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2022 World Cup: How qualifying works around the world

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.

For the 2018 World Cup, FIFA held a gala for the preliminary round draw of all confederations. However, this will not happen for the 2022 tournament.

A FIFA spoksperson told ESPN: "Given the fact that the FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place in November-December and that each confederation plans a different timeline for their qualifiers to the tournament, it has been agreed that a preliminary draw will be held separately for each one of them.

"Discussions involving the other confederations and the draws for their preliminary competitions are currently ongoing. Further details will follow in due course."

FIFA has abandoned plans to expand the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, and will continue with a 32-team competition.

NB: World Cup qualifying has been seriously affected by the coronavirus pandemic with many qualifying paths suspended. At present there is no information about when all of the regions may resume qualifying, though some have confirmed.

EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)

European qualifying home page

There will be 55 European nations to go through qualifying, who will be split into 10 groups when the draw is held on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 -- with seeding based on FIFA's November World Ranking.

Qualifying will begin March 2021, with the next edition of the UEFA Nations League scheduled for September to November in 2020.

There will be 10 groups of 5 or 6 teams -- with the four teams in the UEFA Nations League finals drawn into a group of 5 so they will have free matchdays for the finals. The UEFA Nations League finals will be delayed to September or October 2021 as Euro 2020 has been rearranged to 2021. It means there will likely have to be qualifying treble headers in those month to also catch up with the lost World Cup qualifying dates from June 2021.

Group winners will go direct to the finals.

The final three places with be allocated via playoffs. This will involve the 10 runners-up plus the two best-ranked teams in the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League not to have qualified. There will be three playoff routes, each with four teams with a semifinal and a final for a place at the World Cup, to be held in March 2022.

SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)

South American qualifying home page

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 two rounds of qualifiers in March 2020 were suspended and it is now due to begin in September 2020.

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

CONCACAF qualifying home page

***CONCACAF has confirmed the World Cup Qualifying process has been compromised and will be changed***

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, the September 2020 window has now been scrapped.

The top six teams in the FIFA World Ranking after the June 2020 international window were to automatically form the home-and-away Hexagonal, which seems set to be replaced with three groups of four nations with the group winners qualifying automatically. In previous qualifying tournaments, these six nations also needed to go through the initial multi-group phase. It means that United States, Mexico and Costa Rica would have been effectively guaranteed a place in the Hexagonal -- but the chances of any of these teams not making it through earlier qualifying rounds would be extremely slim anyway.

The 29 nations that aren't in the Hexagonal were supposed to be involved in a separate tournament. Those teams were to be drawn into eight groups, with the winners advancing to a knockout phase. The country that wins the knockout phase would have played against the fourth-placed finisher in the Hexagonal. The winner of that game would then have faced an intercontinental playoff to reach the finals.

AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)

African qualifying home page

The qualifying process has now been confirmed, with a modified format to the 2018 edition.

There are 54 FIFA-affiliated nations.

Round One: The 28 lowest ranked nations play two-legged ties. The ties were played in September 2019, with the full fixture list 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 new match calendar is:

Matchday 1 - Oct. 5-13, 2020
Matchday 2 - Nov. 9-17, 2020
Matchday 3 - March 22-30, 2021
Matchday 4 - March 22-30, 2021
Matchday 5 - Aug. 30 - Sept. 7, 2021
Matchday 6 - Oct. 4-12, 2021

The groups are:

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

Round Three: The 10 group winners will be drawn into head-to-head, two-legged ties for one of the five places at the World Cup. Fixtures to be played in November 2021.

ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)

Asia qualifying home page

The first two rounds of qualifying are 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 join 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 will take part).

The eight group winners and the four best group runners-up go through. If Qatar win their group, seven group winners and five best group runners-up progress.

Latest results can be seen here. Qualifying will resume in October 2020 with the stage completed on Nov. 17.

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, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka

Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations will be drawn into two groups of six teams. Group winners and runners-up qualified for the World Cup. Dates to be confirmed.
Round Four: The teams finishing third in round three played a two-legged playoff. The winners then advanced to an inter-confederation playoff. Dates to be confirmed.

OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)

Oceania qualifying home page

At present there is no information about Oceania qualifying, but four years ago the OFC Nations Cup doubled as World Cup qualifying. The next Nations Cup is yet to be scheduled and all 11 FIFA-affiliated national teams are due to take part.

INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)

This will feature one team each from Asia, CONCACAF, Oceania and South America. A draw will determine the two-legged ties. They will be played in June 2022 -- pushed back from the original scheduled date in March 2022.