Sun. May 29th, 2022

The eight stadiums are ready in Qatar and World Cup tickets were on sale for a week.

Now the race resumes to get remaining tournament slots. With qualifying disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, matches were pushed over the next week or so for teams in the Americas and Asia.

This means that Europe’s top leagues will have to take a mid-season break, even though the continent’s national teams will only play in March when the World Cup play-off rounds take place as scheduled.

Attention will then be drawn to the final draw of the tournament in Doha, capital of Qatar on April 1, which will take place before the intercontinental play-offs in June to complete the 32-team field for the Middle East’s first World Cup.

Who has qualified so far?

Argentina
Belgium
Brazil
Croatia
Denmark
England
France
Germany
Netherlands
Serbia
Spain
Switzerland
Qatar

North and Central America and the Caribbean

A chew will be in the air in CONCACAF for an unusual international January window with triple headers.

The U.S. is hosting El Salvador on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, where the expected temperature for kickoff was -4C (25F). The US then travels to Hamilton, Ontario, to play Canada on Sunday, and continues to complete the window against Honduras in the U.S. city of St Paul, Minnesota.

Meanwhile, in search of its first World Cup appearance since 1986, Canada has four of six remaining games on the road – with games in Honduras and El Salvador including the home game with the Americans.

The U.S., who wants to return to the World Cup after missing 2018, is second in the North and Central American and Caribbean territories with 15 points after eight of 14 games, one point behind Canada. Mexico and Panama have 14 points each, followed by Costa Rica (nine), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six) and Honduras (three).

The top three teams qualify and the fourth team advances to a play-off match against the Oceanian champions, likely New Zealand.

South America

Apart from last place Venezuela, seven other CONMEBOL countries are still in contention to join Brazil and Argentina in Qatar, with four qualifiers left.

Ecuador in third place could move closer to one of the four direct qualifiers on Thursday with a win over Brazil.

Peru and Colombia are both six points behind Ecuador who take their match from fourth and fifth place on Friday.

At a further point are Chile, which hosts Argentina on Thursday, and Uruguay, which is hosted by Paraguay in ninth place.

Bolivia play Venezuela on Friday with two points separating the team in eighth place from the qualifiers.

The team in fifth place after concluding the CONMEBOL qualifier in March can still make it to the tournament by beating an Asian team in the intercontinental play-off rounds in June.

Asia

Iran could qualify for a third World Cup in a row by beating Iraq on Thursday.

South Korea could also clinch a Group A spot with its double-kick over the next week – against Lebanon and Syria.

But after playing in four consecutive World Cups, Australia’s qualification of the other group is in the balance after three games without a win.

Australia has a four-point lead over Oman. But second place is within reach with Australia just one point behind Japan, who take on China and Saudi Arabia over the next week.

The UAE, which qualified for its only World Cup in 1990, will play last week in Syria and Iran, trying to prevent Lebanon, which is one point behind, and Iraq, which has a further point is behind, is overtaken.

Africa

With the continent currently hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, its five World Cup representatives will not be settled before the play-offs in March with the 10 group winners.

There will be a clash between Liverpool team-mates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane while Egypt and Senegal are drawn together, meaning one of the countries will not compete in a second consecutive World Cup.

There is also a meeting between Ghana and Nigeria, both of which failed to reach the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals.

Algeria stand in the way of a World Cup place for the African Cup quarter-finalist and host Cameroon, who left the continental showpiece in the group stage last week with one point from three matches.

Morocco, whose focus is now on the Africa Cup of Nations’ last eight, will play at home and away against the Democratic Republic of Congo in March.

Europe

European teams now have a few weeks off, with their play-off rounds only in March to determine the last three of the continent’s 13-nation entry for Qatar.

The European play-offs feature the 10 teams that finished second in their qualifying groups along with two teams – Austria and the Czech Republic – that won Nations League groups last year.

The European champions, Italy and Portugal, are in the same qualifying play-off match. Four-time world champions Italy, who did not qualify for Russia in 2018, will only play Northern Macedonia in a semi-final at home in March. The winner of the bracket will play away against Portugal or Turkey for a place at the World Cup.

Oceania

Qualifying for Oceania will take place in a mini-tournament in Qatar in March with New Zealand the favorite to advance to a play-off round in June against a team from CONCACAF.

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