2018 World Cup Qualifying Draw
The draw for the qualifying rounds of the 2018 World Cup took place in Moscow this weekend for five of the six confederations. Twenty four countries have already been eliminated from the competition (from the Caribbean and Central American region and Asia), one has been suspended (that’s Zimbabwe) and, of course, one has already qualified as hosts (that’s Russia) but for the remaining 183 nations the dream of qualification for the 2018 World Cup continues.
Africa has a total of 53 countries participating this time and the lowest 26 sides in the continent will be involved in a series of home and away play-offs in round one. The thirteen winners will then be joined in round two by the remaining twenty seven countries and they will play another round of home and away matches to determine which twenty sides will progress to round three. These twenty sides will be divided into five groups of four in which each side will play a series of round-robin matches. The winners of each of these groups will then qualify for Russia 2018.
North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)
There will be a total of five rounds in the CONCACAF section before we know the three (possibly four) teams that will make it to Russia 2018. 17 sides have already been eliminated in rounds one and two with ten sides going on to round three where they will be joined by Jamaica and Haiti. The twelve teams will be divided into six play-off matches and then the six winners will join the ‘big guns‘ of the region including the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica in three groups of four. The top two sides in each of these groups will then reach round five and form the final group – the hexagonal – from which the top three will progress to Russia while the fourth-placed side will meet the fifth-best side from Asia in an inter-continental play-off.
There are 11 teams participating in the Oceania region and the four lowest-ranked of these sides will play off to decide which team will face the remaining seven countries in the next round. Round two will then see two groups of four which will be reduced to six teams for round three. The top teams of each of these groups will face off to decide the continental winners. However, that will not be enough for qualification as Oceania’s representatives will need to face the fifth team from South America over two legs. New Zealand are everyone’s favourites to win the section though whether they will be strong enough to make it to Russia is another issue.
South America (CONMEBOL)
This section is fairly straightforward as all ten countries face each other home and away in one group with the top four teams qualifying for the World Cup finals. The team finishing in fifth place will then face the top team from the Oceania region in November 2017 to determine whether a fifth side from South America will make it through. Brazil and Argentina, of course, are favourites to progress and newly-crowned Copa America champions Chile should also make it leaving one, possibly two, other spot open. With each team playing 18 matches this is probably the most gruelling of all groups.
The 52 teams in the European section have been divided into nine groups; seven of which have six teams and the remaining two with only five. The nine group winners will make it through to the finals in 2016 while the eight best runners-up will enter a home and away play-off to decide the other four qualifiers. The draw has thrown up some interesting groups: The Netherlands and France will face each other in Group A; rivals England and Scotland were both drawn in Group F, while Spain and Italy will meet in Group G.
confederations: The continental organisations, e.g. UEFA is the European confederation
have already been eliminated: Have been knocked out
has been suspended: Zimbabwe were kicked out of the competition
will be involved in: Will play in
to determine: To decide
round-robin matches: When teams play each other in a group system
big guns: A reference to the bigger sides in the region – the powerhouses
the hexagonal: A hexagon has six sides so the hexagonal is a competition involving sides
an inter-continental play-off: Play-offs between teams from different continents
straightforward: Easy to understand
spot: A place
gruelling: Something very tough or hard
will make it through to: Will qualify
runners-up: The team that finishes in second place in a group
has thrown up: Has given us