With the play-offs now almost completed, and all but one of the 32 teams that will compete at next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil now known, the Blues will be well represented in South America.
Here, the official Chelsea website takes a look at which of our players are likely to feature in one of the world’s biggest sporting events, as well as looking back at how they – and their nations – have fared at past tournaments…
Hosts Brazil will go into the tournament with the weight of the country’s expectations on their shoulders, buoyed by their success in the Confederations Cup, which they secured last summer courtesy of a 3-0 win over world champions Spain in the final.
David Luiz, Oscar and Ramires are regulars in their national side’s squad, with the former taking the captain’s armband in the absence of Thiago Silva, while Willian was called up to the most recent squad and marked his first appearance for Brazil in two years with a goal in their 5-0 victory over Honduras in Miami.
Not one of the Chelsea four has featured at previous World Cups but, as a nation, their standing in the game needs no introduction. The only country to have appeared at every previous tournament, the five-time winners’ most recent triumph came in 2002 when they beat Germany 2-0 in the final.
Both David Luiz and Oscar were part of the Brazil side which won the Confederations Cup under the guidance of former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, with both players enjoying impressive tournaments, while for Ramires and Willian, the experience they have acquired at club level, playing against the very best Europe has to offer in the Champions League, will undoubtedly serve them well.
Having won the last three major tournaments, including the 2010 World Cup, it would take a brave man to bet against Spain producing the goods once more.
After breezing through qualifying, winning six and drawing two of their eight matches, Vicente del Bosque’s side will be confident of making it back-to-back World Cup triumphs, with three Chelsea players – Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta – all potentially featuring.
Mata was on target in their final qualification match, a 2-0 home win over Georgia, with the Chelsea playmaker also involved in their most recent friendlies.
Both Mata and Torres were part of the squad which triumphed in South Africa in 2010, while Azpilicueta, a relative newcomer to the international scene in comparison, took part in the Confederations Cup.
Prior to their success at the last World Cup, Spain, historically, haven’t fared so well in previous tournaments, never progressing beyond the quarter-final stage.
England booked their place in Brazil by topping Group H ahead of Ukraine, with three Chelsea players – Gary Cahill, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole – in contention to feature during the finals.
The Three Lions, who have lifted the trophy only once previously, back in 1966, last failed to qualify for the tournament in 1994, when it was held in the US, but they have been unable to get beyond the quarter-final stage since 1990, when a squad which contained Dave Beasant and Tony Dorigo – Chelsea players at the time – were beaten by Germany on penalties in the semi-final.
If selected, Cole will become the first England player to appear at four World Cups, the left-back having previously taken part in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Lampard, meanwhile, has appeared at the last two, and it was his strike in 2010, in a game against Germany, which increased the calls for goalline technology to be introduced after the referee ruled out an effort which had clearly crossed the line.
Cahill and Everton’s Phil Jagielka have established themselves as the first-choice defensive pairing over the course of the qualifying campaign and, should he board the flight, it will be the first major tournament for the Blues defender, who missed out on Euro 2012 after sustaining a jaw injury.
Belgium were one of the first nations to qualify, with Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois all making significant contributions as Marc Wilmots’s side went through their qualifying campaign unbeaten, dropping only four points along the way.
Our three outfield players netted eight goals between them during qualifying while Courtois kept six clean sheets.
Their qualification, while unsurprising given the depth of the squad, has lifted a nation who haven’t seen their national side reach the World Cup since 2002, when they were eliminated by eventual winners Brazil at the first knockout stage. They did, however, reach the semi-finals in 1986, their best performance in the tournament to date, when they were beaten by Argentina.
Germany’s qualification campaign culminated with a 5-3 win over Sweden, a game in which Andre Schurrle scored a hat-trick for Joachim Low’s side, who by that stage had already safely secured their passage by topping the group.
Schurrle also scored in their preceding match, a 3-0 win over Republic of Ireland, and the Chelsea attacker’s recent performances have earned the praise of his national team’s manager, who believes he has benefited by moving to Stamford Bridge.
Germany will certainly go into the tournament as one of the favourites, not only because of the calibre of player they are able to call upon, but also due to their impressive track record in previous competitions, where they have lifted the trophy on three occasions and reached the semi-finals in six of the last eight World Cups.
Patrick van Aanholt was handed his full debut for the Netherlands in last night’s draw against Colombia, the left-back, currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, coming on as a second-half substitute, and by the time the tournament comes around he will hope to be a permanent fixture in the senior Dutch set-up.
Beaten finalists in 2010, the Netherlands had previously failed to get beyond the quarter-final stage since 1978.
Nigeria were the first African nation to qualify for next summer’s tournament, progressing courtesy of a 4-1 aggregate play-off win over Ethiopia.
John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Kenneth Omeruo featured for the Super Eagles in that contest, and having all played a part in their Africa Cup of Nations triumph last January, the Chelsea trio will hope to be involved in June.
Nigeria have qualified four times previously, most recently in 2010, when they fell at the first hurdle, going out at the group stage having failed to win a game. Having missed that tournament with a knee injury, Mikel is yet to feature at a World Cup, while both Moses and Omeruo, if selected, will also be making their tournament bows in Brazil.
One African player who has played at a previous World Cup is Michael Essien, and the Ghanaian midfielder is in line to represent his nation on the biggest stage once again after they booked their place with a 7-3 aggregate play-off victory over Egypt.
Essien missed the 2010 World Cup with a knee injury, but was part of the Ghana squad who reached the last 16 in 2006. They were eventually beaten 3-0 by Brazil, although Essien missed that particular game through suspension.
The 30-year-old could potentially be joined in the squad by Chelsea team-mate Christian Atsu who is currently out on loan at Vitesse.
The draw for the World Cup will be made on Friday 6 December in Bahia, with the 32 qualified nations divided into four pots.
Pot 1 will contain hosts Brazil along with the seven highest-ranked qualified teams according to the October FIFA world rankings, with the three other pots based on geographical location, ensuring each group contains a healthy mixture of teams from different continents.
With 13 European teams having qualified for the competition, there will be no more than two teams from Europe in each group.