Luis Enrique’s Spain and Hans-Dieter Flick’s Germany are the two in question, but they are joined by dangerous opposition in Costa Rica and Japan.
Both have revenge on their minds after crashing out in the last eight in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
A decade since Spain won their last major trophy, the 2010 Champions look to balance young talent and experience to help themselves to a third World Cup.
La Furia Roja comfortably topped their Nations League group and have lost just once this year.
Veterans David De Gea, Thiago Alcantara and Sergio Ramos are notable exceptions, with Luis Enrique turning instead to Barcelona’s exciting teenager’s Gavi and Pedri.
Still, they lack a consistent scorer, with La Liga forwards Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres struggling for form in front of goal.
Star Player: Rodri will play a crucial role in this possession-based side, providing protection in the pivot to Manchester City teammate Ayermic Laporte and his uncertain partner in central defence.
The Costa Ricans are also seeking to make amends for a poor showing in Russia, finishing bottom of a tricky group in 2018 that included Brazil.
The Central Americans came through CONCACAF qualifying relatively unscathed, only losing to Panama and Canada in an impressive campaign.
Luis Fernando Suarez’s 2014 quarter-finalists are up against it in this group, but if they show tactical flexibility in either a compact 5-4-1 or a fluid 4-2-3-1, they could be dangerous to overlook.
Star Player: At the forefront of their fortunes will be their former Arsenal winger Joel Campbell, adding pizzazz to a front three that lacks any real prolific instinct.
Flick’s men come into this World Cup with a point to prove after a disappointing European Championships, knocked out by finalists England in the quarter-finals.
The former Bayern Munich manager has made some big calls in his squad, including 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko in a depleted forward line.
2014 final hero Mario Götze is also called up, but the Germans lack real potency in the centre of their attack, with Niclas Füllkrug called up to replace the injured Timo Werner.
After their swift exit at the first hurdle last time out, die Mannschaft will look to combine youthful exuberance with craft and nous.
Star Player: Joshua Kimmich will be key to their success, orchestrating their passages of play.
In their seventh World Cup, Japan will hope to replicate their best-ever finish, exiting at the Round of 16 in 2002, 2010 and 2018.
The Samurai Blue come off an impressive run in Asian qualifying, where they posted a record of ten wins, two draws and two defeats.
Manager Hajime Moriyasu, former national team midfielder, has been at the helm since 2018, and no Japan manager has a higher win percentage.
He leads a new generation of Japanese stars, with just four players remaining from the previous World Cup and will likely be resigned to positions on the bench.
Star Player: Monaco’s Takumi Minamino will be Japan’s star man. The former Liverpool and Southampton forward provided 10 goals and four assists in their qualifying campaign.
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