Check out the major changes in international football since the end of the World Cup in Brazil.
This summer’s World Cup finals turned out to be a lot of stars final tournament for their country. World champions Germany have lost their captain Phillip Lahm and record scorer Miroslav Klose. 2010 winners.
Spain have lost three players who have been crucial in their recent success. David Villa, Xavi and Xabi Alonso all decided to hang up their boots for the national team after the World Cup finals. England lost skipper Steven Gerrard and his midfield partner Frank Lampard. Frank Ribery who missed out on the finals for France gave up international duty despite his country hosting the next major tournament and Holland's Dirk Kuyt has also retired.
But that's not the only thing that's changed since the finals in Brazil ended this summer.
The start of the European qualifiers hasn’t be short of shock results so far. Previously untouchable nations in the European qualifiers who had gone years without losing any qualifiers have now all suffered defeats at the hands of smaller nations. Poland beat Germany 2-0 in Warsaw, Spain were shocked as they lost 2-1 in Slovakia, Albania shocked the world by beating Portugal, and Iceland continued their progression by beating the Dutch 2-0.
However these aren’t the only sides who have suffered shock defeats; fellow World Cup
finalists Bosnia lost 1-0 at home to Cyprus, Switzerland where defeated by Slovenia and Russia where held to a 1-1 draw with Moldova at home.
The rise of CONCACAF
For a long time the CONCACAF region has been viewed as an easy area to qualify from on and doesn’t have the same quality from all its members as other qualifying regions such as UEFA and CONMEBOL - but that could be about to change. Mexico and the USA both impressed at the World Cup by reaching the last 16 after coming out of tough groups and were unlucky not to make the quarter finals.
However the real story from the CONCACAF region isn’t the improvement of the Mexicans or the Americans but the rise of Costa Rica. They caused one of the greatest surprises in World Cup history by finishing top of a group which contained former champions Italy, Uruguay and England. They then went further than both Mexico and The United States by
making it to the quarter finals where they eventually lost on penalties to Holland.
Nevertheless since the World Cup Costa Rica, Mexico and the USA have remained unbeaten and are currently ranked 15th, 16th and 17th respectively.
The fall of Africa
After the 2010 World Cup great things became expected of African football but they haven’t managed to live up their billing. Algeria and Nigeria did impress at the World Cup but the likes of Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon greatly disappointed. Since then the big boys of African football have had some equally shocking results in African qualifiers as there has been in Europe.
Nigeria are currently bottom of their African cup of nations qualifying group having lost to Congo and Sudan whereas Ghana have been held to draws by Guinea and Uganda in an inconstant start to qualifying.
Since the World Cup plenty of national team mangers have been experimenting with new players in their squads. Spain have handed a debut to Barcelona wonderkid Munir El Haddadi and have promoted the likes of David De Gea, Juan Bernat, Rodrigo and Paco Alcácer from their U21 side. Roy Hodgson has given debuts to Fabian Delph and Callum Chambers and re-called the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend.
There has also been recalls for Brazilian legends Kaka and Robinho for Brazil's games with Argentina and Japan, and Dunga has also called up fresh faces into his new look Brazil squad with the likes of Miranda, Danilo, Philippe Coutinho and Diego Tardelli. Even the world champions have introduced new faces to their squad including Bayer Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi, Stuttgart’s Antonio Rüdiger and Sebastian Rudy of Hoffenheim.