A guide to the remaining qualification matches for the 2018 World Cup
Next month 32 nations will take part in the final games for next year’s World Cup for 9 final spots20 October 2017 | FT Editor
While all Australian eyes will be set on the two matches involving the Socceroos against Honduras, there are 23 other matches to be held in November, with 17 decisive in the composition of the 2018 World Cup participants.
Who’s already there?
So far, 23 teams have secured their place at the 2018 World Cup, including the host nation. They are:
- Africa: Egypt, Nigeria
- Asia: Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea
- Europe: Belgium, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain
- North, Central America and Caribbean: Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama
- South America: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay
The qualified teams include eight of the top 10 teams from the October world rankings. The 9th placed team, Chile, has missed out altogether while the number 10 team, Peru, will take part in the inter-confederation play-off v New Zealand.
The only teams that have so far qualified from outside the top 50 are South Korea (62) and Saudi Arabia (63). Australia was ranked at number 43 in the October rankings.
Africa (3 more places)
Africa is the only confederation yet to finish their group qualification matches. While Egypt and Nigeria have already qualified, three more spots up for grabs with seven nations capable of getting there. The remaining group matches will take place between 10-14 November between:
- South Africa v Senegal
- Algeria v Nigeria
- Zambia v Cameroon
- Gabon v Mali
- Cote d’Ivoire v Morocco
- Tunisia v Libya
- Congo DR v Guinea
- Ghana v Egypt
- Congo v Uganda
- Senegal v South Africa
- Burkina Faso v Cape Verde Islands
The match with most at stake is the one between Cote d’Ivoire v Morocco in Group C which is 2v1 in current standings, just one point apart. Cote d’Ivoire are ranked at 61 in the October world rankings, while Morocco is at 48.
On the basis of current standings, the fixtures and the world rankings the other two teams that should make it are Tunisia (the highest ranked African team at number 28) and Senegal (32) who are top of Groups A and D respectively – not that football should ever be judged on paper! The others that could make it if results go against Tunisia and Senegal are DR Congo in Group A (35), and Burkina Faso (55) or Cape Verde Islands (64) in Group D.
Asia and Concacaf (1 place)
The fourth-placed team from Concacaf, Honduras, plays the winners of the Asian qualifying play-off spot – that’s us – in the inter-confederation play-off where Asia is vying for 4.5 spots and Concacaf for 4. Honduras are currently ranked number 69 in the world, while Australia is number 43.
These matches will be held on November 10 in Honduras and November 15 in Australia.
Oceania and South America (1 place)
The other inter-confederation play-off sees the winner of the Oceania qualifying play-off face the fifth-place team from South America. As expected, New Zealand at 122 thrashed Solomon Islands in the Oceania play-off, which means they face the number 10 team in the world, Peru, over two legs on November 11 and 15.
Europe (4 more places)
With the European group stage done and dusted, there are eight second-placed teams that now advance to the play-offs to determine the final four European teams making it to Russia next year.
The remaining eight nations and their October world rankings are:
- Switzerland - 11
- Italy - 15
- Croatia - 18
- Denmark - 19
- Northern Ireland - 23
- Sweden - 25
- Ireland - 26
- Greece - 47.
The eight teams have been split according to the FIFA world rankings revealed earlier this week which saw the top four teams (Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark) drawn against one of the other four teams. The matches will be played between 9 and 14 November and involve a home-and-away fixture between:
- Northern Ireland v Switzerland
- Croatia v Greece
- Sweden v Italy
- Denmark v Republic of Ireland
The Final Draw will take place at the Kremlin on 1 December. The 32 teams will be allocated to one of four pots of eight teams each based on the October world ranking.
The top seven teams will go in pot 1, along with Russia (65). This would see pot 1 also with Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France.
Spain, ranked number 8 in the world, would be in pot 2. If Australia wins through against Honduras, we will be placed in pot 4.
The 32 teams will be placed in one of Groups A-H with no team from the same confederation in the same group, other than from Europe.
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