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2022 World Cup: How qualifying works around the world

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Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup began on June 6, 2019, when minor nations from the Asian confederation played their first round of matches. Mongolia's Norjmoogiin Tsedenbal scored the very first goal in qualifying in a 2-0 win over Brunei Darussalam.

QUALIFIED (13/32): Qatar (as hosts), Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Belgium, France, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, Argentina

World Cup qualifying has been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic with many qualifying paths suspended. The information below may change depending on the viability of the qualifying paths and local situations.

EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)

European qualifying home page

Qualified teams: Germany, Denmark, Belgium, France, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, Netherlands

There are 55 European nations and qualifying began in March 2021. There were 10 groups of 5 or 6 teams, with qualifying treble headers in March and September to make up for the lost World Cup qualifying dates of June 2021 (when Euro 2020 was played).

The 10 group winners, in bold, went direct to the finals.

Group A: Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan
Group B: Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia, Kosovo
Group C: Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group D: France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan
Group E: Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia
Group F: Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group G: Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, Gibraltar
Group H: Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta
Group I: England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, San Marino
Group J: Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein

- Final tables

The final three places will be allocated via playoffs. This will involve the 10 runners-up plus the two best-ranked group winners from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League who do not finish in the top two in their qualifying group. Austria and Czech Republic qualified for the playoffs by virtue of their Nations League performance.

There will be three routes, each with four teams featuring a semifinal and a final for a place at the World Cup.

The draw is seeded based upon qualifying-round points. The two UEFA Nations League teams will be unseeded. The draw will be held on Nov. 26.

PATH A

Semifinals
Scotland vs. Ukraine
Wales vs. Austria

Final
The winners of Wales vs. Austria will be at home in the final

PATH B

Semifinals
Russia vs. Poland
Sweden vs. Czech Republic

Final
The winners of Russia vs. Poland will be at home in the final

PATH C

Semifinals
Italy vs. North Macedonia
Portugal vs. Turkey

Final
The winners of Portugal vs. Turkey will be at home in the final

The semifinals will be played on Thursday, March 24, with the finals on Tuesday, March 29.

SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)

South American qualifying home page

Qualified teams: Brazil, Argentina

As in recent qualifying competitions, all 10 nations play each other home and away. The top four nations qualify directly to the finals. The fifth-place team will go into an intercontinental playoff (draw to be determined).

The first four rounds of qualifiers in March and September 2020 were suspended and it finally began in October 2020. However, the two planned rounds of matches in March 2021 were postponed due to issues with European players being able to travel to South America amid the pandemic. Qualifying resumed with two rounds of games before the Copa America in early June 2021.

There will be an additional international break in January 2022, in order to complete qualifying in full in the existing format.

Brazil were the first country to qualify, on Nov. 11, 2021, and Argentina followed five days later, leaving two automatic slots to play for.

Remaining match dates:
MD 15: Jan. 27, 2022
MD 16: Feb. 1, 2022
MD 17: March 24, 2022
MD 18: March 29, 2022

- Check out the latest fixtures and results here | Latest table

NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN (CONCACAF; 3.5 PLACES)

CONCACAF qualifying home page

CONCACAF has 35 FIFA-affiliated nations, most of them very minor in world football. A revamped qualification process was confirmed for the 2022 edition, which was due to begin in September 2020 and run to September 2021. However, this was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The format had to be reworked again, as follows:

Round One: Nations ranked 6-35 in the FIFA World Ranking were drawn into six groups of five. Each team played every other team in their group only once, in March and June 2021. The six group winners progressed.

- Final tables

Group A: El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, US Virgin Islands
Group B: Canada,Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba
Group C: Curaçao, Guatemala, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, British Virgin Islands
Group D: Panama, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla
Group E: Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize, St Lucia (withdrew), Turks and Caicos Islands
Group F: Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas

Round Two: The six group winners played home and away in a direct elimination format, on June 12 and 15, 2021. The three winners progressed.

Saint Kitts and Nevis (F) 0-6 El Salvador (A)
Haiti (E) 0-4 Canada (B)
Panama (D) 2-1 Curacao (C)

Final Round: Winners Canada, El Salvador and Panama join the teams ranked 1-5 in FIFA's World Ranking (Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, United States). The eight teams will play each other home and away, a total of 14 matches. The top three qualify directly, with the fourth-placed team going to a intercontinental playoff in June 2022.

Remaining match dates:
MD 9: Jan. 27, 2022
MD 10: Jan. 30, 2022
MD 11: Feb. 2, 2022
MD 12: March 24, 2022
MD 13: March 27, 2022
MD 14: March 30, 2022

- Check out the latest fixtures and results here | Latest table

AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)

African qualifying home page

There are 54 FIFA-affiliated nations.

Round One: The 28 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties, played in September 2019, with the full list of results available here.
Round Two: The 14 winners from the first round were joined by the other 26 African nations. Those 40 teams were split into 10 groups of four teams, with the group winners advancing to the final round.

This round was due to begin in March 2020 and run through to October 2021 until football was suspended. The group stage finally began in September 2021, and was completed in November -- effectively concluding the group phase in 11 weeks.

The groups were:

Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea,
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan
Group J: Congo DR, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania

- Final tables

Round Three: The 10 group winners will be drawn into five head-to-head, two-legged ties to earn one of the five places at the World Cup. Fixtures to be played in March 2022.

The draw will take place on Jan. 26, with the pots as follows:

Seeded: Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria
Unseeded: Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, DR Congo

ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)

Asia qualifying home page

The first two rounds of qualifying were completed exactly the same as four years ago.

Round One: The 12 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties in June 2019. Guam, Macau, Mongolia, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh and Cambodia advanced.
Round Two: The six winners from the first round joined the other 34 Asian nations, drawn into eight groups of five teams -- also played as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup finals (for this reason World Cup hosts Qatar took part).

In an attempt to get all games completed, the AFC decided to hold all matches on a centralised basis. The round was eventually completed between May 31 and June 15, 2021.

The seven group winners (Qatar were the eighth) and the five best group runners-up progressed.

The 12 nations shown in bold advanced to round three.

Group A: China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam
Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal
Group C: Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore
Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar
Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia
Group G: United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Group H: South Korea, Lebanon, North Korea (withdrew), Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka

Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations were drawn into two groups of six teams. Group winners and runners-up will qualify for the World Cup.

Group A: Iran, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
Group B: Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, Vietnam

Remaining match dates:
MD 7: Jan. 27, 2022
MD 8: Feb. 1, 2022
MD 9: March 24, 2022
MD 10: March 29, 2022

- Check out the latest fixtures and results here | Latest tables

Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three played a two-legged playoff, to be played May or June 2022. The winners then advanced to an inter-confederation playoff, to be played June 2022.

OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)

Oceania qualifying home page

All 11 FIFA-affiliated national teams are due to take part.

The draw will take place on Monday, Nov. 29 and while the final format and schedule has not been confirmed, this was the intended system.

Round One: Teams split into two groups based upon FIFA World Ranking playing round robin games. The top two nations in each group progress. It has been postponed several times and while there is no date yet, March 2022 is most likely and with the intercontinental playoffs in June 2022 time is running out to fit the Oceania qualifiers in.
Round Two: The four teams play home and away semifinals and final for the right to go through to the intercontinental playoff.

INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)

AFC vs. CONMEBOL
CONCACAF vs. OFC

The games will be played in Qatar on June 13 and 14.