seven goals in his last 15 games."

Mega bluff: "A modern-day love story: centre-back Vladimir Granat says he met his wife, a doctor, on the subway in Moscow when he gave up his seat for her. He plucked up the courage to ask her for her phone number but then realised he didn't have his mobile with him so had to memorise all 11 digits in order to call her and ask her for a date."

Saudi Arabia

Yahya Al Shehri
Yahya Al-Shehri is only 5ft 3in. Can't wait for the camera to pan along the team during the national anthems...

Mini bluff: "It's not been the best build-up for Saudi Arabia - they've had three different managers in three months."

Big bluff: "One of their star attacking midfielders Yahya Al-Shehri is only 5ft 3in - sure we will see him whizzing around the pitch."

Mega bluff: "Yahya Al-Shehri was the cover star of the Middle East version of Fifa 16 alongside Argentina's Lionel Messi."


Sadio Mane
Ohhh Mane Mane...

Mini bluff: "They've got plenty of pace out there - Sadio Mane will surely be Senegal's most likely match winner."

Big bluff: "Senegal's many Muslim players, including Sadio Mane, did not observe Ramadan."

Mega bluff: "France head coach Didier Deschamps had an awkward moment when he told TV journalists he was monitoring France-born Kalidou Koulibaly for a place in his side - the player had earned five caps for Senegal already."


Vladimir Stojkovic
"Oooo I shouldn't have said that..."

Mini bluff: "Corners should be interesting for the Serbs - they were the tallest side in qualification, with an average height of 1.85m (6ft 1ins)."

Big bluff: "Coach Mladen Krstajic announced his preliminary 27-man squad in a tent outside a petrol station in Belgrade. He has never managed a competitive game."

Mega bluff: "Goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic once said he wouldn't join Partizan Belgrade for all the money in this world. He said that when you hate something, it's really that simple. He's since played for them twice."

South Korea

Son Heung-min
Son Heung-min is the big name in the South Korean side...

Mini bluff: "They are widely available at 500-1 to win the World Cup - worth 50p? Maybe not. Apart from Tottenham's Son Heung-min the squad lacks sparkle."

Big bluff: "South Korea defeated Spain in their only World Cup shootout to date when they were co-hosts in 2002."

Mega bluff: "Defender Kim Min-woo is one of the three members of the South Korean squad who are currently carrying out national service."


Diego Costa
Oh you prankster, you...

Mini bluff: "Brave or stupid? Spain sacked their head coach Julen Lopetegui two days before their opening World Cup match with Portugal because he agreed to take the Real Madrid job."

Big bluff: "They are going to be hard to beat - they qualified without losing a game. However, they may be tired - their squad have played more minutes of football this season than any other World Cup side."

Mega bluff: "There's always a team prankster - Diego Costa has been known to put salt in the coffee of teammates!"


Mikael Lustig
Sweden's Lustig caused a bit of a stir in the Old Firm derby

Mini bluff: "They've got Germany in their group so will probably have to battle it out for second place with Mexico and South Korea."

Big bluff: "They ARE in pretty good form - they beat France in qualifying and sent Italy packing in the play-offs. Don't forget, Zlatan's not there..."

Mega bluff: "Celtic defender Mikael Lustig caused a bit of a stir in the Old Firm derby in April for stealing a policeman's hat while celebrating taking a 3-0 lead over their arch-rivals Rangers".


Yann Sommer
"They double up as oven gloves don't you know..."

Mini bluff: "Switzerland are being thrown in at the deep end - they face Brazil in their opening game."

Big bluff: "The squad contains three members of Switzerland's Under-17 World Cup winning side from 2009 including Arsenals's Granit Xhaka."

Mega bluff: "Goalkeeper Yann Sommer is a renowned cook and has his own culinary blog. He spent three years devising it and manages everything himself: recipe ideas, making dishes and even taking the photos."


Yohan Benalouane
"Me? A poser? How very dare you?"

Mini bluff: "They are without their star player Youssef Msakni who had a season-ending cruciate ligament injury. Their coach has likened it to Argentina being without Lionel Messi.

Big bluff: "Tunisia face England in their World Cup opener. They keep the ball well and are defensively solid - a combination England have struggled with before."

Mega bluff: "Yohan Benalouane is known as a sharp dresser..."


Luis Suarez
"What have I done now?!"

Mini bluff: "Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani rarely miss a friendly, let alone a chance at goal."

Big bluff: "Suarez is yet to complete a World Cup without being banned."

Mega bluff: "Midfielder Giorgian De Arrascaeta is named after a horse that his father never lost on. His father later became a baker."

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