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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

World Cup squads: Who is on the plane to Russia, and who is in limbo?

Tite insists Brazil won't rush Neymar back for the World Cup.
Tite insists Brazil won't rush Neymar back for the World Cup.
Tite insists Brazil won't rush Neymar back for the World Cup.

The international break gives countries a chance for another look at their squads, with the World Cup looming. 

ESPN FC has correspondents for each team at the World Cup, and they've assessed the state of play in the country they're covering.

Here's a look at who has booked their tickets for the plane to Russia (assured of a place in their World Cup squad), who is in the departures lounge (could make it, could miss out) and who is stuck in traffic (likely to miss out) as the race to reach the biggest show on earth heats up.

GERMANY

Booked tickets: Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos and Bayern Munich defender Mats Hummels have emerged as Germany's leaders since the 2014 World Cup. Those two are not only certain of a ticket but also have become the leaders of the squad. Kroos in particular has turned himself into Germany's unlikely star player, and his influence on their game is invaluable.

Departures lounge: He even went to Thailand, hoping things will improve. And they have, or so they say. Captain Manuel Neuer has not played in a football match since Bayern's 4-0 win over FSV Mainz on Sept. 16, 2017. A metatarsal fracture, his third in less than a year, ruled him out after that. Away from the scene for six months, the keeper will board the plane if fit enough to take part in the opening match. Doubts remain. Mario Gotze is also not guaranteed a ticket.

Stuck in traffic: Mario Gomez returned to Germany to remain in the spotlight after his comeback at Euro 2016. However, with Timo Werner in the fast lane and Bayern's Sandro Wagner also in contention, the Stuttgart attacker could miss out on the World Cup once again. He has won 71 caps for Germany but made his last appearance at the World Cup on July 7, 2010, when Spain beat Low's XI 1-0 to reach the final in South Africa. -- Stephan Uersfeld

Predicted preliminary 23:  Neuer, ter Stegen, Ulreich, Hummels, Boateng, Kimmich, Hector, Tah, Rudiger, Max, Kroos, Ozil, Khedira, Gundogan, Can, Muller, Sane, Reus, Goretzka, Draxler, Brandt, Werner, Wagner.

BRAZIL

Booked tickets: Coach Tite inherited a side that were languishing in sixth place in South America's World Cup qualifiers. Under his command, they put together a superb and stylish run of 10 wins, two draws, 30 goals scored and three conceded. It is only natural, then, that he is showing loyalty to those who turned the battle to get to Russia into a victory parade. Fifteen players have been guaranteed a place on the plane, including attacking stars Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Phillippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. Meanwhile, Tite is promoting intense competition for the remaining slots.

Departures lounge: The headlines have naturally focused on Neymar and his recovery for surgery from a metatarsal fracture. But unless something goes badly wrong, he should be back and full of gas by the time the World Cup begins. A crueler blow has been struck to Filipe Luis, in contention for the reserve left-back slot. The fractured calf bone he suffered last Thursday gives him little recovery time, and after narrowly missing out on the two previous World Cups, he seems likely to sit out this one as well.

Stuck in traffic: Elegant support striker Luan transformed Brazil's struggling 2016 Olympic campaign when he was brought into the side. Since then, he led Gremio to the title of the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, and was elected the continent's best player. But Tite remains unconvinced about both the player personally and how he could fit into the lineup. It will take something special over the next few weeks to get Luan on board the plane. -- Tim Vickery

Predicted preliminary 23: Allison, Ederson, Cassio; Daniel Alves, Danilo, Marcelo, Alex Sandro, Marquinhos, Miranda, Thiago Silva, Jemerson; Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Renato Augusto, Fred, Phillippe Coutinho, Neymar, Willian, Douglas Costa, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Taison.

Neymar is in a race against time to prove his fitness for the World Cup.

SPAIN

Booked tickets: Spain coach Julen Lopetegui retains a core of World Cup 2010 winners lead by captain Sergio Ramos and vice-captain Andres Iniesta, with younger players introduced through recent years including David De Gea, Dani Carvajal, Koke, Isco and Alvaro Morata, who should travel once he regains his form at Chelsea.

Departures lounge: After Atletico Madrid's Marseille-born, versatile defender Lucas Hernandez was reportedly unable to switch allegiances to Spain, Lopetegui finally gave a first call to Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso for the March friendlies against Germany and Argentina. Diego Costa has hit the ground running on his return to Atletico. Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno is a possible late arrival, while Real Madrid starlet Marco Asensio is a certainty.

Stuck in traffic: Lopetegui is clearly not a fan of either Barcelona's Sergi Roberto, despite his good form at club level and ability to play in various positions. Veterans David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and Pedro Rodriguez all look likely to miss out, as does Atletico winger Vitolo, despite his four goals in qualifying.

Predicted preliminary 23: De Gea, Reina, Kepa, Carvajal, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Nacho, Lucas Fernandez, Azpilicueta, Busquets, Illarramendi, Iniesta, Silva, Koke, Saul, Isco, Thiago, Lucas Vazquez, Morata, Costa, Aspas, Asensio.

ENGLAND

Booked tickets: Harry Kane -- assuming he gets fit in time -- has inherited Wayne Rooney's long-held status as England's talisman, while Tottenham teammates Eric Dier and Dele Alli will be key to Gareth Southgate's plans.

Manchester City pair Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling should feature heavily in Russia, and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is a Southgate favourite. Jack Butland is poised to be No.1 goalkeeper and will definitely make the squad.

In general, though, the number of players assured of their places is startlingly small.

Departures lounge: The majority of Southgate's squad remains in flux. Danny Rose, Gary Cahill and John Stones have all lost their starting spots at club level, while Joe Hart's nightmare season for West Ham has diminished him from No.1 goalkeeper to fringe squad member.

Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana have probably shown just enough to give Southgate something to think about, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's revival at Liverpool has put him back in the discussion. Marcus Rashford's case remains strong -- and Southgate would have been delighted to see him score a brace in Manchester United's win over Liverpool.

Stuck in traffic: With so few certainties and so many places up for grabs, not many on the England fringes can be definitively ruled out.

That said, Ross Barkley's midseason move to Chelsea has done nothing for his hopes, and Jose Mourinho's cold shoulder might well cost Luke Shaw.

Persistent injuries will likely derail the claims of Daniel Sturridge, Nathaniel Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, despite the latter being named man of the match on his England debut against Germany. -- Liam Twomey

Predicted preliminary 23: Butland, Pickford, Hart, Walker, Trippier, Cahill, Stones, Maguire, P. Jones, Gomez, Rose, Bertrand, Dier, Henderson, Winks, Lallana, Sterling, Lingard, Alli, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kane, Vardy, Rashford.

Harry Kane's injury is an awkward development for England in the lead-up to the tournament in Russia.

FRANCE

Booked tickets: Didier Deschamps will already have the core of his 23-man World Cup squad mentally selected, featuring the likes of captain Hugo Lloris, defenders Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, midfielders Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot, as well as attackers Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.

Departures lounge: On the fringes of Deschamps' World Cup plans is an interesting cluster of players, featuring Anthony Martial, Benjamin Mendy, Alexandre Lacazette, Ousmane Dembele, Kingsley Coman, Nabil Fekir and Tiemoue Bakayoko. Which players from this group make the cut could be dictated by fitness and versatility, not necessarily form.

Stuck in traffic: Unless Deschamps calls on them during this month's friendlies, it is looking unlikely that Aymeric Laporte, Kevin Gameiro, Florian Thauvin, Kurt Zouma or Jordan Amavi will be on the plane to Russia. However, one or two might sneak in if there is a serious injury crisis or massive losses of form. -- Jonathan Johnson

Predicted preliminary 23: Lloris, Mandanda, Areola, Varane, Umtiti, Koscielny, Kimpembe, Sidibe, Mendy, Kurzawa, Pogba, Kante, Matuidi, Rabiot, Sissoko, Tolisso, Lemar; Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud, Coman, Fekir, Dembele.

RUSSIA

Booked tickets: Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov has had more than a year for experiments in friendlies and the FIFA Confederations Cup as he was building a nearly new team. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev -- still keeping his place between the sticks -- and striker Fedor Smolov, the leading scorer in two straight Russian Premier League seasons, are assured of their places. Elsewhere, there are still too many options and questions.

Departures lounge: Oleg Shatov, called by Andre Villas-Boas the most talented Russian player of this generation, has lost nearly two seasons trying to get along with Mircea Lucescu and then Roberto Mancini at Zenit. He's now on loan to Krasnodar, which brings hope to Russian fans that one of the nation's brightest talents will shine again. The Brazil-born striker Ari is about to get Russian citizenship, which will automatically put him in contention for a call-up, too.

Stuck in traffic: Igor Denisov might be the best holding midfielder Russia has ever had and one of the best players in the top flight this season, but that isn't enough for Cherchesov to call on him. The Berezutski brothers would be more than handy in the team that is left without two regular starters in defence -- Georgi Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin, who are both injured and unlikely to recover for the World Cup -- but the manager has failed to persuade them to return to the national team. -- Artur Petrosyan.

Predicted preliminary 23: Akinfeev, Lunev, Gabulov; Mario Fernandes, Smolnikov, Kutepov, Kudryashov, Granat, Neustadter, Rausch, D.Kombarov; Glushakov, Zobnin, Erokhin, Kuzyaev, Golovin, Dzagoev, Poloz, Al.Miranchuk, An.Miranchuk; Zabolotny, Smolov, Shatov.

ARGENTINA

Booked tickets: Some familiar names: Lionel Messi is obviously undroppable. Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano (in spite of his recent move to China) and Sergio Romero will also be off to Russia. Marcos Acuna, Federco Fazio and Eduardo Salvio are among the others reported to already have their squad places assured.

Departures lounge: This is the interesting part. Willy Caballero and Agustin Marchesin are fighting it out be third goalkeeper; Nicolas Tagliafico's fine start at Ajax, and former Independiente teammate Fabricio Bustos' good form give both a chance of full-back spots, and Manuel Lanzini and Racing youngster Lautaro Martinez are in the running further forward -- plus Paulo Dybala, of course.

Stuck in traffic: Matias Kranevitter has fallen out of favour, but most surprising is Mauro Icardi, who is now thought to stand little chance of inclusion. He failed to impress when called upon last year. Franco Armani, whose transfer to River Plate was meant to see him push for a goalkeeping spot, is also now apparently out of the running. -- Sam Kelly

Predicted preliminary 23:  Romero, Guzman, Caballero, Mercado, Rojo, Fazio, Acuna, Tagliafico, Otamendi, Mascherano, Salvio, Biglia, Banega, Di Maria, Paredes, Lanzini, Lo Celso, Pavon, Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Lautaro Martinez, Dybala.

Lionel Messi
Argentina's hopes rest on Lionel Messi.

BELGIUM

Booked tickets: As many as 15 players have seats booked. Kevin De Bruyne needs to reproduce his club form when he reaches Russia. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens are all set for key roles, while Spurs duo Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are defensive lynchpins. Despite fitness concerns, veterans Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are nailed on to travel.

Departures lounge: Radja Nainggolan hasn't yet convinced Roberto Martinez that he is the right type of squad member. Youri Tielemans has not played enough this term at Monaco, while Leander Dendoncker has struggled in a defensive role at Anderlecht. Michy Batshuayi is looking increasingly likely to travel following his goals in the Bundesliga.

Stuck in traffic: Adnan Januzaj hasn't done enough at Real Sociedad while Divock Origi is fading from view with every passing week. Laurent Depoitre needs to score a hatful of goals at Huddersfield to warrant selection. Christian Benteke is no longer the certainty he once was, while Christian Kabasele has lost his place in the pecking order. -- John Chapman

Predicted preliminary 23: Courtois, Mignolet, Casteels; Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Ciman, Dendoncker, J. Lukaku; Meunier, Carrasco, Dembele, Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Tielemans, Nainggolan, T. Hazard; Mertens, R. Lukaku, Batshuayi, E. Hazard.

PORTUGAL

Booked tickets: It's definitely Pepe and Ricardo Quaresma's last World Cup. Some say it could be Cristiano Ronaldo's too, though his stated aim is to remain at the top of the game until he is 40, and given his never-ending super-human achievements, who are we to argue? Bernardo Silva's clash against Manchester City teammate David Silva in the opening match looks tasty.

Departures lounge: Raphael Guerreiro, Jose Fonte, Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, Ruben Dias. Absolute certainties during qualification, the first four names on this list have had seasons to forget with little playing time. Fonte left West Ham for China for this very reason, but conceding a penalty in an 8-0 defeat was not an auspicious debut. Should Fonte not make it or struggle in Russia, Benfica youngster Ruben Dias will look to seize his chance.

Stuck in traffic: Euro 2016 hero Eder is unlikely to get the chance to add to his solitary goal for Portugal in a competitive match, which just so happens to be the most important goal in Portuguese football history. Renato Sanches' spectacular fall from grace rules him out, while for Wolves' brilliant midfield schemer Ruben Neves, this World Cup comes a season too early. -- Tom Kundert

Predicted preliminary 23: Patricio, Lopes, Beto, Soares, Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Fonte, Dias, Guerreiro, Coentrao, Carvalho, Danilo, Moutinho, Fernandes, Adrien Silva, Joao Mario, Bernardo Silva, Ronaldo, Quaresma, Martins, Guedes, Andre Silva.

Cristiano Ronaldo fired Portugal to Euro 2016 glory, and Russia could be his final chance to lift the World Cup.

MEXICO

Booked tickets: It isn't actually too difficult to work out which Mexico players already have their tickets for Russia. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has stuck with the core group of players in Europe, who will all be involved at the World Cup. Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez remains Mexico's highest-profile player, and midfield duo Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado are the heartbeat of the team, but keep an eye on in-form PSV winger Hirving Lozano, who has the potential to break out in a major way.

Departures lounge: L.A. Galaxy forward Giovani dos Santos would probably be in the squad if it were announced today, but his lack of form throughout 2017 means he will have to show some kind of improvement in MLS this season if Osorio isn't to go with younger faces such as Chivas' Rodolfo Pizarro or Pachuca's Erick Gutierrez.

Stuck in traffic: This was supposed to be the grand finale for Rafa Marquez. The 39-year-old former Barcelona defender was meant to make history as only the third player to play in five men's World Cups and the first to captain his side in five editions of the tournament. But after being sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury last August after a multiyear investigation of the drug trafficking organization, that seems highly unlikely to happen. Marquez has also struggled with injuries and form for club side Atlas.-- Tom Marshall

Predicted preliminary 23: Ochoa, Talavera, Corona, Reyes, Salcedo, Moreno, Araujo, Layun, Ayala, Gallardo, Alvarez, Herrera, Guardado, Jonathan dos Santos, Fabian, Hernandez, Vela, Giovani dos Santos, Aquino, Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Lozano, Jimenez, Peralta.

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