Football Language Podcast: 2022 World Cup Qualification Process

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In this football language post we look at some of the words and phrases to describe the 2022 World Cup qualification process by looking at how teams from each region will qualify for the finals in Qatar. There is a free transcript with this listening activity along with some vocabulary practice and you can also check out our football glossary and football cliches pages for hundreds more explanations of the language of soccer. If you have questions or comments about this or any other phrase then email us at:

Football Language Podcast: 2022 World Cup Qualification Process

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all doing well and staying safe wherever we are around the world. Now, today’s football language podcast will look at some of the words and phrases that you might hear when talking about the qualification process for the 2022 World Cup. There is of course a transcript to go with this podcast – great for teaching and learning English – and if you have any questions or comments about any of the football language in this report then you can contact us here at:

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Stinger: You are listening to (in Thai).


DF: The Qatar World Cup is due to take place in December 2022 with a total of 209 teams entering the competition although remarkably 28 teams have already been eliminated from the competition – 12 from Asia, 2 from the CONCACAF region and 14 from Africa. As the European qualifiers begin this week with their first set of three fixtures we thought we’d take a look at the qualification process across the six different confederations and to see which teams will be hoping to join Qatar in the finals.

Stinger: You are listening to (in French).

Europe (UEFA) [13 places]

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DF: Right, let’s start with the European section where a record 55 nations will be trying to make it to Qatar in 2022. They have been split into ten groups of either five or six teams which means a team will play either eight or ten qualifiers (playing home and away). All the group winners qualify directly while the best ten runners-up, along with two other teams with the best Nations League record will be divided into three sections of four teams where they will play a semi-final and final to produce the final three places.

Currently there have only been two or three games played but already there have been some surprises. 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia were beaten 1-0 by Slovenia in their opening game, Turkey beat the Netherlands 4-2 and then went on to defeat Norway 3-0 to top Group G, while the holders France were held to a 1-1 draw in Paris by the Ukraine in Group B. It’s a little too soon to make predictions but with only 13 places up for grabs any dropped points will make qualification much tougher.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Japanese).

Asia (AFC) [4 or 5 places]

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DF: Qatar as hosts have already qualified for the finals (their first) but which other teams from the Asian Federation will join them? The AFC qualification started in June 2019 and 6 teams, including Macau, Timor-Leste, Laos and Pakistan have already been eliminated or knocked-out after only playing two games: a home and away knock-out match. This first round determined which six sides went into the second round to play alongside the 34 higher-ranked sides in eight groups of five. The eight group winners and four best runners-up will then advance to the third round where they will be divided into two groups of six in a round-robin tournament. The top two sides will go to the finals while the two third-place finishers will face a play-off to decide which team can play in an inter-continental play-off. This means that Asia will have either five teams plus hosts Qatar or four plus the hosts depending on the results from the play-offs.

Although the latest set of matches have been postponed due to Covid,  the second round group tables have started to take shape with Australia, Japan and surprise package Syria leading their groups with 100% records. South Korea, China, Iraq and Iran, despite thrashing Cambodia 14-0, all have work to do to make it through, while Vietnam and Turkmenistan still hope to qualify for the final round for the first time in their histories.

Stinger: Hello everybody, my name is Umid and I am from Tashkent and you are listening to

North and Central America (CONCACAF) [3 or 4 places]

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35 countries entered the CONCACAF qualifying process with the lowest-ranked 30 of these playing in the first round (split into six groups of five) with the winners going into the second round. Although these groups have not yet been decided two sides have already been eliminated: Cuba and the Cayman Islands, while there could be a surprise in Group C as Curaçao, under Dutch manager Guus Hiddink, hope to knock out Guatemala and make the second round. In this round, the six group winners will play off in three home and away ties with the three winning sides going into the final group stages. This is when the stronger sides in the region (the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Honduras) join in to make one league of eight sides – the top three qualify and the side finishing in fourth place plays in the intercontinental play-off.

Stinger: You are listening to (from a Brazil fan).

South America (CONMEBOL)[4 or 5 places]

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Ten countries play in the CONMEBOL confederation in a round-robin system – this is when each team plays all the others both home and away meaning each team plays 18 matches in total. The top four in the final league table will go through directly to the finals and the team finishing in fifth will go into an intercontinental play-off with one team from either Asia, Oceania or the CONCACAF region.

Currently all teams have played four matches with Brazil, Argentina and surprise package Ecuador in the top three. However, due to the pandemic, the latest rounds of matches have been postponed and there are worries about when the next set of games will actually be played. Colombia, Uruguay and Chile will be the favourites to finish in the top five but maybe Ecuador, Paraguay or Bolivia will challenge. Now, we all know that Brazil have qualified for every World Cup (21 times) but which of the ten CONMEBOL sides has never made it to a finals? That would be Venezuela who will be hoping to make their debut in the Qatar World Cup.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Swahili).

Africa (CAF) [5 places]

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54 countries were involved at the start of the World Cup qualifying process but already this is down to 40 as 14 sides have been eliminated. The first round comprised the 28 lowest-ranked teams in the region with a knock-out round involving a two-legged tie and some of the teams eliminated at this stage included Gambia, Eswatini, Lesotho (on away goals) and Burundi who went out on penalties. The remaining 40 teams were then divided into ten groups with the winners going through to the third round where they will be drawn into five two-legged matches to decide the five places at the finals.

The second round group matches have yet to start but one or two of the groups stand out with powerhouses such as Zambia or Algeria in Group B and Ivory Coast or Cameroon in Group D potentially missing out. The second round group matches are scheduled to begin in May 2021.

Oceania (OFC) [0/1 place]

Oceania has 11 teams in its section and does not have a guaranteed spot at the finals as the winners of this confederation would still have to play an intercontinental play-off against one side from CONMEBOL, CONCACAF or Asia. In order to decide on this team, the OFC has divided the 11 countries into two groups: one with six and the other with five; with the top two sides at the end of the round-robin qualifying for the second round. Here the four teams are divided into semi-finals and final with the winner advancing to the previously mentioned intercontinental knock-out game. This section was due to start matches in the Autumn of 2020 but Covid has meant that these fixtures will now probably take place in January 2022. The favourites will be New Zealand who last qualified for the finals in 2010 when they drew all three of their group matches, indeed, the All Whites are the only team in this section who have actually qualified for any finals (1982 and 2010) as Australia has now left Oceania for the Asian section.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Welsh).

DF: Thanks everyone for listening – we hope you enjoyed our look at the 2022 World Cup qualification process. Listen out for some of the language used in this podcast to describe these qualifying matches when you are watching and maybe you can let us know how this phrase is said in another language. Drop us a line at or, of course, you can leave a comment in the section below the post here at languagecaster.

Don’t forget there is also a transcript for this report which can be accessed for free and we have language support as well here at languagecaster. OK, myself and Damon, who of course is in Tokyo, will be back soon with some more football language. Enjoy all the football this week – see you soon. Bye bye.


  • qualification process: The rules or system on how a team progesses in a competition. It could be a knock-out, a play-off or a round-robin league system.
  • have already been eliminated from the competition: Have been knocked out of the tournament; they are out of the World Cup
  • fixtures: Matches; the list of games that a team (or groups of teams in a league) have to play.
  • confederations: The six governing bodies of continental football (Europe-UEFA; Asia-AFC; Africa-CAF; South America-CONMEBOL and North and Central America-CONCACAF).
  • have been split into: Divided into
  • runners-up: A team finishing in second place
  • were held to a 1-1 draw: One team failed to beat another – this usually suggests a surprise result
  • 13 places up for grabs: 13 places (spots) available in the World Cup for European teams
  • This first round determined which six sides: To determine = to decide
  • a round-robin tournament: A competition in which every team plays every other team (usually home and away) to decide (determine) the winners.
  • an inter-continental play-off: A play-off between teams from different continents/confederations (example: Peru defeated New Zealand in an intercontinental play-off for the 2018 World Cup)
  • first round comprised the 28 lowest-ranked teams: Was made up of 28 teams; included the 28 teams
  • the winner advancing to the…: Moving to the next stage; qualifying

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

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PodcastEpisode 181