It’s nearly that time for football fans to pick which international teams they’re going to root for in the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia. The World Cup qualifying groups are slightly more confusing and counter-intuitive than the normal group stages during a World Cup. Effectively the world’s teams are divided into groups, usually separated by region, and the teams within those groups play against one another and compete in a points based log to see who goes through.
What makes this process slightly more complicated is how the regions are split and how many teams from specific groups can go through. The initial rounds to thin the herd have pretty much been concluded, so now the final set of competitors from all the regions will be competing for places at next year’s most high profile sporting event. We’re going to have a look at how the groups currently stand and who can still make it through:
Group A Group B Group C
Group D Group E Group F
|Republic of Ireland||7||13||Montenegro||7||13||Slovakia||7||15|
Group G Group H Group I
|Italy||7||16||Bosnia & Herzegovina||8||14||Ukraine||7||14|
The group winners among these nine groups will automatically qualify to proceed to the World Cup Finals, while the runners-up will have to face off in a two-legged playoff to decide who will join the group winners.
South America (CONMEBOL):
The South American group is far simpler than the collection of European groups; all teams play each other home and away for a total of 18 fixtures each and the top four sides all go directly through to the final. Fifth place, however, will go up against the winner of the Oceania group.
North America, Central America, Caribbean (CONCACAF):
|Trinidad & Tobago||7||3|
The top three sides from CONCACAF automatically qualify with the 4th place team going into a play-off game with a team from the Asian group.
Group A Group B Group C
Group D Group E
|Cape Verde Islands||3||4||Congo||3||1|
The African groups will see the winner of each group going through to the World Cup Finals, meaning South Africa is going to need to take points off the group leader Burkina Faso in their next match in order to have a chance of qualifying.
Group A Group B
|South Korea||9||14||Saudi Arabia||9||16|
|Uzbekistan||9||12||United Arab Emirates||9||13|
The top two sides from two the Asian groups automatically qualify, while the two third place teams go into a two legged playoff, after which the winner will face a team from the CONCACAF region in another playoff.
New Zealand and the Solomon Islands have already qualified for a play off in this group to decide who will make it into the Inter-Continental playoffs.
CONCACAF 4th Place Vs. AFC 5th Place
OFC Playoff Winner Vs. CONMEBOL 5th Place
Admittedly, the qualification is a confusing mess at first glance, but all the convoluted play-offs and pre-qualifying rounds are necessary to narrow the field down to the 32 teams that will eventually feature in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals. One of the biggest shocks on the cards is the potential for struggling Argentina to miss out on the WC Finals altogether, due to their battle to find any decent form in their qualifying games. Elsewhere, the African groups are all rather tightly contested and the opportunity is still there for a number of teams to grab a qualification place if they manage victories in their upcoming games.
The competition is less than a year away and the final qualification games will be played in November of this year. Some of the usual suspects have already secured their qualification, but for a few teams there are still anxious fixtures ahead that will decide whether or not they’ll be able to compete in football’s most prestigious international competition. Can all the giants make it to Russia?
Who do you think will make the World Cup finals? Let us know by tweeting us @MenStuffZA!