With the 2018 world cup qualifying stages gradually coming to a close, i have taken a look at the teams that are certain to reach the sports fiesta, countries that can still qualify and those at the risk of missing the showdown in Russia.
Countries that have qualified?
32 teams will contest for glory at the world cup final, from the weekend results 14 of the have now secured their qualification spots
- Russia – They qualified when they won the chance to host the competition back in 2010.
- Brazil – CONMEBOL round robin winners, qualified way back on March 28, 2017
- Iran – AFC third round group A winners
- Japan – AFC third round group B winners
- South Korea – runners up to Iran in Group A
- Saudi Arabia – runners up in Group B
- Mexico – North and central America and Caribbean round 5 winners
- Belgium – The first European team to qualify on Sept 3
- Germany – Won as Group C winners after beating Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast
- England – The English side beat Slovenia at Wembley to secure their spot in Russia as winners of Group F
- Poland – They became to fourth European team to qualify having dropped points in just two games in Group E
- Costa Rica – Qualified with a game to spare from their CONCACAF qualification group, their fourth world cup appearance.
- Nigeria – Became the first side from Africa to reach Russia, Nigeria have now missed out in one of the tournament Germany 2006
- Egypt – It was an emotional qualification for the Egyptians, i could see the cairo stadium in tears. The last time the Egyptians played in a world cup final was in the 1990 final. Mohamed Salah two goals will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Who could still qualify?
How many qualify? The top team in each group qualifies for Russia, with the eight best runners-up (from the nine groups) going into four play-offs. The four winners of the two-legged play-offs will qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, making a total of 13 teams.
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: Belarus, Bulgaria and Luxembourg
With just one game remaining, Euro 2016 runners-up France are top of the group with 20 points and lead a Sweden side without their highest goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Holland have continued their surprising poor form in recent years and are third with 16 points and will more than likely miss out on claiming a play-off spot. Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg all failed to qualify.
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Hungary and Latvia
Switzerland have impressed, winning all of their games and are top with 27 points. They are closely followed by Euro 2016 winners Portugal with 24 points.
The two are guaranteed automatic qualification or a play-off spot, and that will be decided in the final match of qualification. The two sides face each other on Oct 10 in their final match; in which Portugal are likely to need a win by more than two goals as Switzerland currently lead their head-to-head record with a 2-0 win when they met in Sept 2016.
- Qualified: Germany
- Play-off spot: Northern Ireland
- Eliminated: Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Norway and San Marino
Holders Germany qualified with 30 points having won all 10 of their qualifiers while Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side qualified for a play-off place leaving them just 180 minutes away from their first World Cup finals fro 32 years.
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: Austria, Georgia and Moldova
Serbia are currently top of the group with 19 points and are guaranteed at least a play-off place. Wales, meanwhile, trail by just one point ahead of Republic of Ireland who they will play in the final match of qualifying, in a winner-takes-all (or more likely, winner-takes-a-play-off-place) crunch game on Oct 9.
- Qualified: Poland
- Play-off spot: Denmark
- Eliminated: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Montenegro and Romania
Poland qualified with 25 points having dropped points in just two games while Denmark managed to take the play-off spot ahead of Montenegro who joined Armenia, Kazakhstan and Romania in being eliminated.
- Qualified: England
- Eliminated: Lithuania, Malta, Scotland, Slovenia
England qualified for Russia following an unbeaten – though largely uninspiring – qualifying campaign in which they won eight games and drew twice. Slovakia must wait to see if they will go into the play-offs, though Scotland do not after they were eliminated.
- Qualified: Spain
- Play-off spot: Italy
- Eliminated: Albania, Israel, Liechtenstein and Macedonia
Spain, the 2010 winners, qualified with a game while Italy are guaranteed a play-off spot.
- Qualified: Belgium
- Eliminated: Cyprus, Estonia, Gibraltar
Belgium were the first European team to qualify with 22 points from eight games.
Greece, the 2004 winners, are all but guaranteed a play-off spot unless Gibraltar can pull off the biggest shock of all time when the two side s meet on Oct 10.
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: Finland and Kosovo
Iceland are currently top with 19 points and will be confident of reaching the finals with just Kosovo – who have earned just one point – standing in their way. Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey can all still claim a play-off spot.
When are the final group games played out?
The final games will take place between Oct 8 and 10.
How are the play-off spots determined?
As Uefa say: “The eight runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups proceed to play-offs to decide the remaining four European berths.”
In effect, there are nine teams vying for eight play-off spots, with records determined by removing results against the teams that finished bottom of each group. A draw takes place in Oct to determine opponents.
The two-legged ties take place in early Nov. The winners of the four ties go to Russia next summer.
What is happening in other football confederations?
How many qualify?The five group winners will qualify for the World Cup 2018.
- Teams: Tunisia, DR Congo, Guinea, Libya
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: Guinea, Libya
Tunisia have won three of their four games so far and are followed by DR Congo, on seven points from as many games. Guinea and Libya both have three points and can no longer qualify.
- Teams: Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon, Algeria
- Qualified: Nigeria
- Eliminated: Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia
Nigeria became the first African side from to reach Russia after beating Zambia 1-0 in their penultimate qualifier. The Super Eagles have now missed just one tournament – Germany 2006 – since making their World Cup debut in 1994.
- Teams: Ivory Coast, Morocco, Gabon, Mali
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: Gabon and Mali
Morocco lead the way with just one game remaining, Ivory Coast are second one point off the lead. Both sides meet each other on Nov 6 in what will act as a World Cup play-off with a ticket to Russia up for grabs.
- Teams: Burkina Faso, Senegal, South Africa, Cape Verde
- Qualified: None
- Eliminated: None
Senegal lead the group having played just four games and are two points ahead of second-placed Burkina Faso. Cape Verde are third with six points from five games while South Africa are botoom, though have tow games to play in the tightest of groups.
- Teams: Egypt, Uganda, Ghana, Congo
- Qualified: Egypt
- Eliminated: Congo, Ghana and Uganda
Egypt qualified with a game to play after Mohamed Salah scored a late, late winner against Congo to end a near 30-year wait for Africa’s most successful team.
Who qualifies? The two group winners and two runners-up will qualify for Russia 2018. The third-place teams of each group advance to round four. The winner of the two third placed teams will then advance to the intercontinental play-off.
- Teams: Iran, South Korea, Syria, Uzbekistan, China, Qatar
- Qualified: Iran, South Korea
- Advance to play-off: Syria
- Eliminated: China, Qatar and Uzbekistan
Iran are the group winners and have qualified alongside South Korea. Syria drew the first leg of their play-off with Australia to keep their qualification hopes alive and must now travel to Sydney for the return leg next Tuesday.
- Teams: Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, UAE, Iraq, Thailand
- Qualified: Japan, Saudi Arabia
- Advance to play-off: Australia
- Eliminated: UAE, Iraq and Thailand
Japan and Saudi Arabia have made the World Cup, while Australia, as stated above, play Syria in a winner-takes-all play-off in Sydney next week.
North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)
Who qualifies? The top three qualify, while fourth place advances to an inter-confederation play-off.
- Teams: Mexico, Costa Rica, United States, Honduras, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago
- Qualified: Costa Rica, Mexico
- Eliminated: Trinidad and Tobago
Mexico and Costa Rica have both qualified while USA sit in third spot with a game to play. Panama and Honduras trail the Americans by two points but still stand a chance of taking the third and final automatic qualification spot.
How many qualify?One, maybe. The winners of two three-team groups face each other in a two-legged tie. The winner of that will face the fifth place team from CONMEBOL over two legs to decide who goes through.
- Teams: New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea
- Qualified: New Zealand (to face 5th place CONMEBOL team)
Group winners New Zealand and Solomon Islands played each other over two legs, with New Zealand winning. They will play the fifth-place CONMEBOL team in November to determine who goes to Russia.
How many qualify?The top four teams from the single group of 10 will qualify, with the fifth placed team advancing to the intercontinental play-off (against New Zealand).
- Teams: Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela
- Qualified: Brazil
- Eliminated: Bolivia and Venezuela
Brazil are the comfortable winners of the group and have qualified. With just one game remaining it is then a close battle for the other qualifying places with Uruguay currently in second with Chile and Colombia close behind in third and fourth. Peru currently lie fifth – the intercontinental play-off spot – on 25 points.
Argentina appear perilously close to failing to qualify for the finals for the first time since 1970 and will go into their final game away to Ecuador needing to rely on others to drop points while they themselves must earn at least a point to gain an intercontinental play-off spot.
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