After three years of qualification matches, flights to obscure nations and grinding out wins, countries would be forgiven for thinking the hard work is done.
But in reality, it’s only just beginning.
Friday’s draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil could potentially make or break the hopes of fans around the world before a ball is even kicked.
Such is the disparity in talent, a country could go from being the favourite in a group to the underdog, depending on who they are drawn alongside:
Confirmed World Cup finals draw pots in full. pic.twitter.com/DhBQk6nWiv— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 3, 2013
Here’s a look at those nations that could really do with a favourable draw.
England historically take time to find their feet on the World Cup stage. Fans of the Three Lions—some of who will have spent many a World Cup watching their country’s group games from behind the couch—will know all too well the importance of a good draw.
At the 2010 edition in South Africa, England spluttered through their pool with draws against the USA and Algeria in their opening two matches, before coming through in a must-win game against Slovenia.
Luck will play a crucial role for Roy Hodgson’s men in Friday’s draw because there is a big disparity between the groups they could finish up in.
On the one hand, England could find themselves lining out against Brazil, the Netherlands and the USA. On the other, they could be drawn amongst Switzerland, Algeria and Honduras.
If history is anything to go by, then England will be hoping it’s the latter. If not they could find themselves on the first plane home.
A generation of fantastic young Belgian players exploded onto the world stage in recent years and they lived up to their billing by comfortably booking their place in Brazil.
Belgium looked solid throughout qualifying, winning 10 and drawing just two of their 12 games but question marks still remain.
This is the first time this generation of players will grace the world stage and how they will handle the occasion and the pressure is not yet known. This makes a good draw for Belgium crucial.
They have given themselves the best possible opportunity of a relatively easy draw by being named as one of the top eight seeds. They could potentially draw Algeria, Iran and Greece and if they do they will be well placed to advance to the knock-out rounds.
However, if the draw doesn’t go their way, then it could be an uphill task to settle the nerves in time to produce the performances required to advance.
Switzerland are among the top eight seeds but in reality they aren’t one of the world’s top eight teams.
The Swiss find themselves ranked seven in the world thanks to FIFA’s complicated ranking system, which saw nations like Italy and the Netherlands drop down for playing friendly games against lowly ranked Indonesia and San Marino this year.
Switzerland are the side everyone wants to draw and they will be under pressure to advance given their status as a seeded nation.
In Ottmar Hitzfeld, the Swiss have a top-notch coach at the helm. They are an organised unit and while they are comfortable seeing off inferior opposition, their lack of firepower makes life difficult for them against more talented opponents.
The Swiss are solid without ever really excelling and they will be eager to be drawn alongside some inferior sides.