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World Cup 2014: Group-by-group previews

How each team got to the tournament and how each of the eight groups look.

By Kevin Baxter

1:30 AM EST, December 7, 2013

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A team-by-team look at each of the eight preliminary-round groups, including schedules.

GROUP A
Brazil
FIFA world ranking: 10
Last World Cup: 2010
Best  finish: Five-time champion (1958, ’62, ’70, ’94, 2002)
How qualified: Host country
Croatia
FIFA world ranking: 16
Last World Cup: 2006
Best finish: Third place (1998)
How qualified: Beat Iceland in UEFA playoff
Cameroon
FIFA world ranking: 51
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1990)
How qualified: Beat Tunisia in CAF playoff
Mexico
FIFA world ranking: 20
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1970, ’86)
How qualified: Beat New Zealand in intercontinental playoff
Schedule
June 12: Brazil vs. Croatia at Sao Paulo.
June 13: Mexico vs. Cameroon at Natal.
June 17: Brazil vs. Mexico at Fortaleza.
June 18: Cameroon vs. Croatia at Manaus.
June 23: Cameroon vs. Brazil at Brasilia; Croatia vs. Mexico at Recife.

GROUP B
Spain
FIFA world ranking: 1
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Champion, 2010
How qualified: UEFA Group I winner
Netherlands
FIFA world ranking: 9
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Three-time runner-up (1974, ’78, 2010)
How qualified: UEFA Group D winner
Chile
FIFA world ranking: 15
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Third place (1962)
How qualified: CONMEBOL round robin, third place
Australia
FIFA world ranking: 59
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Round of 16 (2006)
How qualified: AFC Group B runner-up
Schedule
June 13: Spain vs. the Netherlands at Salvador; Chile vs. Australia at Cuiaba.
June 18: Spain vs. Chile at Rio de Janeiro; Australia vs. the Netherlands at Porto Alegre.
June 23: Australia vs. Spain at Curitiba; the Netherlands vs. Chile at Sao Paulo.

GROUP C
Colombia
FIFA world ranking: 4
Last World Cup: 1998
Best finish: Round of 16 (1990)
How qualified: CONMEBOL round robin runner-up
Greece
FIFA world ranking: 12
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Group stage
How qualified: Beat Romania in UEFA playoff
Ivory Coast
FIFA world ranking: 17
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Group stage
How qualified: Beat Senegal in CAF playoff
Japan
FIFA world ranking: 48
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Round of 16 (2002, ’10)
How qualified: AFC Group B winner
Schedule
June 14: Colombia vs. Greece in Belo Horizonte; Ivory Coast vs. Japan at Recife
June 19: Colombia vs. Ivory Coast at Brasilia; Japan vs. Greece in Natal
June 24: Japan vs. Colombia at Cuiaba; Greece vs. Ivory Coast at Fortaleza

GROUP D
Uruguay
FIFA world ranking: 6
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Two-time champions (1930, 1950)
How qualified: Beat Jordan in intercontinental playoff
Costa Rica
FIFA world ranking: 31
Last World Cup: 2006
Best finish: Round of 16 (1990)
How qualified: CONCACAF runner-up
England
FIFA world ranking: 13
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Champion (1966)
How qualified: UEFA Group H winner
Italy
FIFA world ranking: 7
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Four-time champion (1934, ’38, ’82, 2006)
How qualified: UEFA Group B winner
Schedule
June 14: Uruguay vs. Costa Rica at Fortaleza; England vs. Italy at Manaus.
June 19: Uruguay vs. England at Sao Paulo.
June 20: Italy vs. Costa Rica at Recife.
June 24: Italy vs. Uruguay at Natal; Costa Rica vs. England at Belo Horizonte

GROUP E
Switzerland
FIFA world ranking: 8
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1934, ’38, ’54)
How qualified: UEFA Group E winner
Eduador
FIFA world ranking: 23
Last World Cup: 2006
Best finish: Round of 16 (2006)
How qualified: CONMEBOL round robin, fourth place
France
FIFA world ranking: 19
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Champion (1998)
How qualified: Beat Ukraine in UEFA playoff
Honduras
FIFA world ranking: 41
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Group stage
How qualified: CONCACAF, third place
Schedule
June 15: Switzerland vs. Ecuador at Brasilia; France vs. Honduras at Porto Alegre.
June 20: Switzerland vs. France at Salvador; Honduras vs. Ecuador at Curitiba.
June 25: Honduras vs. Switzerland at Manaus; Ecuador vs. France at Rio de Janeiro.

GROUP F
Argentina
FIFA world ranking: 3
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Two-time champion (1978, ’86)
How qualified: CONMEBOL round-robin winner
Bosnia-Herzegovina
FIFA world ranking: 21
Last World Cup: First appearance
Best finish: First appearance
How qualified: UEFA Group G winner
Iran
FIFA world ranking: 45
Last World Cup: 2006
Best finish: Group stage
How qualified: AFC Group A winner
Nigeria
FIFA world ranking: 36
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Round of 16 (1994, ’98)
How qualified: Beat Ethiopia in CAF playoff
Schedule
June 15: Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina at Rio de Janeiro; Iran vs. Nigeria at Curitiba.
June 21: Argentina vs. Iran at Belo Horizonte; Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina at Cuiaba.
June 25: Nigeria vs. Argentina at Porto Alegre; Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Iran at Salvador.

GROUP G
Germany
FIFA world ranking: 2
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Three-time champion (1954, ’74, ’90)
How qualified: UEFA Group C winner
Portugal
FIFA world ranking: 5
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Third place (1966)
How qualified: Beat Sweden in UEFA playoff
Ghana
FIFA world ranking: 24
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Quarterfinals (2010)
How qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
United States
FIFA world ranking: 14
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Third place (1930)
How qualified: CONCACAF winner
Schedule
June 16: Germany vs. Portugal  in Salvador; Ghana vs. U.S. in Natal.
June 21: Germany vs. Ghana in Fortaleza.
June 22: U.S. vs. Portugal in Manaus.
June  26: U.S. vs. Germany in Recife; Portugal vs. Ghana in Brasilia.

GROUP H
Belgium
FIFA world ranking: 11
Last World Cup: 2002
Best finish: Fourth place (1986)
How qualified: UEFA Group A winner
Algeria
FIFA world ranking: 26
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Group stage
How qualified: Beat Burkina Faso in CAF playoff
Russia
FIFA world ranking: 22
Last World Cup: 2002
Best finish: Fourth place (1966)
How qualified: UEFA Group F winner
South Korea
FIFA world ranking: 54
Last World Cup: 2010
Best finish: Fourth place (2002)
How qualified: AFC Group A runner-up
Schedule
June 17: Belgium vs. Algeria at Belo Horizonte; Russia vs. South Korea in Cuiaba.
June 22: Belgium vs. Russia at Rio de Janeiro; South Korea vs. Algeria in Porto Alegre.
June 26: South Korea vs. Belgium at Sao Paulo; Algeria vs. Russia at Curitiba.