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          A round-the-world tour with just over a year to go

          World Cup qualifying round-up

          2021/10/13 17:25
          Alex Lawes
          E0

          With just over a year to go until the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the qualification process is heating up. A few teams have already made the finals with a few major nations in serious danger of dropping out.


          AFRICA (CAF)

          African qualification for a FIFA World Cup can often be underestimated in terms of difficulty with the geographical elements playing a major part throughout the continent. It is a continent with several teams boasting genuinely world class talent, but only five berths are on offer. 

          That is something which can cause a major upset or two before the final round has even been drawn. Ivory Coast and Cameroon are in the same second round group with only one able to progress into the five play-off matches. One point separates the two sides after the Ivorians defeated their rivals last month. 

          Algeria look to have one of the strongest squads in the confederation, but they sit level on points with Burkina Faso in Group A. Tunisia, Nigeria and Mali all look certainties for the next stage whilst Egypt pulled off a much-needed win against Libya to move to top of their group. 

          ©Getty / picture alliance

          The two most impressive sides on the continent at the minute would be Senegal and Morocco. Senegal should already be being discussed for a deep run into the tournament next year whilst the Moroccans have much better depth than they had when they qualified in 2018. Both sides have already qualified for the third and final round. 


          ASIA (AFC)

          Asian qualification is already at the pointy end. We are at the third round stage whereby there are two groups of six and ten games with the top two in each group qualifying automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and third place in each group will go into a play-off in order to then play an inter-continental playoff.

          Iran suffered through a difficult second round stage, but they remain unbeaten and sit atop of Group A ahead of fellow unbeaten side South Korea. In the other group, Saudi Arabia have won four out of four under the management of Herve Renard whilst second-placed Australia were defeated by Japan in a crucial game the other day. 

          Japan needed that victory because they had already suffered two 1-0 defeats in their opening four matches against Oman and Saudi Arabia at this early stage in qualification. They should still find a way to get into the top three, but the form of the Saudis means it could be between Japan and Australia for an automatic spot. 


          EUROPE (UEFA)

          We are through the penultimate round of group stage qualifiers for next year’s World Cup now. The convoluted play-off system will take place in March with ten group winners qualifying automatically next month. 

          Of those ten potential automatic spots, Germany and Denmark are the two sides to have already qualified. England, France and Belgium all look certain for qualification, but there are a few major nations that could be in doubt.

          The Netherlands sit just two points above Norway whilst Italy are level on points with Switzerland with the two sides set to play next month. The biggest side in most jeopardy would be the Spanish who were overtaken by Sweden this week after Spain were away in the UEFA Nations League finals. 


          NORTH AMERICA (CONCACAF)

          The North American qualification process is stacked in favour of the major sides such as Mexico and the USA, perhaps due to the US’s failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The eight-team group in the third round offers three automatic qualification spots.

          Mexico are one of two unbeaten sides at the top-of-the-group whilst the USA and Panama make up the rest of the top three. Panama defeated the US last week in a shock victory with the Panamanians looking to make it back-to-back qualifications after their first ever World Cup in 2018.

          Canada also remain unbeaten with one win and four draws in their opening five matches and their impressive young generation, which includes Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, looks a strong side. Jamaica had been expected to be a genuine challenger in this cycle, but COVID restrictions means they have missed out on fielding some of their best players from across Europe and, in particular, in England. They sit bottom-of-the-group and winless. 


          OCEANIA (OFC)

          Qualification is still yet to begin in Oceania with a lot of difficulties related to COVID-19. There is a format in place, that does still remain debated, and a date with a venue has been discussed. FIFA are yet to give approval for OFC qualification to take place in Qatar in March; however, that is the fundamental plan. 


          SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL)

          The South American World Cup qualification period is well-renowned for being the toughest in the world, in terms of geography and quality of opponents. 

          ©Getty / Laurence Griffiths

          We are now half-way through the qualification campaign with both Brazil and Argentina almost home and dry. The two Copa America finalists in the summer are the two sides that remain unbeaten after ten matches.

          Ecuador, Uruguay and Colombia appear to have broken away from the rest as they battle it out for the top four and the two extra automatic spots. Venezuela and Bolivia, as well as Chile and Peru, will find it extremely tough to even break into the conversation. Even Paraguay look adrift with seven games to go. 


          Qualified teams:

          Qatar (Hosts) 
          Germany (UEFA)
          Denmark (UEFA)



           

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