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With nine months left before the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia, there are not many qualifiers left to decide the final 32 teams. Apart from the hosts, seven teams have now confirmed qualification, four of which are from our own Asian Football Confederation. They are Brazil (CONMEBOL), Beligum (UEFA), Mexico (CONCACAF) and Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia (AFC). 

As well as the surprise to many of Australia not gaining direct qualification, a few other results see some really big teams nervously waiting for the final round of fixtures next month. We take a look at the top three who would be feeling nervous about booking their flights to Moscow just yet. 

Chile

It is highly likely that we could see a World Cup without the reigning South American champions. 

Chile won both the 2015 Copa America (at home) and the special 2016 Copa America Centenario, beating Argentina on both occasions. It was a grand success and the trophies only proved that Chile had finally arrived - at least on the continental stage.

However, their World Cup qualification process could have gone a lot better. Since South America does not have as many countries as the rest of the major confederations, they all play each other twice to determine who progresses.

The top four teams in CONMEBOL qualify directly for the World Cup. The fifth-placed team goes into an Inter-Confederation Playoff with the winner of the Oceania Football Confederation (New Zealand).

Unfortunately, Chile find themselves in sixth place at the moment with two games to go. With their final two games against Ecuador (home) and Brazil (away), they not only have to win both games, but also hope that other teams such as Uruguay, Colombia, Peru or Argentina drop points. 

Argentina

It's almost unbelievable considering the host of talent they have, but like Chile, Argentina are also in all sorts of trouble. But they could still scrape through.  t

La Albiceleste are in fifth place. That's not good enough to qualify for the group stages directly but it will allow them to play in an intercontinental play-off v New Zealand.

Argentina have been abysmal in the qualifiers. The absence of Messi in a number of games has seen their goals dry up, and more draws than is usual for a Messi-led Argentina, which is why Peru is in fourth position even though they have the same number of points and goal difference. Peru have scored 26 goals so far while Argentina have only scored 16. 

Argentina's last two games are against Peru (home) and Ecuador (away). While that is certainly a lot better than what sixth-placed Chile have to go through, the team (now led by Jorge Sampaoli) lost 2-0 to Ecuador and drew 2-2 with Peru in the reverse fixtures.

However, in Argentina's favour, Messi did not play in either of those games, but he is likely to be available for both fixtures in October. 

They will also be hoping that Brazil take the game to Chile in the final round of fixtures. But will Brazil, who have already qualified, play a weakened team against Chile to help 'eliminate' Argentina?

Netherlands

It's hard to imagine that a country that are three-time finalists and the birthplace of Total Football could miss out, but their fate is no longer in their hands. In 2010 they finished runners-up to Spain. In 2014 they finished third.

They currently occupy third place in Group A with two more games to go. That is a position they will not want to be in after the 10th and final game as only the top two stand a chance of qualifying.

The team that finishes top of the group qualifies directly for the World Cup group stages while the second-placed team will have to advance to a second round of two-legged playoffs.

Netherlands' last two games are against Belarus (away) and Sweden (home). The final game could be a virtual semi-final to see who goes through along with France.

The superior French side already have one foot in the World Cup and are scheduled to play Bulgaria and Belarus. In addition to the Netherlands, Sweden play Luxembourg, whose record suggests the Scandinavian side could also seal qualification thanks to a superior goal difference.

The Dutch must rely on other results going their way while winning their remaining games if they are to qualify. And only the eight best runners-up from the nine groups qualify so even second place may not be enough.


Categories: News | Europe | World Cup

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