Belarus
© AFP

Qualification history
Despite the former Soviet Union’s undeniable FIFA World Cup™ pedigree, Belarus have yet to grace the finals since affiliating with FIFA in 1992. Their most convincing tilt came in the preliminaries for Korea/Japan 2002, when they finished third in their section and inflicted a punishing 4-1 defeat on group winners and automatic qualifiers Poland.

The current crop
Belarus are beginning to emerge as a force to be reckoned with on the European scene, as demonstrated by their results in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying – and above all their eye-catching away success against France. The secret to their growing stature has been a tight defensive discipline allied with a combative spirit, not to mention the impressive technique of several leading squad members.

The key players
Midfielder Alexander Hleb remains one of the most dangerous attacking elements in the Belarus line-up, having picked up invaluable experience at clubs including Arsenal, Barcelona and Stuttgart. A fellow international since 2004, his brother Vyacheslav is also an important figure.

Coach: Georgi Kondratjew
Best performance in a FIFA competition: None
Former stars: Serguei Gurenko, Sergei Shtanyuk