Brazil

History: 19th appearance (winner in 1958, '62, '70, '94, '02).

Key players: Midfielder Kaka of Real Madrid, the 2007 World Player of the Year, and striker Luis Fabiano of Sevilla.

Coach: Dunga

Outlook: It's never wise to discount the Brazilians. Under Dunga, Brazil will be a more defense-oriented squad, a style that actually suited it well in 1994, with Dunga as captain, and in 2002. Kaka is the orchestrator and a pretty good finisher, too. Luis Fabiano likely will lead the team in scoring, but a half-dozen others, including Robinho and Nilmar, will be dangerous as well. In Lucio and Maicon, the defense is solid, and keeper Julio Cesar steadily has improved and ranks among the world's best.

Ivory CoastHistory: Second appearance (never advanced).

Key players: Chelsea forward Didier Drogba and Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure.

Coach: Sven-Goran Eriksson

Outlook: Probably the best of the six African nations in the field, and certainly one of the most exciting teams thanks to the prolific Drogba, but his availability may be compromised by a broken arm suffered in a friendly. The Elephants will need to stomp on opponents offensively because their defense is suspect.

North Korea

History: Second appearance (quarterfinals in 1966).

Key players: Keeper Ri Myong Guk and FC Rostov striker Hong Yong Jo.

Coach: Kim Jong Hun

Outlook: The mystery team of the tournament and the only country that didn't release its roster in advance. But there is little mystery how it will play: pack it in at the back, venture ahead on counterattacks, and keep the score as low as possible.

PortugalHistory: Fifth appearance (semifinals in 1966, '06).

Key players: 2008 World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, a winger for Real Madrid, and Manchester United midfielder Nani.

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Outlook: Earlier this decade, the Portuguese were a powerhouse, and their run to the '06 semifinals was impressive. Ever since, they have been a disappointment. They still have some stars, including Ronaldo and midfielder Deco. In previous years, Portugal would be a prime challenger for the group title. Now, it might be hard-pressed to finish second.

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