Post Ranking: 5

Region: Europe

World Cup History: 16th appearance, three titles (all as West Germany)

Top Player: MF Michael Ballack

Lowdown: The Germans are a logical pick to make the title game, but they have struggled in the past year. Coach Juergen Klinsmann, a former star striker, is under intense pressure to rectify the on-field problems and spend more time in Germany instead of California, where he calls home.

Costa Rica

Post Ranking: 27

Region: North/Central America and Caribbean

World Cup History: Third appearance, made second round in 1990

Top Player: F Paulo Wanchope

Lowdown: The Ticos were wonderfully entertaining in 1990 and 2002. Although the current squad seems weaker, qualification in the weak CONCACAF region was predictably routine.


Post Ranking: 19

Region: Europe

World Cup History: Seventh appearance, made semifinals in 1974 and 1982

Top Player: MF Maciej Zurawski

Lowdown: Poland finished last in Group D in 2002 despite beating the Americans, 3-1. The Poles easily qualified for Germany by finishing second to England in their group and expect an improved showing in 2006.


Post Ranking: 20

Region: South America

World Cup History: Second appearance

Top Player: F Franklin Salas

Lowdown: Hopes will be higher in Germany than in 2002 -- with reason. The team qualified out of South America with room to spare, and has a young, talented core led by Salas, aka "El Mago" ("The Wizard").

Coach Juergen Klinsmann of Germany