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FCB stars in Brazil, part 1

Favourites and hopefuls, youth and experience

And we're off! World Cup 2014 in Brazil kicks off on Thursday night. Fourteen FC Bayern players are involved with eight teams. Just before the opening match, brings you a brief profile of the teams with FCB stars in their ranks. What are their prospects? What roles do the Munich lads have in the different squads? In part 1, we look at Switzerland, Germany, the USA and Belgium. Part 2 covering Brazil. Croatia, Spain and the Netherlands follows on Wednesday.

Group E: Switzerland (France, Ecuador, Honduras)

The Swiss are looking for Xherdan Shaqiri to come up with the goods. After suffering a torn muscle, the FC Bayern fans' favourite is fit again in time for the World Cup. He is more than likely to be a starter in Switzerland's opener against Ecuador on Sunday.

The squad under former FC Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld includes Gökhan Inler (Napoli), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Philippe Senderos (Valencia) and Diego Benaglio (VfL Wolfsburg). Nine of the players ply their trade in the Bundesliga; only the Germany squad has more Bundesliga pros in Brazil (16).

“We've got a good mix and we can play successful and attacking football,” said Shaqiri, “we're capable of causing a surprise or two.” Switzerland topped their World Cup qualifying group unbeaten ahead of Croatia. Switzerland are focused on reaching the last sixteen in Brazil. If Shaqiri & Co reach the quarter-finals, it would be their biggest success since the 1954 World Cup.

Group G: Germany, USA (Portugal, Ghana)

On the back of two third places (2010, 2006) and the runners-up spot in 2002, Germany expects their team to do the business in Brazil even if recent injury problems have rather dampened expectations. However, it is likely that FCB pros Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Manuel Neuer will be fit for Monday's opener against Portugal.

A total of seven Bayern players - including Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng, Toni Kroos and Mario Götze – are in the Germany squad and nearly all of them are first choices for Joachim Löw. The Germany coach seems to be looking to play Lahm in defensive midfield as at FC Bayern. Müller can play behind the main striker, and Boateng has played at right back. Löw is waiting for the final training sessions before making up his mind on his preferred starting line-up.

After an unbeaten run in the qualifiers, Germany are tipped to start the tournament by winning their group. Portugal is probably the toughest opponent but the USA team is not to be dismissed out of hand. The physical US Boys want to trip up the group favourites with their counter-attacking game. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann shuffled his pack before the tournament and he replaced crowd favourite and record USA goalscorer Landon Donovan (32) with FCB youngster Julian Green.

“I knew I had a chance and I gave 100 percent in training,” explained the delighted Bayern reserve forward when asked about a surprise call-up for the final 23-man squad and the chance to go to Brazil. ‘Being there is the biggest thrill’ is the 19-year-old’s motto. Julian had time on the pitch in the warm-up games but he is expected to be on the bench for Monday's opening match against Ghana.

The USA squad, led by skipper Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), also includes goalkeeper Tim Howard (Everton), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) and former Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones (Galatasaray). Hoffenheim player Fabian Johnson made an impression in the friendlies and Nürnberg’s Frankfurt-bound Timothy Chandler could also be in the starting eleven. The US Boys are ready for the World Cup and they want to make the last sixteen as they did in South Africa in 2010. Klinsmann: “We can do that.”

Group H: Belgium (Russia, Algeria, South Korea)

Whenever anybody talks about possible outside top tips before the World Cup, Belgium are nearly always mentioned. The Red Devils made a great impression over the course of their qualifying campaign. Belgium easily won their group ahead of Iceland to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.

“We want to get through the group stage first,” said Daniel van Buyten when asked about targets for the World Cup in Brazil. ‘Big Dan’ is the only player in the current Belgian squad who was at the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan. The FC Bayern central defender has a good chance of being a regular first choice. In the three warm-up games against Luxembourg, Sweden and Tunisia, Daniel played five out of the six halves and his team did not concede a single goal.

At the age of 36, Van Buyten is the senior player in coach Marc Wilmots' squad that includes a large number of players from top European clubs: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Romelu Lukaku (Everton) and Kevin de Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg). “I promise we'll do all we can to make sure we can look our fans in the eye when we go home,” said Van Buyten before setting off for Brazil. The Red Devils’ first match for is against Algeria on Tuesday.