FIFA World Cup qualification

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For the current qualifying tournament, see 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification.

The FIFA World Cup qualification is the process that a national association football team goes through to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals. The FIFA World Cup is the largest international team sport competition in the world with a qualification process required to reduce the large field of countries from 211 to just 32 for the World Cup finals.

Qualifying tournaments are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), and are organized by their respective confederations. For each tournament, FIFA decides beforehand the number of places in the finals allocated to each of the continental zones, based on the numbers and/or relative strength of the confederations' teams.

The hosts of the World Cup receive an automatic berth. Unlike many other sports, results of the previous World Cups or of the continental championships are not taken into account. Until 2002, the defending champions also received an automatic berth, but starting from the 2006 World Cup this is no longer the case.

The current qualification process is the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification which commenced in 2015 and will finish in late 2017.

History[edit]

Over many years, the World Cup's qualification has evolved, from having no qualification at all in 1930, when the tournament was invitational and only 13 teams entered, to the current two-year process. The first World Cup qualifying match was played on 11 June 1933 when Sweden defeated Estonia 6–2 in Stockholm. The first ever goal in a World Cup qualifying match was scored 7 minutes into the game: it was scored according to some sources by Swedish captain Knut Kroon, or according to other sources by Estonian goalkeeper Evald Tipner (own goal).

While the number of teams which qualified for the finals has increased steadily, from 16 between 1934 and 1978, to 24 between 1982 and 1994, and finally to 32 starting from 1998, the qualification format has been basically the same throughout the history of the World Cup. The teams have been grouped continentally, and they competed for a fixed number of places, with one or two places awarded to the winners of intercontinental play-offs.

Qualification spots by continent[edit]

The table below lists the numbers of spots allocated by FIFA for each continent in each tournament. If no places were allocated to a continent, such as in the case of Oceania prior to 1966 and Africa in 1950, this does not indicate an exclusion of those continents by FIFA, but rather that no country of those continents made an entry to the aforementioned Cups.[1]

A large part of Africa was under colonial rule during part of the 20th century, mainly the first half of the century. As of 1954, only 3 African countries were affiliated to FIFA: Egypt, in 1923, Sudan, in 1948, and Ethiopia, in 1952.[2] Sudan and Ethiopia made entries for no Cup prior to 1958. Egypt made entries for the 1934, 1938 and 1954 Cups, though not for the 1930 and 1950 Cups. Though an African country, Egypt entered in 1938 and 1954 in the European group, therefore the table below gives no data about Africa for these two Cups.

Places in the intercontinental play-offs count as 0.5 spots. Numbers in bold represent the winners of the intercontinental play-offs. "+C" denotes an additional spot for defending champions. "+H" denotes an additional spot for hosts.

Places allocated for continents
Continental zone 1934
Italy
(16)
1938
France
(15)1
1950
Brazil
(13)2
1954
Switzerland
(16)
1958
Sweden
(16)
1962
Chile
(16)
1966
England
(16)
1970
Mexico
(16)
1974
West Germany
(16)
1978
Argentina
(16)
1982
Spain
(24)
1986
Mexico
(24)
1990
Italy
(24)
1994
United States
(24)
1998
France
(32)
2002
South Korea
Japan
(32)
2006
Germany
(32)6
2010
South Africa
(32)
2014
Brazil
(32)
2018
Russia
(32)
2022
Qatar
(32)
2026

(48)
Africa 1 0 0.53 0.54 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 5 5 5 5
+H
5 5  
Asia 1 12 1 0.54 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3.5 2.5
+2H
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 H
Oceania 0 0.5 0.5 0.255 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5  
Europe 12 111
+C+H
72
+C
11
+H
9.53
+C+H
8+4
2×0.5
9
+H
8
+C
8.5
+H
8.5
+C
13
+H
12.5
+C
13
+H
12
+C
14
+H
13.5
+C
13
+H
13 13 13
+H
 
North and Central America
and Caribbean
1 1 2 1 1 0.5 1 1
+H
1 1 2 1
+H
2 1.255
+H
3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5  
South America 2 1 4
+H
1
+C
3 3.5
+C+H
3
+C
3 2.5
+C
2.5
+H
3
+C
4 2.5
+C
3.55 4
+C
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
+H
4.5  
Total 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 24 24 24 24 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 48
  • 1 In 1938, Austria withdrew after qualifying due to being annexed by Germany and were not replaced, so only 15 teams, 12 of them European, played in the finals.
  • 2 In 1950, India, Scotland and Turkey withdrew after qualifying and were not replaced, so only 13 teams, none of them Asian and 6 of them European, played in the finals.
  • 3 Initially in 1958, Africa and Asia together were given 1 spot, while Europe was given 9 spots. However, after Israel won the African and Asian zone without playing any matches due to withdrawals of other teams, a special play-off was arranged between them and a European team (Wales). So in effect, Africa and Asia together were given 0.5 spots, while Europe was given 9.5 spots.
  • 4 In 1962, Europe was given 8 automatic spots, plus 2 additional spots in the intercontinental play-offs, in effect giving them 9 spots. The two European teams played an African team and an Asian team respectively, and both European teams won. Therefore, 10 European teams played in the finals.
  • 5 In 1994, there were two rounds of intercontinental play-offs. First, an Oceanian team played a team from North and Central America and Caribbean, and the winner then played a South American team.
  • 6 From the 2006 qualifiers on, the defending champion no longer has an automatic spot secured.

Qualification competition entrants over time[edit]

The number of teams entering the qualification process and the number of matches played have been steadily growing over time. Though an African country, Egypt entered in 1938 and 1954 into the European group, therefore being zero the below indicator as for Africa in these years.

Number of teams entering qualification (including automatic qualifiers)
Continental zone 1934
Italy
(16)
1938
France
(15)
1950
Brazil
(13)
1954
Switzerland
(16)
1958
Sweden
(16)
1962
Chile
(16)
1966
England
(16)
1970
Mexico
(16)
1974
West Germany
(16)
1978
Argentina
(16)
1982
Spain
(24)
1986
Mexico
(24)
1990
Italy
(24)
1994
United States
(24)
1998
France
(32)
2002
South Korea
Japan
(32)
2006
Germany
(32)
2010
South Africa
(32)
2014
Brazil
(32)
2018
Russia
(32)
2022
Qatar
(32)
2026

(48)
Africa 3 0 0 0 11 6 21 13 24 26 29 29 26 40 38 51 51 53 52 54
Asia 2 4 3 5 7 18 22 21 27 26 29 36 42 39 43 43 46
Oceania1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 5 7 10 10 12 11 11 11
Europe 21 26 19 29 29 30 33 31 33 32 34 33 33 39 50 51 52 53 53 54
North and Central America
and Caribbean2
4 7 3 5 6 8 10 14 14 17 15 18 16 23 30 35 34 35 35 35
South America 4 2 8 6 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 10 10 10 10 10 10
Total entrants 32 37 34 45 55 56 74 75 99 107 109 121 116 147 174 199 198 2054 204 210
Teams played3 27 21 19 33 46 49 51 68 90 95 103 110 103 130 168 193 194 2004 203 208
Matches played 27 22 26 57 89 92 127 172 226 252 306 308 314 497 643 777 847 853 828 561
Goals scored 141 96 121 208 341 325 393 542 620 723 797 801 735 1446 1922 2452 2464 2344 2303 1631
Average goals per match 5.22 4.36 4.65 3.65 3.83 3.53 3.09 3.15 2.74 2.87 2.60 2.60 2.34 2.91 2.99 3.16 2.91 2.75 2.81 2.91
  • 1 Because the Oceania Football Confederation has used the World Cup Qualifiers as a phase of (or as the entire) OFC Nations Cup, there is the possibility that non-FIFA countries may play in matches that double as World Cup qualifiers. In the 2006 qualifiers, New Caledonia were included in the tournament although they were not FIFA members at the date of close of entries. They are, however, included in the 12 nations listed as they joined FIFA during the course of qualification, even though they had been technically eliminated from contention a few days earlier (a similar situation occurred in the entries for 2010, with Montenegro's entry accepted prior to their admission by FIFA). By contrast, Tuvalu competed in the 2007 South Pacific Games Football tournament, which doubled as qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. As they were not FIFA members at the time of the completion of the competition, they are not included in the 11 OFC entrants, although their results counted towards the qualification of other teams.
  • 2 From 1973 to 1989, the CONCACAF Championship and its qualifying tournament were used to determine CONCACAF's entrant in the World Cup. The confederation's champion qualified outright.
  • 3 "Teams played" is the total number of teams that played at least one qualifying match.
  • 4 This number includes Tuvalu (see note 1) and South Africa. Although South Africa qualified automatically for 2010 as hosts, they competed in the CAF qualifiers, becoming the first hosts to compete in World Cup qualifying since 1934. This is because the Confederation of African Football used its 2010 World Cup qualifiers as the qualifying phase for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament for which South Africa had attempted to qualify.

First appearance in qualification by team[edit]

Note: Only teams that played at least one match are considered for the purposes of first appearance. Teams that withdrew prior to the qualification, or that qualified to the World Cup by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals, are not considered.

World Cup Europe South America North, Central America and Caribbean Asia Africa Oceania Total
Italy
1934
 Austria
 Belgium
 Bulgaria
 Czechoslovakia[A]
 Estonia
 France
 Germany[B]
 Greece
 Hungary
 Irish Free State[C]
 Italy[D]
 Lithuania
 Luxembourg
 Netherlands
 Poland
 Portugal
 Romania
 Spain
 Sweden
  Switzerland
 Yugoslavia[E]
none  Cuba
 Haiti
 Mexico
 United States
 Palestine, British Mandate[F]  Egypt[G] none 27
France
1938
 Finland
 Latvia
 Norway
none none none none none 3
Brazil
1950
 England
 Ireland[H]
 Scotland
 Turkey[I]
 Wales
none none  Syria none none 6
Switzerland
1954
 Saar  Brazil[J]
 Chile[K]
 Paraguay[L]
none  Japan[M]
 South Korea
none none 6
Sweden
1958
 Denmark
 East Germany
 Iceland
 Soviet Union[N]
 Argentina[O]
 Bolivia[P]
 Colombia[Q]
 Peru[R]
 Uruguay[S]
 Canada
 Costa Rica[T]
 Guatemala
 Territory of Curaçao[U]
 China PR
 Indonesia[V]
 Sudan none 16
Chile
1962
 Cyprus[W]  Ecuador[X]  Dutch Guyana[Y]
 Honduras
none  Ethiopia
 Ghana
 Morocco
 Nigeria
 Tunisia
none 9
England
1966
 Albania  Venezuela[Z]  Jamaica
 Trinidad and Tobago
 North Korea none  Australia 6
Mexico
1970
none none  Bermuda
 El Salvador[AA]
none  Algeria[AB]
 Cameroon[AC]
 Libya[AD]
 Rhodesia[AE]
 Senegal[AF]
 Zambia
 New Zealand 9
West Germany
1974
 Malta none  Antigua and Barbuda
 Puerto Rico
 Hong Kong
 Iran
 Iraq
 Kuwait
 Malaysia
 South Vietnam[AG]
 Thailand
 Congo
 Dahomey[AH]
 Guinea[AI]
 Ivory Coast
 Kenya
 Lesotho
 Mauritius
 Sierra Leone
 Tanzania
 Togo
 Zaire[AJ]
none 21
Argentina
1978
none none  Barbados
 Dominican Republic
 Guyana
 Panama
 Bahrain
 Qatar
 Republic of China[AK]
 Saudi Arabia
 Singapore
 Malawi
 Mauritania
 Niger
 Uganda
 Upper Volta[AL]
none 14
Spain
1982
none none  Grenada  Macau  Gambia
 Liberia[AM]
 Madagascar[AN]
 Mozambique
 Somalia
 Fiji 8
Mexico
1986
none none none  Bangladesh
 Brunei
 Jordan
 India[AO]
   Nepal
 North Yemen[AP]
 South Yemen
 United Arab Emirates[AQ]
 Angola none 9
Italy
1990
none none none  Oman[AR]
 Pakistan
 Gabon[AS] none 3
United States
1994
 Faroe Islands
 San Marino
none  Nicaragua
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Lebanon[AT]
 Sri Lanka[AU]
 Botswana
 Burundi
 Namibia
 South Africa
 Swaziland
 Solomon Islands
 Tahiti
 Vanuatu
15
France
1998
 Armenia
 Azerbaijan
 Belarus
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 Georgia
 Liechtenstein[AV]
 Macedonia
 Moldova
 Slovakia
 Slovenia
 Ukraine
none  Aruba
 Belize
 Cayman Islands
 Dominica
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Cambodia
 Kazakhstan
 Kyrgyzstan
 Maldives[AW]
 Philippines[AX]
 Tajikistan
 Turkmenistan
 Uzbekistan
 Guinea-Bissau
 Rwanda[AY]
 Cook Islands
 Papua New Guinea
 Tonga
 Western Samoa[AZ]
31
South KoreaJapan
2002
 Andorra none  Anguilla
 Bahamas[BA]
 British Virgin Islands
 Montserrat
 Turks and Caicos Islands
 U.S. Virgin Islands
 Guam
 Laos
 Mongolia
 Palestine
 Cape Verde
 Central African Republic[BB]
 Chad
 Djibouti
 Equatorial Guinea
 Eritrea
 Mali[BC]
 São Tomé and Príncipe[BD]
 Seychelles
 American Samoa 21
Germany
2006
none none none  Afghanistan none  New Caledonia 2
South Africa
2010
 Montenegro none none  Myanmar[BE]
 Timor-Leste
 Comoros  Tuvalu[BF] 5
Brazil
2014
none none none none none none 0
Russia
2018
 Gibraltar
 Kosovo
none none  Bhutan[BG]  South Sudan none 4
Total 215[BH]
Notes
  1. ^ The Czechoslovakia team was officially renamed as the  Representation of Czechs and Slovaks during the 1994 qualification, and was then succeeded by the  Czech Republic (first appearance: 1998).
  2. ^ Germany was later succeeded by  West Germany (first appearance: 1954), which in turn was succeeded by the reunified  Germany (first appearance: 1994).
  3. ^ The Irish Free State was later succeeded by  Ireland (first appearance: 1950), which later became officially known as the  Republic of Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  4. ^ Italy had to qualify for the tournament despite being the host.
  5. ^ The  Kingdom of Yugoslavia was later succeeded by the  Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1950), which was then succeeded by the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1998), which was later renamed as  Serbia and Montenegro (first appearance: 2006), which in turn was succeeded by  Serbia (first appearance: 2010).
  6. ^ Mandatory Palestine was later succeeded by  Israel (first appearance: 1950).
  7. ^ Egypt was later succeeded by the  United Arab Republic, a political union between Egypt and Syria, which entered the 1962 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. Later, Egypt entered the 1966 qualification independently but still under the name "United Arab Republic", but withdrew yet again before playing any matches. The team's first appearance after it changed its name back to  Egypt came in 1974.
  8. ^ Ireland was later succeeded by  Northern Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  9. ^ Turkey entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  10. ^ Brazil entered the 1934 and 1938 qualifications, but on both occasions qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1950 World Cup as host.
  11. ^ Chile entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  12. ^ Paraguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  13. ^ Japan entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  14. ^ The Soviet Union was later succeeded by  Russia (first appearance: 1994).
  15. ^ Argentina entered the 1934 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1938 and 1950 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  16. ^ Bolivia entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  17. ^ Colombia entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  18. ^ Peru entered the 1934, 1950 and 1954 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  19. ^ Uruguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1954 World Cup as defending champion.
  20. ^ Costa Rica entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  21. ^ The  Territory of Curaçao (six islands) was later succeeded by the  Netherlands Antilles (first appearance: 1962), which in turn was succeeded by  Curaçao (one island; first appearance: 2014).
  22. ^ Indonesia entered the 1938 qualification as  Dutch East Indies, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  23. ^ Cyprus entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  24. ^ Ecuador entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  25. ^ Dutch Guyana entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later succeeded by  Suriname (first appearance: 1978).
  26. ^ Venezuela entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  27. ^ El Salvador entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  28. ^ Algeria entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  29. ^ Cameroon entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  30. ^ Libya entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  31. ^ Rhodesia was later succeeded by  Zimbabwe (first appearance: 1982).
  32. ^ Senegal entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  33. ^ South Vietnam was later succeeded by  Vietnam (first appearance: 1994).
  34. ^ Dahomey was later renamed as  Benin (first appearance: 1986).
  35. ^ Guinea entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  36. ^ Zaire was renamed as  DR Congo during the 1998 qualification.
  37. ^ The Republic of China entered the 1954 and 1958 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches. It later became officially known as  Chinese Taipei (first appearance: 1982).
  38. ^ Upper Volta was later renamed as  Burkina Faso (first appearance: 1990).
  39. ^ Liberia entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  40. ^ Madagascar entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  41. ^ India entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals, and subsequently withdrew from participation in the finals. It also entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  42. ^ North Yemen was later succeeded by  Yemen (first appearance: 1994).
  43. ^ The United Arab Emirates entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  44. ^ Oman entered the 1986 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  45. ^ Gabon entered the 1966 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  46. ^ Lebanon entered but was disqualified during the 1986 qualification, and the team's matches from that campaign were annulled.
  47. ^ Sri Lanka entered the 1974 and 1978 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  48. ^ Liechtenstein entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  49. ^ The Maldives entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  50. ^ The Philippines entered the 1950 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  51. ^ Rwanda entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  52. ^ Western Samoa entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later renamed as  Samoa (first appearance: 2002).
  53. ^ The Bahamas entered the 1998 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  54. ^ The Central African Republic entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1982 qualification, but was disqualified before playing any matches.
  55. ^ Mali entered the 1966, 1994 and 1998 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  56. ^ São Tomé and Príncipe entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  57. ^ Myanmar entered the 1950 (as  Burma), 1994 and 2002 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  58. ^ Tuvalu was not a member of FIFA at the time of qualification and had not entered the FIFA World Cup, although matches in the Football tournament of the South Pacific Games did count towards the qualification tournament for the OFC, and Tuvalu's results did count in determining advancement from this stage.
  59. ^ Bhutan entered the 2010 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  60. ^ Confederation subtotals are not given because a few teams have appeared in World Cup qualifiers in multiple confederations.

National teams results in World Cup preliminary competition (1934–2018)[edit]

Legend
Team has won the World Cup
Team has qualified for the main tournament through a qualifying process
Team has qualified for the main tournament only by walkover (Cuba and Indonesia)
Team has qualified for the main tournament by walkover but hasn't participated there because it withdrew (India)
Team hasn't qualified for the main tournament
Defunct team that has qualified for the main tournament (East Germany)
Defunct team that never qualified for the main tournament (Saar and South Yemen)
Team is not a member of FIFA and is not eligible for the main tournament (Tuvalu)

Teams in bold are still participating in the 2018 qualification. The table is updated to matches played in March 2017.

Team Appearances[n 1] Overall qualification record Points[n 2] Confederation
Pld W D L GF GA GD Total Avg
 Mexico 15 169 110 35 24 425 120 +305 365 2.160 CONCACAF
 Costa Rica 15 166 83 40 43 288 171 +117 289 1.741 CONCACAF
 South Korea 14 132 82 34 16 262 83 +179 280 2.121 AFC
 Australia 14 134 78 34 22 351 105 +246 268 2.000 AFC
 Iran 10 125 77 32 16 263 79 +184 263 2.104 AFC
 United States 17 148 75 34 39 257 175 +82 259 1.750 CONCACAF
 Netherlands 18 120 78 24 18 283 87 +196 258 2.150 UEFA
 Argentina 12 132 74 33 25 231 125 +106 255 1.932 CONMEBOL
 Spain 18 112 76 25 11 259 75 +184 253 2.259 UEFA
 Sweden 19 124 76 20 28 250 115 +135 248 2.000 UEFA
 Czech Republic (1998—)
 Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (1994)
 Czechoslovakia (1934–1994)
19 133 73 28 32 257 110 +147 247 1.857 UEFA
 Serbia (2010—)
 Serbia and Montenegro (2006)
 FR Yugoslavia (1998–2002)
 SFR Yugoslavia (1950–1990)
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1934–1938)
19 123 72 30 21 261 110 +151 246 2.000 UEFA
 Portugal 20 134 71 33 30 249 138 +111 246 1.836 UEFA
 Russia (1994—)
 Soviet Union (1958–1990)
15 115 73 23 19 227 75 +152 242 2.104 UEFA
 Belgium 19 128 72 25 31 256 137 +119 241 1.883 UEFA
 Uruguay 15 150 67 40 43 212 161 +51 241 1.607 CONMEBOL
 England 16 107 72 24 11 265 64 +201 240 2.243 UEFA
 Italy 16 102 71 24 7 213 64 +149 237 2.324 UEFA
 Honduras 13 142 67 36 39 245 160 +85 237 1.669 CONCACAF
 Saudi Arabia 11 115 67 28 20 228 88 +140 229 1.991 AFC
 Brazil 12 106 66 28 12 234 69 +165 226 2.132 CONMEBOL
 Japan 14 117 67 25 25 244 83 +161 226 1.932 AFC
 Germany (1994—)
 West Germany (1954–1990)
 Germany (1934–1938)
14 89 69 18 2 269 67 +202 225 2.528 UEFA
 Paraguay 16 150 64 30 56 195 185 +10 222 1.480 CONMEBOL
 Romania 17 123 65 25 33 217 128 +89 220 1.789 UEFA
 El Salvador 12 140 63 28 49 233 168 +65 217 1.550 CONCACAF
 Colombia 15 148 57 43 48 177 155 +22 214 1.446 CONMEBOL
  Switzerland 19 125 59 32 34 191 142 +49 209 1.672 UEFA
 Chile 14 142 60 29 53 215 187 +28 209 1.472 CONMEBOL
 France 17 106 62 22 22 208 85 +123 208 1.962 UEFA
 China PR 11 105 64 15 26 225 71 +154 207 1.971 AFC
 Scotland 18 120 59 26 35 182 132 +50 203 1.692 UEFA
 Bulgaria 19 124 59 26 39 203 168 +35 203 1.637 UEFA
 Republic of Ireland (1954—)
 Ireland (1950)
 Irish Free State (1934–1938)
20 134 54 40 40 193 161 +32 202 1.507 UEFA
 Austria 18 118 57 26 35 206 131 +75 197 1.669 UEFA
 Nigeria 14 100 56 28 16 169 76 +93 196 1.960 CAF
 Hungary 18 117 56 26 35 210 155 +55 194 1.658 UEFA
 Tunisia 14 100 55 26 19 172 80 +92 191 1.910 CAF
 Poland 18 112 56 21 35 212 135 +77 189 1.687 UEFA
 Trinidad and Tobago 13 131 54 27 50 196 170 +26 189 1.443 CONCACAF
 Denmark 15 115 53 28 34 194 137 +57 187 1.626 UEFA
 Greece 19 121 52 26 43 151 164 −13 182 1.504 UEFA
 Morocco 14 107 48 37 22 139 80 +59 181 1.692 CAF
 Guatemala 14 122 49 31 42 194 150 +44 178 1.459 CONCACAF
 Canada 13 117 48 34 35 161 136 +25 178 1.521 CONCACAF
 Ecuador 14 139 47 33 59 166 193 −27 174 1.252 CONMEBOL
 New Zealand 12 92 52 16 24 213 94 +119 172 1.870 OFC
 Cameroon 13 83 50 20 13 139 59 +80 170 2.048 CAF
 Qatar 11 109 49 22 38 176 114 +62 169 1.550 AFC
 Egypt 14 89 50 18 21 161 86 +75 168 1.888 CAF
 Uzbekistan 6 91 49 18 24 177 92 +85 165 1.813 AFC
 Iraq 11 98 46 23 29 197 101 +96 161 1.643 AFC
 Kuwait 12 93 48 14 31 160 92 +68 158 1.699 AFC
 Turkey 17 123 45 23 55 169 179 −10 158 1.285 UEFA
 Northern Ireland (1954—)
 Ireland (1950)
18 127 40 35 52 142 156 −14 155 1.220 UEFA
 Peru 15 143 40 34 69 157 208 −51 154 1.077 CONMEBOL
 Norway 18 121 41 29 51 158 171 −13 152 1.256 UEFA
 Israel (1950—)
 Palestine, British Mandate (1934–1938)
20 117 39 34 44 165 172 −7 151 1.291 UEFA
 Zambia 13 92 43 19 30 139 84 +55 148 1.609 CAF
 Ivory Coast 11 74 40 24 10 140 63 +77 144 1.946 CAF
 United Arab Emirates 9 94 41 19 34 158 108 +50 142 1.511 AFC
 Bolivia 15 146 38 28 80 173 278 −105 142 0.973 CONMEBOL
 Algeria 13 85 39 23 23 122 85 +37 140 1.647 CAF
 Jamaica 10 104 37 27 40 115 132 −17 138 1.327 CONCACAF
 Ghana 13 79 39 19 21 125 63 +62 136 1.722 CAF
 North Korea 10 83 39 19 25 116 77 +39 136 1.639 AFC
 Haiti 13 90 39 17 34 152 120 +32 134 1.489 CONCACAF
 Wales 18 115 34 25 56 146 168 −22 127 1.104 UEFA
 Syria 14 79 35 17 27 165 89 +76 122 1.544 AFC
 Ukraine 6 65 32 22 11 102 47 +55 118 1.815 UEFA
 DR Congo (1998—)
 Zaire (1974–1998)
10 72 34 16 22 120 78 +42 118 1.639 CAF
 Bahrain 10 88 31 25 32 105 94 +11 118 1.341 AFC
 Croatia 6 55 33 16 6 100 43 +57 115 2.091 UEFA
 Guinea 12 70 34 10 26 108 85 +23 112 1.600 CAF
 Finland 19 124 30 21 73 128 282 −154 111 0.895 UEFA
 Oman 8 70 29 19 22 115 70 +45 106 1.514 AFC
 Slovakia 6 59 29 14 16 103 60 +43 101 1.712 UEFA
 Jordan 9 70 28 14 28 105 92 +13 98 1.400 AFC
 Panama 10 88 25 20 43 97 149 −52 95 1.080 CONCACAF
 Angola 9 61 24 22 15 79 57 +22 94 1.541 CAF
 Venezuela 12 136 24 22 90 118 313 −195 94 0.691 CONMEBOL
 South Africa 7 46 28 8 10 62 37 +25 92 2.000 CAF
 Iceland 13 101 24 19 58 108 214 −106 91 0.901 UEFA
 Senegal 12 60 23 20 17 84 57 +27 89 1.483 CAF
 Thailand 12 86 24 17 45 113 151 −38 89 1.035 AFC
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 53 26 9 18 101 61 +40 87 1.642 UEFA
 Kenya 12 68 23 16 29 77 91 −14 85 1.250 CAF
 Slovenia 6 57 23 14 20 73 64 +9 83 1.456 UEFA
 Burkina Faso (1990—)
 Upper Volta (1978)
8 56 25 8 23 80 73 +7 83 1.482 CAF
 Hong Kong 12 73 23 14 36 91 128 −37 83 1.137 AFC
 Cuba 11 68 20 20 28 85 102 −17 80 1.176 CONCACAF
 Zimbabwe (1982—)
 Rhodesia (1970)
10 61 21 16 24 62 75 −13 79 1.295 CAF
 Togo 10 63 21 14 28 68 86 −18 77 1.222 CAF
 East Germany 9 47 22 8 17 87 65 +22 74 1.574 defunct
 Congo 9 58 21 11 26 66 74 −8 74 1.276 CAF
 Indonesia 12 71 19 16 36 87 143 −56 73 1.028 AFC
 Libya 10 52 20 12 20 59 57 +2 72 1.385 CAF
 Lebanon 7 56 19 14 23 87 77 +10 71 1.268 AFC
 Suriname (1978—)
 Dutch Guyana (1962–1974)
13 65 19 14 32 91 111 −20 71 1.092 CONCACAF
 Gabon 8 53 20 10 23 55 58 −3 70 1.321 CAF
 Fiji 8 51 20 9 22 108 94 +14 69 1.353 OFC
 Latvia 8 70 18 14 38 77 121 −44 68 0.971 UEFA
 Singapore 11 68 19 10 39 74 121 −47 67 0.985 AFC
 Lithuania 9 68 17 15 36 57 100 −43 66 0.971 UEFA
 Solomon Islands 6 50 19 8 23 104 102 +2 65 1.300 OFC
 Malaysia 12 59 16 14 29 69 111 −42 62 1.051 AFC
 Sudan 12 64 15 17 32 56 101 −45 62 0.969 CAF
 Albania 12 99 16 13 70 66 183 −117 61 0.616 UEFA
 Tahiti 6 43 17 8 18 66 81 −15 59 1.372 OFC
 New Caledonia 3 33 17 7 9 83 33 +50 58 1.758 OFC
 Malawi 10 58 14 16 28 56 83 −27 58 1.000 CAF
 Liberia 9 58 15 12 31 39 84 −45 57 0.983 CAF
 Curaçao (2014—)
 Netherlands Antilles (1962–2010)
 Territory of Curaçao (1958)
15 60 13 18 29 53 116 −63 57 0.950 CONCACAF
 Turkmenistan 6 40 17 5 18 64 59 +5 56 1.400 AFC
 Bermuda 6 36 15 9 12 76 46 +30 54 1.500 CONCACAF
 Estonia 9 71 14 10 47 57 162 −105 52 0.732 UEFA
 Cyprus 15 109 13 13 83 81 289 −208 52 0.477 UEFA
 Mali 5 36 14 8 14 50 46 +4 50 1.389 CAF
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6 58 14 8 36 77 170 −93 50 0.862 CONCACAF
 Uganda 9 38 14 7 17 39 55 −16 49 1.289 CAF
 Belarus 6 53 12 12 29 57 86 −29 48 0.906 UEFA
 Yemen (1994—)
 North Yemen (1986–1990)
9 50 12 11 27 52 80 −28 47 0.940 AFC
 Tajikistan 6 36 13 7 16 63 55 +8 46 1.278 AFC
 Macedonia 6 55 12 10 33 63 98 −35 46 0.836 UEFA
 Benin (1986—)
 Dahomey (1974)
8 44 13 7 24 46 89 −43 46 1.045 CAF
 Kazakhstan 6 55 12 10 33 68 115 −47 46 0.836 UEFA
 Madagascar 9 36 12 8 16 45 51 −6 44 1.222 CAF
 Antigua and Barbuda 9 42 13 5 24 66 93 −27 44 1.048 CONCACAF
 Armenia 6 57 10 13 34 48 106 −58 43 0.754 UEFA
 Sierra Leone 10 45 11 9 25 39 69 −30 42 0.933 CAF
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 5 30 11 8 11 64 54 +10 41 1.367 CONCACAF
 India 8 43 10 11 22 43 87 −44 41 0.953 AFC
 Kyrgyzstan 6 31 12 4 15 38 49 −11 40 1.290 AFC
 Ethiopia 11 41 10 10 21 47 65 −18 40 0.976 CAF
 Georgia 6 51 9 13 29 47 83 −36 40 0.784 UEFA
 Vanuatu 6 37 12 3 22 76 89 −13 39 1.054 OFC
 Cape Verde 5 30 11 3 16 30 38 −8 36 1.200 CAF
 Vietnam (1994—)
 South Vietnam (1974)
8 41 11 3 27 43 81 −38 36 0.878 AFC
 Namibia 7 42 9 9 24 37 82 −45 36 0.857 CAF
 Dominican Republic 7 29 10 5 14 42 50 −8 35 1.207 CONCACAF
 Botswana 6 34 10 5 19 33 52 −19 35 1.029 CAF
 Barbados 7 37 10 4 23 35 73 −38 34 0.919 CONCACAF
 Mozambique 8 34 8 8 18 30 50 −20 32 0.941 CAF
 Niger 7 30 9 5 16 27 48 −21 32 1.067 CAF
 Azerbaijan 6 53 6 14 33 22 93 −71 32 0.604 UEFA
 Bangladesh 9 48 9 5 34 33 122 −89 32 0.667 AFC
 Palestine 5 26 8 7 11 46 37 +9 31 1.192 AFC
 Montenegro 3 25 7 10 8 37 37 0 31 1.240 UEFA
 Tanzania 9 33 7 10 16 35 50 −15 31 0.939 CAF
 Samoa (2002—)
 Western Samoa (1998)
5 26 9 1 16 37 88 −51 28 1.077 OFC
 Papua New Guinea 4 20 7 6 7 40 31 +9 27 1.350 OFC
 Belize 5 26 7 6 13 32 54 −22 27 1.038 CONCACAF
 Rwanda 6 36 6 9 21 29 54 −25 27 0.750 CAF
 Guyana 9 34 7 6 21 36 81 −45 27 0.794 CONCACAF
 Moldova 6 53 5 11 37 33 105 −72 26 0.491 UEFA
 Grenada 6 25 7 3 15 49 54 −5 24 0.960 CONCACAF
 Burundi 6 20 7 3 10 17 26 −9 24 1.200 CAF
 Gambia 8 24 6 6 12 20 36 −16 24 1.000 CAF
 Faroe Islands 7 65 6 6 53 32 176 −144 24 0.369 UEFA
 Maldives 6 32 7 2 23 36 120 −84 23 0.719 AFC
 Nicaragua 6 22 7 1 14 25 44 −19 22 1.000 CONCACAF
 Saint Lucia 6 24 7 1 16 32 62 −30 22 0.917 CONCACAF
 Tonga 5 22 7 1 14 23 82 −59 22 1.000 OFC
 Chinese Taipei 11 58 6 4 48 35 200 −165 22 0.379 AFC
 Puerto Rico 8 25 5 6 14 22 55 −33 21 0.840 CONCACAF
 Luxembourg 20 129 4 8 117 67 419 −352 20 0.155 UEFA
 Chad 5 16 6 1 9 15 23 −8 19 1.187 CAF
 Swaziland 7 19 4 4 11 15 39 −24 16 0.842 CAF
   Nepal 7 30 4 4 22 23 100 −77 16 0.533 AFC
 Bahamas 4 14 4 3 7 20 43 −23 15 1.071 CONCACAF
 Philippines 4 21 4 3 14 16 57 −41 15 0.714 AFC
 Sri Lanka 7 31 3 6 22 21 75 −54 15 0.484 AFC
 Malta 12 97 2 9 86 32 288 −256 15 0.155 UEFA
 Equatorial Guinea 5 20 4 2 14 17 36 −19 14 0.700 CAF
 Lesotho 7 24 2 8 14 14 51 −37 14 0.583 CAF
 Aruba 5 16 4 1 11 23 42 −19 13 0.812 CONCACAF
 Dominica 5 20 3 4 13 15 54 −39 13 0.650 CONCACAF
 Laos 4 26 3 3 20 23 124 −101 12 0.462 AFC
 Liechtenstein 6 55 2 6 47 23 165 −142 12 0.218 UEFA
 Myanmar 3 14 3 2 9 11 38 −27 11 0.786 AFC
 Macau 9 35 3 2 30 15 165 −150 11 0.314 AFC
 Afghanistan 4 14 3 1 10 10 45 −35 10 0.714 AFC
 Cook Islands 5 20 3 1 16 16 63 −47 10 0.500 OFC
 American Samoa 4 18 3 1 14 11 136 −125 10 0.556 OFC
 Mauritania 6 16 2 3 11 13 31 −18 9 0.562 CAF
 U.S. Virgin Islands 4 15 3 0 12 8 80 −72 9 0.600 CONCACAF
 Cambodia 5 26 2 3 21 16 90 −74 9 0.346 AFC
 Timor-Leste 3 14 2 2 10 11 55 −44 8 0.571 AFC
 Guinea-Bissau 6 12 1 4 7 8 19 −11 7 0.583 CAF
 São Tomé and Príncipe 4 8 2 1 5 4 22 −18 7 0.875 CAF
 Guam 2 10 2 1 7 3 51 −48 7 0.700 AFC
 Mauritius 7 18 1 3 14 14 49 −35 6 0.333 CAF
 Bhutan 1 10 2 0 8 8 53 −45 6 0.600 AFC
 Andorra 5 47 1 3 43 13 152 −139 6 0.128 UEFA
 Cayman Islands 5 16 0 5 11 6 35 −29 5 0.313 CONCACAF
 Saar 1 4 1 1 2 4 8 −4 4 1.000 defunct
 Central African Republic 3 10 1 1 8 8 21 −13 4 0.400 CAF
 Mongolia 5 14 1 1 12 6 51 −45 4 0.286 AFC
 Djibouti 4 13 1 1 11 6 56 −50 4 0.308 CAF
 Pakistan 8 30 0 4 26 12 118 −106 4 0.133 AFC
 Eritrea 4 8 0 3 5 3 16 −13 3 0.375 CAF
 Comoros 3 8 0 3 5 4 18 −14 3 0.375 CAF
 Somalia 6 11 0 3 8 1 26 −25 3 0.273 CAF
 British Virgin Islands 4 10 0 3 7 7 34 −27 3 0.300 CONCACAF
 Turks and Caicos Islands 4 10 1 0 9 6 46 −40 3 0.300 CONCACAF
 Brunei 3 14 1 0 13 3 59 −56 3 0.214 AFC
 Seychelles 5 14 0 2 12 6 36 −30 2 0.143 CAF
 San Marino 7 61 0 2 59 10 282 −272 2 0.033 UEFA
 South Yemen 1 2 0 1 1 4 7 −3 1 0.500 defunct
 South Sudan 1 2 0 1 1 1 5 −4 1 0.500 CAF
 Kosovo 1 5 0 1 4 2 14 −12 1 0.200 UEFA
 Tuvalu 1 4 0 1 3 2 22 −20 1 0.250 OFC
 Montserrat 4 9 0 1 8 8 45 −37 1 0.111 CONCACAF
 Anguilla 4 10 0 1 9 2 41 −39 1 0.100 CONCACAF
 Gibraltar 1 5 0 0 5 2 22 −20 0 0.000 UEFA
Footnotes
  1. ^ Only qualifying campaigns are counted where the team played at least one match that was not annulled.
  2. ^ The three points for a win system is used. Note that these columns do not represent any official rankings.

Top scorers in preliminary competition (1934–2018)[edit]

Players in bold are still active.

# Nation Player Goals Games
played
Goal
ratio
Qualification tournaments
1 Guatemala Carlos Ruiz 39 47 0.75 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (10), 2010 (6), 2014 (6), 2018 (9)
2 Iran Ali Daei 35 50 0.70 1994 (7 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (10), 2006 (9)
3 Iran Karim Bagheri 28 29 0.97 1998 (19 goals), 2002 (8), 2010 (1)
4 Japan Kazu Miura 27 25 1.08 1994 (13 goals), 1998 (14)
5 Ukraine Andriy Shevchenko 26 40 0.65 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (10), 2006 (6), 2010 (6)
6 Honduras Carlos Pavón 25 37 0.68 1998 (2 goals), 2002 (15), 2006 (1), 2010 (7)
7 Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo 24 33 0.73 2006 (7 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (9)
8 Mexico Jared Borgetti 23 24 0.96 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (14), 2010 (3)
9 Australia Tim Cahill 23 x x 2006 (7 goals), 2010 (4), 2014 (3), 2018 (9)
10 Bosnia and Herzegovina Edin Džeko 22 25 0.86 2010 (9 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (3)
11 Costa Rica Paulo Wanchope 21 37 0.57 1998 (6 goals), 2002 (7), 2006 (8)
12 Australia Archie Thompson 20 15 1.33 2002 (16 goals), 2006 (2), 2014 (2)
13 Trinidad and Tobago Stern John 20 49 0.41 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (3), 2006 (12), 2010 (2)
14 New Zealand Vaughan Coveny 19 19 1.00 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (6)
15 Haiti Emmanuel Sanon 19 20 0.95 1974 (11 goals), 1978 (8)
16 Portugal Pauleta 19 24 0.79 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (11)
17 Sweden Zlatan Ibrahimović 19 29 0.66 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (8), 2010 (2), 2014 (8)
18 Argentina Hernán Crespo 19 33 0.58 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (7)
19 Uruguay Luis Suárez 19 44 0.43 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (3)
20 Ivory Coast Didier Drogba 18 19 0.95 2006 (9 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (3)
21 Burkina Faso Moumouni Dagano 18 24 0.60 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (5), 2010 (12)
22 Cameroon Samuel Eto'o 18 29 0.62 2002 (3 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (9), 2014 (2)
23 El Salvador Raúl Díaz Arce 18 29 0.62 1994 (2 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (7)
24 Chile Marcelo Salas 18 32 0.56 1998 (11 goals), 2002 (4), 2006 (1), 2010 (2)
25 Republic of Ireland Robbie Keane 18 37 0.49 2002 (2 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (6), 2014 (6)
26 United States Clint Dempsey 18 38 0.47 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (5)
27 Argentina Lionel Messi 18 41 0.44 2010 (4 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (4)
28 Chile Iván Zamorano 17 11 1.54 1990 (1 goal), 1998 (12), 2002 (4)
29 Bulgaria Dimitar Berbatov 17 12 1.42 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (8), 2010 (5)
30 Switzerland Alexander Frei 17 14 1.21 2002 (5 goals), 2006 (7), 2010 (5)
31 Belize Deon McCaulay 17 16 1.06 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (4)
32 Costa Rica Alvaro Saborio 17 41 0.41 2006 (3 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (8)
33 Trinidad and Tobago Steve David 17 x x 1974 (13 goals), 1978 (4)

(update of FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers in progress, last update: 29 March 2017)

Current format[edit]

Currently, 32 places are available in the final tournament. One of them is reserved for the host nation, but if two or more nations host the competition jointly, each is awarded a place. From 1934 to 2002, one berth was reserved for the winners of the previous World Cup. In November 2001, FIFA announced that the defending champion would no longer get automatic entry to the subsequent tournament, starting with the 2006 finals. This decision was made to address the issue of the returning champions being at a disadvantage to their fellow competitors due to having not played a competitive match in the previous two years.[3] The problem was amply demonstrated at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as returning champions France tumbled out in the first round, finishing bottom of their group without scoring a single goal. 2002 winner Brazil qualified for 2006 at the top of their qualifiers group. However, Italy, defending champions from 2006, finished bottom of their group in 2010, despite playing in the qualifying matches. At Brazil 2014, 2010 champions Spain finished third in their group and failed to advance to the Round of 16, despite having qualified as first in their group.

FIFA decides beforehand the number of spots awarded to each of the continental zones. For the 2018 World Cup, the following numbers are being used:[4]

  • UEFA (Europe) – 13 berths, plus the host Russia
  • CAF (Africa) – 5 berths
  • AFC (Asia) – 4 berths
  • CONMEBOL (South America) – 4 berths
  • CONCACAF (North and Central America and Caribbean) – 3 berths
  • 2 berths for the winners of intercontinental play-offs between the best team from the OFC (Oceania), as well as additional teams from the AFC, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF. The pairings for these play-offs will be determined by an open draw.

The number of berths allocated per continent is widely debated, with the main point of contention being the extent to which berths should be allocated to regions based on sheer population vs. talent. A historically weaker continent, Africa has called for more places, as they are allocated only five in comparison to Europe's 13.[5] In early October 2016, it was announced that the World Cup would have featured 40 teams starting with the 2026 tournament,[6] then FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated his support for a 48-team World Cup,[7] mainly to address African concerns. On 10 January 2017, the FIFA Council voted unanimously to expand the World Cup to a 48 team tournament that will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, with two teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32.[8] The new format for the qualifying process has yet to be confirmed.

These numbers vary slightly between tournaments (see above).

Qualification in all zones ends at approximately the same time, in September–November of the year preceding the finals.

The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations and over time. The systems being used in 2018 are outlined below.

Africa[edit]

The CAF qualification process began with two preliminary rounds (to narrow the field of 53 entrants to 20 teams) in October 2015. Zimbabwe were disqualified and therefore ineligible.

The group stage consisted of 5 groups of 4, with the group winners advancing to the World Cup finals.

Asia[edit]

Bhutan and Guam entered the AFC qualification process, while Indonesia were suspended and therefore ineligible.

Qualifying was altered significantly from the 2014 method, with changes to the structure of the preliminary rounds – which were held before the main draw. One home-and-away preliminary round reduced the 12 entrants to 6, followed by a first group stage with the 6 first round winners joining the top sides and 4 best runners-up from 5 groups of 5 advancing to a final group stage. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 5 advanced to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off in the fourth round for the right to play in an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot. The first two rounds also acted as the qualifiers for the expanded 2019 AFC Asian Cup.[9]

A total of 24 teams eliminated from World Cup qualification in the second round compete in the third round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification (which is separate from the third round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification), where they are divided into six groups of four teams and compete for the remaining slots of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The 24 teams consist of the 16 highest ranked teams eliminated in the second round, and the eight teams that advance from the play-off round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification which are contested by the remaining 12 teams eliminated in the second round.[10]

Europe[edit]

The European qualification is unchanged from the 2014 system. The 52 national teams were divided into nine groups (seven groups of six teams and two groups of five teams), with the group winners qualifying directly to the finals, and the best eight runners-up playing home-and-away ties for the remaining four places.[11]

With the admission of Gibraltar and Kosovo as FIFA members in May 2016, both national teams made their debuts in World Cup qualifying.[12] With two groups of only five teams in the first round, Kosovo was assigned to group I as it was decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia should not play against Kosovo for security reasons, and Gibraltar was then added to group H.[13][14]

North and Central America and Caribbean[edit]

The 2018 CONCACAF qualification process has changed significantly from the 2014 qualification cycle. The first three rounds have teams play home-and-away over two legs. A first preliminary round involved the 14 lowest ranked teams and the seven winners advanced to the second round. The 13 higher ranked sides received byes in the second round and were joined by the seven first round winners; the ten winners advanced to the third round. Two higher ranked teams received byes in the third round and were joined by ten second round winners; the six winners advanced to the preliminary group stage.

As in 2014, the remaining 12 teams play in 3 semifinal groups of 4 teams with the top two in each group advancing to a final six-team group.

The final round – often referred to as the "hexagonal" because there are six teams involved – will see the top three teams advance to the World Cup finals, while the fourth placed side will enter an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot.

Oceania[edit]

Qualification in Oceania was held as part of a further competition. The first stage took place with one group of four lowest ranked teams and the winner advanced to the second stage (which also acted as the 2016 OFC Nations Cup). In the second stage the top three teams advanced to the third round, among them Nations Cup champions New Zealand. Two groups of three teams contest the third round, or final group stage, and the winners of each group will enter a two-leg final. The winners of this final advance to an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

South America[edit]

As in recent qualification series CONMEBOL qualification consists of a single group of all entrants. Unlike previous qualifying tournaments where the fixtures were pre-determined, the fixtures were determined by a draw, which was held as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw, on 25 July 2015.[15]

The top 4 teams from the 10-team group will advance to the World Cup finals, while the fifth placed team will enter an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

Intercontinental play-offs[edit]

Like the previous 2014 tournament, the pairings for the two play-offs were determined by an open draw on 25 July 2015, as part of the aforementioned preliminary draw. Intercontinental play-offs are played as home-and-away ties.

Qualification tournament rules[edit]

Qualification tournaments generally consist of a number of stages, made up of groups or knock-out ties.

Groups[edit]

In all group tournaments, three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. FIFA has set the order of the tie-breakers for teams that finish level on points:

  1. goal difference in all group matches
  2. greater number of goals scored in all group matches

Where teams are still not able to be separated, the following tie-breakers are used:

  1. greater number of points obtained in matches between the tied teams
  2. goal difference in matches between the tied teams
  3. greater number of goals scored in matches between the tied teams

Where teams are still equal, then a play-off on neutral ground, with extra time and penalties if necessary will be played if FIFA deems such a play-off able to be fitted within the coordinated international match calendar. If this is not deemed feasible, then the result will be determined by the drawing of lot.

Note that this order of tie-breaker application has not always been applied. While it was used in the 2010 qualifiers, the qualification for the 2006 World Cup used the head-to-head comparison prior to goal difference (although this system was – where applicable – used in the 2006 finals themselves). If these rules had applied in 2006, then Nigeria would have qualified rather than Angola.

Home-and-away ties[edit]

Most knock-out qualifiers (such as the inter-confederation play-offs, the second round of UEFA qualifying and many preliminary ties) are played over two legs. The team that scores a greater aggregate number of goals qualifies. Away goals rule applies. If these rules fail to determine the winner, extra time and penalty shootouts are used.

Occasionally – usually when one entrant lacks adequate facilities to host international matches – ties are played over a single leg, in which case matches level after 90 minutes will go to extra time and then to a penalty shootout if required.

Alternatively, "home" matches can be played in neutral countries, or occasionally one team will host both matches. In the latter case the visiting team will still be considered as the "home" team for one of the legs – which may determine which side advances under the away goals rule, as occurred in CONCACAF qualification in 2010.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "History of the FIFA World Cup preliminary competition (by year)" (PDF). fifa.com. FIFA. November 2009. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "FIFA's 209 member associations" (PDF). fifa.com. FIFA. July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Fifa makes major policy shift". BBC News. 30 November 2001. 
  4. ^ "Current allocation of FIFA World Cup confederation slots maintained" (Press release). FIFA. 30 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Africa calls for FIFA to increase World Cup places". Ahram Online. Reuters. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "New Fifa chief backs 48-team World Cup". heraldlive. 7 October 2016. It’s an idea, just as the World Cup with 40 teams is already on the table with groups of four or five teams. 
  7. ^ "World Cup could expand to 48 teams, Fifa's Gianni Infantino suggests". The Guardian. 3 October 2016. 
  8. ^ "Fifa approves Infantino's plan to expand World Cup to 48 teams from 2026". The Guardian. 10 January 2017. 
  9. ^ "ExCo approves expanded AFC Asian Cup finals". AFC. 16 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "World Cup draw looms large in Asia". FIFA.com. 13 April 2015. Completing the tournament's qualifying contenders will be the next 16 highest ranked teams, with the remaining 12 sides battling it out in play-off matches to claim the last eight spots. 
  11. ^ "Uefa retains 2010 World Cup qualifying format for 2014". bbc.co.uk. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  12. ^ "FIFA Congress drives football forward, first female secretary general appointed". FIFA.com. 13 May 2016. 
  13. ^ "Kosovo to play in Group I in European Qualifiers". uefa.org. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). 9 June 2016. 
  14. ^ "Kosovo and Gibraltar assigned to 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying groups". FIFA.com. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). 9 June 2016. 
  15. ^ "A unanimous decision: A draw will determine the classifications for the World Cup and CONMEBOL Tournaments". CONMEBOL.com. 23 January 2015. 

External links[edit]