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The FIFA World Cup qualification is the process that a national association football team goes through to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals. The FIFA World Cup is the largest international team sport competition in the world with a qualification process required to reduce the large field of countries from 211 to just 32 for the World Cup finals.

Qualifying tournaments are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), and are organized by their respective confederations. For each tournament, FIFA decides beforehand the number of places in the finals allocated to each of the continental zones, based on the numbers or relative strength of the confederations' teams.

The hosts of the World Cup receive an automatic berth. Unlike many other sports, results of the previous World Cups or of the continental championships are not taken into account. Until 2002, the defending champions also received an automatic berth, but starting from the 2006 World Cup this is no longer the case.

The upcoming qualification process will be the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification which commences in 2019 and finishes in 2022.

Contents

HistoryEdit

Over many years, the World Cup's qualification has evolved, from having no qualification at all in 1930, when the tournament was invitational and only 13 teams entered, to the current two-year process. The first World Cup qualifying match was played on 11 June when Sweden defeated Estonia 6–2 in Stockholm. The first ever goal in a World Cup qualifying match was scored 7 minutes into the game: it was scored according to some sources by Swedish captain Knut Kroon, or according to other sources by Estonian goalkeeper Evald Tipner (own goal).

While the number of teams which qualified for the finals has increased steadily, from 16 between 1934 and 1978, to 24 between 1982 and 1994, and finally to 32 starting from 1998, the qualification format has been basically the same throughout the history of the World Cup. The teams have been grouped continentally, and they competed for a fixed number of places, with one or two places awarded to the winners of intercontinental play-offs.

Qualification spots by continentEdit

The table below lists the numbers of spots allocated by FIFA for each continent in each tournament. If no places were allocated to a continent as per the case of Oceania prior to 1966 and Africa in 1938-1954 and 1966, this does not indicate an exclusion of those continents by FIFA, but rather that no country from those continents made an entry to the aforementioned Cups.[1]

It should be noted that a large part of Africa was under European colonial rule for the majority of the 20th century. Consequently, only three African countries were affiliated to FIFA in 1954: Egypt (since 1923), Sudan (since 1948) and Ethiopia (since 1952).[2] Egypt entered the 1934, 1938 and 1954 Cups, but not the 1930 or 1950 Cups, while Sudan and Ethiopia did not enter the Cup until 1958. Though an African country, Egypt entered in 1938 and 1954 in the European group, and therefore the table below gives no data about Africa for these two Cups.

Places in the intercontinental play-offs count as 0.5 spots, and numbers in bold represent the winners of the intercontinental play-offs. "+C" denotes an additional spot for defending champions (1938-2002), and "+H" denotes an additional spot for host nations (from 1938).

Places allocated for continents
Continental zone 1934
 
(16)
1938
 
(15)1
1950
 
(13)2
1954
 
(16)
1958
 
(16)
1962
 
(16)
1966
 
(16)
1970
 
(16)
1974
 
(16)
1978
 
(16)
1982
 
(24)
1986
 
(24)
1990
 
(24)
1994
 
(24)
1998
 
(32)
2002
 
 
(32)
2006
 
(32)7
2010
 
(32)
2014
 
(32)
2018
 
(32)
2022
 
(32)
2026
 
 
 
(48)
Europe 12 111
+C+H
72
+C
11
+H
9.53
+C+H
8+4
2×0.5
9
+H
8
+C
8.5
+H
8.5
+C
13
+H
12.5
+C
13
+H
12
+C
14
+H
13.5
+C
13
+H
13 13 13
+H
13 16
Africa 1 0 0.53 0.54 05 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 5 5 5 5
+H
5 5 5 9
Asia 1 12 1 0.54 15 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3.5 2.5
+2H
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
+H
9
Oceania did not exist 0.5 0.5 0.256 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 2
North and Central America
and Caribbean
1 1 2 1 1 0.5 1 1
+H
1 1 2 1
+H
2 1.256
+H
3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 6
South America 2 1 4
+H
1
+C
3 3.5
+C+H
3
+C
3 2.5
+C
2.5
+H
3
+C
4 2.5
+C
3.56 4
+C
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
+H
4.5 4.5 6
Play-off tournament not put in
Total 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 24 24 24 24 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 48
1 In 1938, Austria withdrew after qualifying on being annexed by Germany and were not replaced, so only 15 teams, 12 of them European, played in the finals.
2 In 1950, India, Scotland, and Turkey withdrew after qualifying and were not replaced, so only 13 teams, none of them Asian and 6 of them European, played in the finals.
3 Initially in 1958, Africa and Asia together were given 1 spot, while Europe was given 9 spots. However, after Israel won the African and Asian zone without playing any matches due to withdrawals of other teams, a special play-off was arranged between them and a European team (Wales). So in effect, Africa and Asia together were given 0.5 spots, while Europe was given 9.5 spots.
4 In 1962, Europe was given 8 automatic spots, plus 2 additional spots in the intercontinental play-offs, in effect giving them 9 spots. The two European teams played an African team and an Asian team respectively, and both European teams won. Therefore, 10 European teams played in the finals.
5 In 1966, Africa and Asia were given one place, contested between the winner of a four team Asian tournament and three group winners from the second round of African qualifiers. All 15 African teams subsequently withdrew to protest FIFA's failure to allocate a place to an African team, leaving North Korea to qualify.
6 In 1994, there were two rounds of intercontinental play-offs. First, an Oceanian team played a team from North and Central America and Caribbean, and the winner then played a South American team.
7 From the 2006 qualifiers on, the defending champion no longer has an automatic spot secured.

Qualification competition entrants over timeEdit

The number of teams entering the qualification process and the number of matches played have been steadily growing over time. Although Egypt, an African country, entered qualifying in 1938 and 1954, it was in the European group; thus, the number of teams for Africa is considered to be zero in these years.

Number of teams entering qualification (including automatic qualifiers)
Continental zone 1934
 
(16)
1938
 
(15)
1950
 
(13)
1954
 
(16)
1958
 
(16)
1962
 
(16)
1966
 
(16)
1970
 
(16)
1974
 
(16)
1978
 
(16)
1982
 
(24)
1986
 
(24)
1990
 
(24)
1994
 
(24)
1998
 
(32)
2002
 
 
(32)
2006
 
(32)
2010
 
(32)
2014
 
(32)
2018
 
(32)
2022
 
(32)
2026
 
 
 
(48)
Europe 21 26 19 29 29 30 33 31 33 32 34 33 33 39 50 51 52 53 53 54
Africa 3 0 11 6 21 13 24 26 29 29 26 40 38 51 51 53 52 54
Asia 2 4 3 5 7 18 22 21 27 26 29 36 42 39 43 43 46
Oceania1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 5 7 10 10 12 11 11 11
North and Central America
and Caribbean2
4 7 3 5 6 8 10 14 14 17 15 18 16 23 30 35 34 35 35 35
South America 4 2 8 6 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 10 10 10 10 10 10
Total entrants 32 37 34 45 55 56 74 75 99 107 109 121 116 147 174 199 198 2054 204 210
Teams played3 27 21 19 33 46 49 51 68 90 95 103 110 103 130 168 193 194 2004 203 208
Matches played 27 22 26 57 89 92 127 172 226 252 306 308 314 497 643 777 847 853 828 872
Goals scored 141 96 121 208 341 325 393 542 620 723 797 801 735 1446 1922 2452 2464 2344 2303 2454
Average goals per match 5.22 4.36 4.65 3.65 3.83 3.53 3.09 3.15 2.74 2.87 2.60 2.60 2.34 2.91 2.99 3.16 2.91 2.75 2.81 2.81
  • 1 Because the Oceania Football Confederation has used the World Cup Qualifiers as a phase of (or as the entire) OFC Nations Cup, there is the possibility that non-FIFA countries may play in matches that double as World Cup qualifiers. In the 2006 qualifiers, New Caledonia were included in the tournament although they were not FIFA members at the date of close of entries. They are, however, included in the 12 nations listed as they joined FIFA during the course of qualification, even though they had been technically eliminated from contention a few days earlier (a similar situation occurred in the entries for 2010, with Montenegro's entry accepted prior to their admission by FIFA). By contrast, Tuvalu competed in the 2007 South Pacific Games football tournament, which doubled as qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. As they were not FIFA members at the time of the completion of the competition, they are not included in the 11 OFC entrants, although their results counted towards the qualification of other teams.
  • 2 From 1973 to 1989, the CONCACAF Championship and its qualifying tournament determined CONCACAF's entrant in the World Cup. The confederation's champion qualified outright.
  • 3 "Teams played" is the total number of teams that played at least one qualifying match.
  • 4 This number includes Tuvalu (see note 1) and South Africa. Although South Africa qualified automatically for 2010 as hosts, they competed in the CAF qualifiers, becoming the first hosts to compete in World Cup qualifying since 1934. This is because the Confederation of African Football used its 2010 World Cup qualifiers as the qualifying phase for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament for which South Africa had attempted to qualify.

First appearance in qualification by teamEdit

Note: Only teams that played at least one match are considered for the purposes of first appearance. Teams that withdrew prior to the qualification, or that qualified to the World Cup by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals, are not considered. Teams that succeeded in their first qualification attempt are in bold. Teams that have never qualified for the World Cup finals are in italic.

World Cup Europe South America North, Central America and Caribbean Asia Africa Oceania T CT
 
1934
  Austria
  Belgium
  Bulgaria
  Czechoslovakia[A]
  Estonia
  France
  Germany[B]
  Greece
  Hungary
  Irish Free State[C]
  Italy[D]
  Lithuania
  Luxembourg
  Netherlands
  Poland
  Portugal
  Romania
  Spain
  Sweden
   Switzerland
  Yugoslavia[E]
none   Cuba
  Haiti
  Mexico
  United States
  Palestine, British Mandate[F]   Egypt[G] none 27 27
 
1938
  Finland
  Latvia
  Norway
none none none none none 3 30
 
1950
  England
  Ireland[H]
  Scotland
  Turkey[I]
  Wales
none none   Syria none none 6 36
 
1954
  Saar   Brazil[J]
  Chile[K]
  Paraguay[L]
none   Japan[M]
  South Korea
none none 6 42
 
1958
  Denmark
  East Germany
  Iceland
  Soviet Union[N]
  Argentina[O]
  Bolivia[P]
  Colombia[Q]
  Peru[R]
  Uruguay[S]
  Canada
  Costa Rica[T]
  Guatemala
  Territory of Curaçao[U]
  China PR
  Indonesia[V]
  Sudan none 16 58
 
1962
  Cyprus[W]   Ecuador[X]   Dutch Guyana[Y]
  Honduras
none   Ethiopia
  Ghana
  Morocco
  Nigeria
  Tunisia
none 9 67
 
1966
  Albania   Venezuela[Z]   Jamaica
  Trinidad and Tobago
  North Korea none   Australia 6 73
 
1970
none none   Bermuda
  El Salvador[AA]
none   Algeria[AB]
  Cameroon[AC]
  Libya[AD]
  Rhodesia[AE]
  Senegal[AF]
  Zambia
  New Zealand 9 82
 
1974
  Malta none   Antigua and Barbuda
  Puerto Rico
  Hong Kong
  Iran
  Iraq
  Kuwait
  Malaysia
  South Vietnam[AG]
  Thailand
  Congo
  Dahomey[AH]
  Guinea[AI]
  Ivory Coast
  Kenya
  Lesotho
  Mauritius
  Sierra Leone
  Tanzania
  Togo
  Zaire[AJ]
none 21 103
 
1978
none none   Barbados
  Dominican Republic
  Guyana
  Panama
  Bahrain
  Qatar
  Republic of China[AK]
  Saudi Arabia
  Singapore
  Malawi
  Mauritania
  Niger
  Uganda
  Upper Volta[AL]
none 14 117
 
1982
none none   Grenada   Macau   Gambia
  Liberia[AM]
  Madagascar[AN]
  Mozambique
  Somalia
  Fiji 8 125
 
1986
none none none   Bangladesh
  Brunei
  Jordan
  India[AO]
    Nepal
  North Yemen[AP]
  South Yemen
  United Arab Emirates[AQ]
  Angola none 9 134
 
1990
none none none   Oman[AR]
  Pakistan
  Gabon[AS] none 3 137
 
1994
  Faroe Islands
  San Marino
none   Nicaragua
  Saint Lucia
  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  Lebanon[AT]
  Sri Lanka[AU]
  Botswana
  Burundi
  Namibia
  South Africa
  Swaziland[AV]
  Solomon Islands
  Tahiti
  Vanuatu
15 152
 
1998
  Armenia
  Azerbaijan
  Belarus
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Croatia
  Georgia
  Liechtenstein[AW]
  North Macedonia[AX]
  Moldova
  Slovakia
  Slovenia
  Ukraine
none   Aruba
  Belize
  Cayman Islands
  Dominica
  Saint Kitts and Nevis
  Cambodia
  Kazakhstan
  Kyrgyzstan
  Maldives[AY]
  Philippines[AZ]
  Tajikistan
  Turkmenistan
  Uzbekistan
  Guinea-Bissau
  Rwanda[BA]
  Cook Islands
  Papua New Guinea
  Tonga
  Western Samoa[BB]
31 183
  
2002
  Andorra none   Anguilla
  Bahamas[BC]
  British Virgin Islands
  Montserrat
  Turks and Caicos Islands
  U.S. Virgin Islands
  Guam
  Laos
  Mongolia
  Palestine
  Cape Verde
  Central African Republic[BD]
  Chad
  Djibouti
  Equatorial Guinea
  Eritrea
  Mali[BE]
  São Tomé and Príncipe[BF]
  Seychelles
  American Samoa 21 204
 
2006
none none none   Afghanistan none   New Caledonia 2 206
 
2010
  Montenegro none none   Myanmar[BG]
  Timor-Leste
  Comoros   Tuvalu[BH] 5 211
 
2014
none none none none none none 0 211
 
2018
  Gibraltar
  Kosovo
none none   Bhutan[BI]   South Sudan none 4 215
Notes
  1. ^ The Czechoslovakia team was officially renamed as the   Representation of Czechs and Slovaks during the 1994 qualification, and was then succeeded by the   Czech Republic (first appearance: 1998).
  2. ^ Germany was later succeeded by   West Germany (first appearance: 1954), which in turn was succeeded by the reunified   Germany (first appearance: 1994).
  3. ^ The Irish Free State was later succeeded by   Ireland (first appearance: 1950), which later became officially known as the   Republic of Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  4. ^ Italy had to qualify for the tournament despite being the host.
  5. ^ The   Kingdom of Yugoslavia was later succeeded by the   Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1950), which was then succeeded by the   Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1998), which was later renamed as   Serbia and Montenegro (first appearance: 2006), which in turn was succeeded by   Serbia (first appearance: 2010).
  6. ^ Mandatory Palestine was later succeeded by   Israel (first appearance: 1950).
  7. ^ Egypt was later succeeded by the   United Arab Republic, a political union between Egypt and Syria, which entered the 1962 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. Later, Egypt entered the 1966 qualification independently but still under the name "United Arab Republic", but withdrew yet again before playing any matches. The team's first appearance after it changed its name back to   Egypt came in 1974.
  8. ^ Ireland was later succeeded by   Northern Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  9. ^ Turkey entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  10. ^ Brazil entered the 1934 and 1938 qualifications, but on both occasions qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1950 World Cup as host.
  11. ^ Chile entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  12. ^ Paraguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  13. ^ Japan entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  14. ^ The Soviet Union was later succeeded by   Russia (first appearance: 1994).
  15. ^ Argentina entered the 1934 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1938 and 1950 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  16. ^ Bolivia entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  17. ^ Colombia entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  18. ^ Peru entered the 1934, 1950 and 1954 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  19. ^ Uruguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1954 World Cup as defending champion.
  20. ^ Costa Rica entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  21. ^ The   Territory of Curaçao (six islands) was later succeeded by the   Netherlands Antilles (first appearance: 1962), which in turn was succeeded by   Curaçao (one island; first appearance: 2014).
  22. ^ Indonesia entered the 1938 qualification as   Dutch East Indies, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  23. ^ Cyprus entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  24. ^ Ecuador entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  25. ^ Dutch Guyana entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later succeeded by   Suriname (first appearance: 1978).
  26. ^ Venezuela entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  27. ^ El Salvador entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  28. ^ Algeria entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  29. ^ Cameroon entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  30. ^ Libya entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  31. ^ Rhodesia was later succeeded by   Zimbabwe (first appearance: 1982).
  32. ^ Senegal entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  33. ^ South Vietnam was later succeeded by   Vietnam (first appearance: 1994).
  34. ^ Dahomey was later renamed as   Benin (first appearance: 1986).
  35. ^ Guinea entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  36. ^ Zaire was renamed as   DR Congo during the 1998 qualification.
  37. ^ The Republic of China entered the 1954 and 1958 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches. It later became officially known as   Chinese Taipei (first appearance: 1982).
  38. ^ Upper Volta was later renamed as   Burkina Faso (first appearance: 1990).
  39. ^ Liberia entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  40. ^ Madagascar entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  41. ^ India entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals, and subsequently withdrew from participation in the finals. It also entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  42. ^ North Yemen was later succeeded by   Yemen (first appearance: 1994).
  43. ^ The United Arab Emirates entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  44. ^ Oman entered the 1986 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  45. ^ Gabon entered the 1966 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  46. ^ Lebanon entered but was disqualified during the 1986 qualification, and the team's matches from that campaign were annulled.
  47. ^ Sri Lanka entered the 1974 and 1978 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  48. ^ Swaziland was later renamed as   Eswatini (first appearance: 2022).
  49. ^ Liechtenstein entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  50. ^ Macedonia was later renamed as   North Macedonia (first appearance: 2022).
  51. ^ The Maldives entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  52. ^ The Philippines entered the 1950 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  53. ^ Rwanda entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  54. ^ Western Samoa entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later renamed as   Samoa (first appearance: 2002).
  55. ^ The Bahamas entered the 1998 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  56. ^ The Central African Republic entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1982 qualification, but was disqualified before playing any matches.
  57. ^ Mali entered the 1966, 1994 and 1998 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  58. ^ São Tomé and Príncipe entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  59. ^ Myanmar entered the 1950 (as   Burma), 1994 and 2002 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  60. ^ Tuvalu was not a member of FIFA at the time of qualification and had not entered the FIFA World Cup, although matches in the football tournament of the South Pacific Games did count towards the qualification tournament for the OFC, and Tuvalu's results did count in determining advancement from this stage.
  61. ^ Bhutan entered the 2010 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.

National teams results in World Cup preliminary competition (1934–2018)Edit

Legend
Team has won the World Cup
Team has qualified for the main tournament through a qualifying process
Team has qualified for the main tournament only by walkover (Cuba, and Indonesia as Dutch East Indies)
Team has qualified for the main tournament by walkover but hasn't participated there because it withdrew (India)
Team hasn't qualified for the main tournament but is assured of an automatic spot in 2022 as host (Qatar)
Team hasn't qualified for the main tournament
Defunct team that qualified for the main tournament (East Germany)
Defunct team that never qualified for the main tournament (Saar and South Yemen)
Team is not a member of FIFA and is not eligible for the main tournament (Tuvalu)

Up to and including the 2018 qualification.

No.[n 1] Team App's[n 2] Overall qualification record Points[n 3] Confederation
Pld W D L GF GA GD Total Avg
1   Mexico 19 175 113 37 25 436 126 +310 376 2.149 CONCACAF
2   Costa Rica 16 172 85 43 44 295 176 +119 298 1.733 CONCACAF
3   Australia 14 141 82 36 23 362 113 +249 282 2.000 AFC
4   South Korea 14 135 82 36 17 264 86 +178 282 2.089 AFC
5   Netherlands 18 125 82 24 19 296 93 +203 270 2.160 UEFA
6   Spain 18 117 81 25 11 276 76 +200 268 2.291 UEFA
7   Iran 10 128 78 34 16 267 81 +186 268 2.094 AFC
8   United States 18 154 77 36 41 266 181 +85 267 1.734 CONCACAF
9   Sweden 19 131 80 21 30 267 121 +146 261 1.992 UEFA
10   Portugal 20 139 76 33 30 262 139 +123 261 1.878 UEFA
11   Argentina 13 136 75 36 25 235 127 +108 261 1.919 CONMEBOL
12   Serbia (2010–)
  Serbia and Montenegro (2006)
  FR Yugoslavia (1998–2002)
  SFR Yugoslavia (1950–1990)
  Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1934–1938)
19 128 75 31 22 269 114 +155 256 2.000 UEFA
13   Belgium 19 133 77 25 31 277 141 +136 256 1.925 UEFA
14   Czech Republic (1998–)
  Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (1994)
  Czechoslovakia (1934–1994)
19 138 75 29 34 266 116 +150 254 1.841 UEFA
15   England 16 112 76 25 11 275 67 +208 253 2.259 UEFA
16   Uruguay 16 154 69 42 43 218 164 +54 249 1.617 CONMEBOL
17   Italy 16 109 74 26 9 221 69 +152 248 2.275 UEFA
18   Honduras 14 150 69 40 41 255 173 +82 247 1.647 CONCACAF
19   Russia (1994–)
  Soviet Union (1958–1990)
15 115 73 23 19 227 75 +152 242 2.104 UEFA
20   Germany (1994–)
  West Germany (1954–1990)
  Germany (1934–1938)
14 94 74 18 2 292 70 +222 240 2.553 UEFA
21   Brazil 12 110 68 30 12 240 70 +170 234 2.127 CONMEBOL
22   Saudi Arabia 11 118 68 28 22 232 93 +139 232 1.966 AFC
23   Japan 14 120 68 26 26 247 85 +162 230 1.917 AFC
24   Paraguay 17 154 66 30 58 201 189 +12 228 1.481 CONMEBOL
25   Romania 17 128 67 26 35 223 134 +89 227 1.773 UEFA
26    Switzerland 19 132 64 33 35 205 146 +59 225 1.705 UEFA
27   France 17 111 65 23 23 216 88 +128 218 1.964 UEFA
28   El Salvador 13 140 63 28 49 233 168 +65 217 1.550 CONCACAF
29   Colombia 16 152 57 46 49 180 159 +21 217 1.428 CONMEBOL
30   China PR 11 108 66 16 26 230 74 +156 214 1.981 AFC
31   Scotland 18 125 62 28 35 192 136 +56 214 1.712 UEFA
32   Chile 15 146 61 29 56 217 195 +22 212 1.452 CONMEBOL
33   Republic of Ireland (1954–)
  Ireland (1950)
  Irish Free State (1934–1938)
20 141 56 43 42 199 169 +30 211 1.496 UEFA
34   Bulgaria 19 129 60 27 42 209 177 +32 207 1.605 UEFA
35   Austria 18 123 59 28 36 212 136 +76 205 1.667 UEFA
36   Denmark 15 122 58 30 34 212 141 +71 204 1.672 UEFA
37   Nigeria 14 104 58 29 17 175 80 +95 203 1.952 CAF
38   Poland 18 117 60 21 36 228 143 +85 201 1.718 UEFA
39   Hungary 18 122 58 26 38 216 163 +53 200 1.639 UEFA
40   Tunisia 14 104 57 28 19 180 84 +96 199 1.913 CAF
41   Trinidad and Tobago 14 137 55 27 55 201 183 +18 192 1.401 CONCACAF
42   Morocco 14 111 51 38 22 150 80 +70 191 1.721 CAF
43   Greece 19 128 54 29 45 159 171 −12 191 1.492 UEFA
44   Guatemala 15 122 49 31 42 194 150 +44 178 1.459 CONCACAF
45   Canada 14 117 48 34 35 161 136 +25 178 1.521 CONCACAF
46   New Zealand 13 96 53 18 25 221 99 +122 177 1.844 OFC
47   Cameroon 13 87 51 22 14 144 66 +78 175 2.011 CAF
48   Egypt 14 93 52 19 22 165 89 +76 175 1.882 CAF
49   Ecuador 15 143 47 33 63 169 202 −33 174 1.217 CONMEBOL
50   Qatar 11 112 50 22 40 181 121 +60 172 1.536 AFC
51   Iraq 11 101 48 24 29 201 103 +98 168 1.663 AFC
52   Uzbekistan 6 94 49 19 26 177 95 +82 166 1.766 AFC
53   Peru 16 149 43 37 69 164 211 −47 166 1.114 CONMEBOL
54   Turkey 17 128 47 24 57 176 187 −11 165 1.289 UEFA
55   Northern Ireland (1954–)
  Ireland (1950)
18 134 43 36 55 149 161 −12 165 1.231 UEFA
56   Norway 18 126 44 30 52 170 178 −8 162 1.286 UEFA
57   Kuwait 12 93 48 14 31 160 92 +68 158 1.699 AFC
58   Zambia 13 96 45 20 31 145 88 +57 155 1.615 CAF
59   Israel (1950–)
  Palestine, British Mandate (1934–1938)
20 122 40 34 48 166 178 −12 154 1.262 UEFA
60   Ivory Coast 11 78 41 25 12 144 67 +77 148 1.897 CAF
61   United Arab Emirates 9 97 42 20 35 163 111 +52 146 1.505 AFC
62   Bolivia 16 150 39 29 82 177 284 −107 146 0.973 CONMEBOL
63   Algeria 13 89 40 23 26 126 91 +35 143 1.607 CAF
64   Ghana 13 83 40 22 21 132 66 +66 142 1.711 CAF
65   Jamaica 11 104 37 27 40 115 132 −17 138 1.327 CONCACAF
66   Wales 18 120 37 26 57 151 170 −19 137 1.142 UEFA
67   North Korea 10 83 39 19 25 116 77 +39 136 1.639 AFC
68   Haiti 14 90 39 17 34 152 120 +32 134 1.489 CONCACAF
69   Syria 14 84 36 20 28 174 97 +77 128 1.524 AFC
70   Ukraine 6 70 35 22 13 108 52 +56 127 1.814 UEFA
71   Croatia 6 62 36 18 8 108 47 +61 126 2.032 UEFA
72   DR Congo (1998–)
  Zaire (1974–1998)
10 76 36 17 23 128 84 +44 125 1.645 CAF
73   Finland 19 129 32 23 74 134 287 −153 119 0.922 UEFA
74   Bahrain 10 88 31 25 32 105 94 +11 118 1.341 AFC
75   Guinea 12 75 35 10 30 114 97 +17 115 1.533 CAF
76   Slovakia 6 64 32 14 18 110 64 +46 110 1.719 UEFA
77   Oman 8 70 29 19 22 115 70 +45 106 1.514 AFC
78   Panama 11 94 27 22 45 104 157 −53 103 1.096 CONCACAF
79   Iceland 13 106 28 19 59 116 215 −99 103 0.972 UEFA
80   Senegal 12 63 26 22 15 90 56 +34 100 1.587 CAF
81   Venezuela 13 140 25 25 90 120 314 −194 100 0.714 CONMEBOL
82   Jordan 9 70 28 14 28 105 92 +13 98 1.400 AFC
83   Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 58 28 10 20 112 69 +43 94 1.621 UEFA
84   Angola 9 61 24 22 15 79 57 +22 94 1.541 CAF
85   South Africa 7 50 28 8 14 66 45 +21 92 1.840 CAF
86   Slovenia 6 62 25 15 22 81 68 +13 90 1.452 UEFA
87   Thailand 12 89 24 18 47 116 156 −40 90 1.011 AFC
88   Burkina Faso (1990–)
  Upper Volta (1978)
8 60 26 10 24 87 78 +9 88 1.467 CAF
89   Kenya 12 68 23 16 29 77 91 −14 85 1.250 CAF
90   Hong Kong 12 73 23 14 36 91 128 −37 83 1.137 AFC
91   Cuba 12 68 20 20 28 85 102 −17 80 1.176 CONCACAF
92   Zimbabwe (1982–)
  Rhodesia (1970)
10 61 21 16 24 62 75 −13 79 1.295 CAF
93   Togo 10 63 21 14 28 68 86 −18 77 1.222 CAF
94   Libya 10 56 21 13 22 63 62 +1 76 1.357 CAF
95   Congo 9 62 21 13 28 70 83 −13 76 1.226 CAF
96   East Germany 9 47 22 8 17 87 65 +22 74 1.574 defunct
97   Gabon 8 57 21 11 25 57 65 −8 74 1.298 CAF
98   Indonesia (1958–)
  Dutch East Indies (1938)
12 71 19 16 36 87 143 −56 73 1.028 AFC
99   Solomon Islands 7 54 21 9 24 112 113 −1 72 1.333 OFC
100   Latvia 8 75 19 15 41 82 130 −48 72 0.960 UEFA
101   Lebanon 7 56 19 14 23 87 77 +10 71 1.268 AFC
102   Suriname (1978–)
  Dutch Guyana (1962–1974)
14 65 19 14 32 91 111 −20 71 1.092 CONCACAF
103   Fiji 9 53 20 10 23 111 98 +13 70 1.321 OFC
104   Albania 12 104 18 14 72 72 188 −116 68 0.654 UEFA
105   Singapore 11 68 19 10 39 74 121 −47 67 0.985 AFC
106   Lithuania 9 73 17 16 40 59 111 −52 67 0.918 UEFA
107   Malaysia 12 59 17 13 29 73 110 −37 64 1.085 AFC
108   New Caledonia 4 35 18 8 9 87 36 +51 62 1.771 OFC
109   Sudan 12 64 15 17 32 56 101 −45 62 0.969 CAF
110   Tahiti 7 43 17 8 18 66 81 −15 59 1.372 OFC
111   Estonia 9 76 16 11 49 65 166 −101 59 0.776 UEFA
112   Malawi 10 58 14 16 28 56 83 −27 58 1.000 CAF
113   Cyprus 15 114 15 13 86 87 299 −212 58 0.509 UEFA
114   Liberia 9 58 15 12 31 39 84 −45 57 0.983 CAF
115   Curaçao (2014–)
  Netherlands Antilles (1962–2010)
  Territory of Curaçao (1958)
16 60 13 18 29 53 116 −63 57 0.950 CONCACAF
116   Turkmenistan 6 40 17 5 18 64 59 +5 56 1.400 AFC
117   Bermuda 7 36 15 9 12 76 46 +30 54 1.500 CONCACAF
118   Uganda 9 42 15 9 18 41 57 −16 54 1.286 CAF
119   North Macedonia (2022–)
  North Macedonia (1998–2018)
6 60 14 12 34 71 102 −31 54 0.900 UEFA
120   Mali 5 40 14 11 15 50 52 −2 53 1.325 CAF
121   Belarus 6 58 13 12 33 61 97 −36 51 0.879 UEFA
122   Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7 58 14 8 36 77 170 −93 50 0.862 CONCACAF
123   Yemen (1994–)
  North Yemen (1986–1990)
9 50 12 11 27 52 80 −28 47 0.940 AFC
124   Kazakhstan 6 60 12 11 37 71 128 −57 47 0.783 UEFA
125   Tajikistan 6 36 13 7 16 63 55 +8 46 1.278 AFC
126   Benin (1986–)
  Dahomey (1974)
8 44 13 7 24 46 89 −43 46 1.045 CAF
127   Madagascar 9 36 12 8 16 45 51 −6 44 1.222 CAF
128   Antigua and Barbuda 10 42 13 5 24 66 93 −27 44 1.048 CONCACAF
129   Armenia 6 62 10 14 38 52 122 −70 44 0.710 UEFA
130   Georgia 6 56 9 16 31 51 89 −38 43 0.768 UEFA
131   Cape Verde 5 34 13 3 18 34 46 −12 42 1.235 CAF
132   Sierra Leone 10 45 11 9 25 39 69 −30 42 0.933 CAF
133   Saint Kitts and Nevis 6 30 11 8 11 64 54 +10 41 1.367 CONCACAF
134   India 8 43 10 11 22 43 87 −44 41 0.953 AFC
135   Montenegro 3 30 10 10 10 47 43 +4 40 1.333 UEFA
136   Kyrgyzstan 6 31 12 4 15 38 49 −11 40 1.290 AFC
137   Ethiopia 11 41 10 10 21 47 65 −18 40 0.976 CAF
138   Vanuatu 7 37 12 3 22 76 89 −13 39 1.054 OFC
139   Vietnam (1994–)
  South Vietnam (1974)
8 41 11 3 27 43 81 −38 36 0.878 AFC
140   Namibia 7 42 9 9 24 37 82 −45 36 0.857 CAF
141   Dominican Republic 8 29 10 5 14 42 50 −8 35 1.207 CONCACAF
142   Botswana 6 34 10 5 19 33 52 −19 35 1.029 CAF
143   Azerbaijan 6 58 7 14 37 29 104 −75 35 0.603 UEFA
144   Barbados 8 37 10 4 23 35 73 −38 34 0.919 CONCACAF
145   Palestine 5 26 9 6 11 48 36 +12 33 1.269 AFC
146   Mozambique 8 34 8 8 18 30 50 −20 32 0.941 CAF
147   Niger 7 30 9 5 16 27 48 −21 32 1.067 CAF
148   Bangladesh 9 48 9 5 34 33 122 −89 32 0.667 AFC
149   Tanzania 9 33 7 10 16 35 50 −15 31 0.939 CAF
150   Samoa (2002–)
  Western Samoa (1998)
6 26 9 1 16 37 88 −51 28 1.077 OFC
151   Faroe Islands 7 70 7 7 56 34 184 −150 28 0.400 UEFA
152   Papua New Guinea 4 22 7 6 9 43 36 +7 27 1.227 OFC
153   Belize 6 26 7 6 13 32 54 −22 27 1.038 CONCACAF
154   Rwanda 6 36 6 9 21 29 54 −25 27 0.750 CAF
155   Guyana 10 34 7 6 21 36 81 −45 27 0.794 CONCACAF
156   Moldova 6 58 5 12 41 35 115 −80 27 0.466 UEFA
157   Luxembourg 20 134 5 10 119 69 433 −364 25 0.187 UEFA
158   Grenada 7 25 7 3 15 49 54 −5 24 0.960 CONCACAF
159   Burundi 6 20 7 3 10 17 26 −9 24 1.200 CAF
160   Gambia 8 24 6 6 12 20 36 −16 24 1.000 CAF
161   Maldives 6 32 7 2 23 36 120 −84 23 0.719 AFC
162   Nicaragua 7 22 7 1 14 25 44 −19 22 1.000 CONCACAF
163   Saint Lucia 7 24 7 1 16 32 62 −30 22 0.917 CONCACAF
164   Tonga 6 22 7 1 14 23 82 −59 22 1.000 OFC
165   Chinese Taipei (1982–)
  Republic of China (1978)
11 58 6 4 48 35 200 −165 22 0.379 AFC
166   Puerto Rico 9 25 5 6 14 22 55 −33 21 0.840 CONCACAF
167   Chad 5 16 6 1 9 15 23 −8 19 1.187 CAF
168   Eswatini (2022–)
  Swaziland (1994–2018)
7 19 4 4 11 15 39 −24 16 0.842 CAF
169     Nepal 7 30 4 4 22 23 100 −77 16 0.533 AFC
170   Malta 12 102 2 10 90 33 300 −267 16 0.157 UEFA
171   Bahamas 5 14 4 3 7 20 43 −23 15 1.071 CONCACAF
172   Philippines 4 21 4 3 14 16 57 −41 15 0.714 AFC
173   Sri Lanka 7 31 3 6 22 21 75 −54 15 0.484 AFC
174   Equatorial Guinea 5 20 4 2 14 17 36 −19 14 0.700 CAF
175   Lesotho 7 24 2 8 14 14 51 −37 14 0.583 CAF
176   Aruba 6 16 4 1 11 23 42 −19 13 0.812 CONCACAF
177   Dominica 6 20 3 4 13 15 54 −39 13 0.650 CONCACAF
178   Laos 4 26 3 3 20 23 124 −101 12 0.462 AFC
179   Liechtenstein 6 60 2 6 52 23 185 −162 12 0.200 UEFA
180   Myanmar 3 14 3 2 9 11 38 −27 11 0.786 AFC
181   Macau 9 35 3 2 30 15 165 −150 11 0.314 AFC
182   Mongolia 5 14 3 1 10 11 46 −35 10 0.714 AFC
183   Afghanistan 4 14 3 1 10 10 45 −35 10 0.714 AFC
184   Cook Islands 6 20 3 1 16 16 63 −47 10 0.500 OFC
185   American Samoa 5 18 3 1 14 11 136 −125 10 0.556 OFC
186   Mauritania 6 16 2 3 11 13 31 −18 9 0.562 CAF
187   U.S. Virgin Islands 5 15 3 0 12 8 80 −72 9 0.600 CONCACAF
188   Cambodia 5 26 2 3 21 16 90 −74 9 0.346 AFC
189   Andorra 5 52 2 3 47 14 162 −148 9 0.173 UEFA
190   Guinea-Bissau 6 12 1 4 7 8 19 −11 7 0.583 CAF
191   São Tomé and Príncipe 4 8 2 1 5 4 22 −18 7 0.875 CAF
192   Guam 2 10 2 1 7 3 51 −48 7 0.700 AFC
193   Mauritius 7 18 1 3 14 14 49 −35 6 0.333 CAF
194   Bhutan 1 10 2 0 8 8 53 −45 6 0.600 AFC
195   Cayman Islands 6 16 0 5 11 6 35 −29 5 0.313 CONCACAF
196   Saar 1 4 1 1 2 4 8 −4 4 1.000 defunct
197   Central African Republic 3 10 1 1 8 8 21 −13 4 0.400 CAF
198   Djibouti 4 13 1 1 11 6 56 −50 4 0.308 CAF
199   Pakistan 8 30 0 4 26 12 118 −106 4 0.133 AFC
200   Eritrea 4 8 0 3 5 3 16 −13 3 0.375 CAF
201   Comoros 3 8 0 3 5 4 18 −14 3 0.375 CAF
202   Somalia 6 11 0 3 8 1 26 −25 3 0.273 CAF
203   British Virgin Islands 5 10 0 3 7 7 34 −27 3 0.300 CONCACAF
204   Turks and Caicos Islands 5 10 1 0 9 6 46 −40 3 0.300 CONCACAF
205   Brunei 3 14 1 0 13 3 59 −56 3 0.214 AFC
206   Seychelles 5 14 0 2 12 6 36 −30 2 0.143 CAF
207   San Marino 7 66 0 2 64 11 310 −299 2 0.030 UEFA
208   South Yemen 1 2 0 1 1 4 7 −3 1 0.500 defunct
209   South Sudan 1 2 0 1 1 1 5 −4 1 0.500 CAF
210   Tuvalu 1 4 0 1 3 2 22 −20 1 0.250 OFC
211   Kosovo 1 10 0 1 9 3 24 −21 1 0.100 UEFA
212   Montserrat 5 9 0 1 8 8 45 −37 1 0.111 CONCACAF
213   Anguilla 5 10 0 1 9 2 41 −39 1 0.100 CONCACAF
214   Gibraltar 1 10 0 0 10 3 47 −44 0 0.000 UEFA
215   Timor-Leste 3 14 0 0 14 4 68 −64 0 0.000 AFC
Footnotes
  1. ^ Teams are ranked by total points, then by goal difference, then by goals scored. Note that this column does not represent any official rankings.
  2. ^ Only qualifying campaigns are counted where the team played at least one match that was not annulled.
  3. ^ The three points for a win system is used.

Top scorers in preliminary competition (1934–2018)Edit

# Nation Player Goals Games
played
Goal
ratio
Qualification tournaments
1   Carlos Ruiz 39 47 0.75 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (10), 2010 (6), 2014 (6), 2018 (9)
2   Ali Daei 35 50 0.70 1994 (7 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (10), 2006 (9)
3   Cristiano Ronaldo 30 38 0.79 2006 (7 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (15)
4   Karim Bagheri 28 29 0.97 1998 (19 goals), 2002 (8), 2010 (1)
5   Kazu Miura 27 25 1.08 1994 (13 goals), 1998 (14)
6   Andriy Shevchenko 26 40 0.65 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (10), 2006 (6), 2010 (6)
7   Tim Cahill 25 36 0.69 2006 (7 goals), 2010 (4), 2014 (3), 2018 (11)
8   Carlos Pavón 25 37 0.68 1998 (2 goals), 2002 (15), 2006 (1), 2010 (7)
9   Edin Džeko 24 31 0.77 2010 (9 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (5)
10   Jared Borgetti 23 24 0.96 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (14), 2010 (3)
11   Robert Lewandowski 21 28 0.75 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (3), 2018 (16)
12   Paulo Wanchope 21 37 0.57 1998 (6 goals), 2002 (7), 2006 (8)
13   Lionel Messi 21 45 0.47 2010 (4 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (7)
14   Luis Suárez 21 48 0.44 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (5)
15   Archie Thompson 20 15 1.33 2002 (16 goals), 2006 (2), 2014 (2)
16   Stern John 20 49 0.41 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (3), 2006 (12), 2010 (2)
17   Vaughan Coveny 19 19 1.00 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (6)
18   Emmanuel Sanon 19 20 0.95 1974 (11 goals), 1978 (8)
19   Pauleta 19 24 0.79 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (11)
20   Zlatan Ibrahimović 19 29 0.66 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (8), 2010 (2), 2014 (8)
21   Hernán Crespo 19 33 0.58 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (7)
22   Didier Drogba 18 19 0.95 2006 (9 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (3)
23   Moumouni Dagano 18 24 0.75 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (5), 2010 (12)
24   Samuel Eto'o 18 29 0.62 2002 (3 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (9), 2014 (2)
25   Raúl Díaz Arce 18 29 0.62 1994 (2 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (7)
26   Marcelo Salas 18 32 0.56 1998 (11 goals), 2002 (4), 2006 (1), 2010 (2)
27   Robbie Keane 18 37 0.49 2002 (2 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (6), 2014 (6)
28   Clint Dempsey 18 43 0.42 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (5)
29   Iván Zamorano 17 11 1.54 1990 (1 goal), 1998 (12), 2002 (4)
30   Deon McCaulay 17 16 1.06 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (4)
31   Dimitar Berbatov 17 24 0.71 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (8), 2010 (5)
32   Alexander Frei 17 25 0.68 2002 (5 goals), 2006 (7), 2010 (5)
33   Álvaro Saborío 17 41 0.41 2006 (3 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (8)

(updated as of FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers)

First games and goalscorers in preliminary competition (1934–2018)Edit

World Cup First game First goal
 
1934
11 June 1933; Sweden   6–2   Estonia 11 June 1933; Knut Kroon for   Sweden vs.   Estonia
 
1938
16 June 1937; Sweden   4–0   Finland 16 June 1937; Lennart Bunke for   Sweden vs.   Finland
 
1950
2 June 1949; Sweden   3–1   Republic of Ireland 2 June 1949; Davy Walsh for   Republic of Ireland vs.   Sweden
 
1954
9 May 1953; Yugoslavia   1–0   Greece 9 May 1953; Frane Matošić for   Yugoslavia vs.   Greece
 
1958
30 September 1956; Austria   7–0   Luxembourg 30 September 1956; Gerhard Hanappi for   Austria vs.   Luxembourg
 
1962
21 August 1960; Costa Rica   3–2   Guatemala 21 August 1960; Jorge Hernán Monge for   Costa Rica vs.   Guatemala
 
1966
24 May 1964; Netherlands   2–0   Albania 24 May 1964; Daan Schrijvers for   Netherlands vs.   Albania
 
1970
19 May 1968; Austria   7–1   Cyprus 19 May 1968; Erich Hof for   Austria vs.   Cyprus
 
1974
14 November 1971; Malta   0–2   Hungary 14 November 1971; Ferenc Bene for   Hungary vs.   Malta
 
1978
4 April 1976; Panama   3–2   Costa Rica 4 April 1976; Javier Jiménez for   Costa Rica vs.   Panama
 
1982
26 March 1980; Israel   0–0   Northern Ireland
26 March 1980; Cyprus   2–3   Republic of Ireland
26 March 1980; Paul McGee for   Republic of Ireland vs.   Cyprus
 
1986
2 May 1984; Cyprus   1–2   Austria 2 May 1984; Martin Gisinger for   Austria vs.   Cyprus
 
1990
17 April 1988; Guyana   0–4   Trinidad and Tobago 17 April 1988; Paul Elliot-Allen for   Trinidad and Tobago vs.   Guyana
 
1994
21 March 1992; Dominican Republic   0–4   Puerto Rico 21 March 1992; Marcos Lugris for   Puerto Rico vs.   Dominican Republic
 
1998
10 March 1996; Dominica   3–3   Antigua and Barbuda 10 March 1996; Anthony Dominique for   Dominica vs.   Antigua and Barbuda
  
2002
4 March 2000; Trinidad and Tobago   5–0   Netherlands Antilles
4 March 2000; Honduras   3–0   Nicaragua
4 March 2000; Marvin Andrews for   Trinidad and Tobago vs.   Netherlands Antilles
 
2006
6 September 2003; Ecuador   2–0   Venezuela 6 September 2003; Giovanny Espinoza for   Ecuador vs.   Venezuela
 
2010
25 August 2007; Tahiti   0–1   New Caledonia 25 August 2007; Pierre Wajoka for   New Caledonia vs.   Tahiti
 
2014
15 June 2011; Montserrat   2–5   Belize 15 June 2011; Deon McCauley for   Belize vs.   Montserrat
 
2018
12 March 2015; Timor-Leste   0–3   Mongolia (forfeited) 12 March 2015; Chan Vathanaka for   Cambodia vs.   Macau
 
2022
6 June 2019; TBC 6 June 2019; TBD

Current formatEdit

Currently, 32 places are available in the final tournament until 2022. One of them is reserved for the host nation, but if two or more nations co-host the competition, each is awarded a place.

From 1934 to 2002, one berth was reserved for the winners of the previous World Cup, but in November 2001, FIFA announced that the defending champion would no longer get automatic entry to the subsequent tournament, starting with the 2006 finals. This decision was made to address the issue of the returning champions being at a disadvantage to their fellow competitors due to having not played a competitive match in the previous two years.[3]

The problem was amply demonstrated at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as returning champions France tumbled out in the first round, finishing bottom of their group without scoring a single goal. 2002 winner Brazil qualified for 2006 at the top of their qualifiers group, but Italy, defending champions from 2006, finished bottom of their group in 2010, despite playing in the qualifying matches. At Brazil 2014, 2010 champions Spain finished third in their group and failed to advance to the Round of 16, despite having qualified as first in their group.

FIFA decides beforehand the number of spots awarded to each of the continental zones. For the 2022 World Cup, the following numbers were used:[4]

  • UEFA (Europe) – 13 berths
  • CAF (Africa) – 5 berths
  • AFC (Asia) – 4 berths, plus the host Qatar
  • CONMEBOL (South America) – 4 berths
  • CONCACAF (North and Central America and Caribbean) – 3 berths
  • 2 berths for the winners of intercontinental play-offs between the best team from the OFC (Oceania), as well as additional teams from the AFC, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF. The pairings for these play-offs will be determined by an open draw.

The number of berths allocated per continent is widely debated, with the main point of contention being the extent to which berths should be allocated to regions based on sheer population vs. talent. A historically weaker continent, Africa has called for more places, as they are allocated only five in comparison to Europe's 13.[5]

In early October 2016, it was announced that the World Cup would have featured 40 teams starting with the 2026 tournament,[6] then FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated his support for a 48-team World Cup,[7] mainly to address African concerns. On 10 January 2017, the FIFA Council voted unanimously to expand the World Cup to a 48 team tournament that will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, with two teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32.[8] The new format for the qualifying process has yet to be confirmed, other than a play-off tournament that consists of one team from each confederation (except UEFA) and one additional team from the confederation of the host country for the last two World Cup berths.[9]

These numbers vary slightly between tournaments (see above).

Qualification in all zones ends at approximately the same time, in September–November of the year preceding the finals. For 2022, qualification will end in March, eight months preceding the Qatar tournament.

The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations and over time. The systems used in 2018 are outlined below.

AfricaEdit

The CAF qualification process began with two preliminary rounds to narrow the field of 53 entrants to 20 teams in October 2015 (Zimbabwe were disqualified).

The group stage consisted of 5 groups of 4, with the group winners advancing to the World Cup finals.

AsiaEdit

Bhutan and Guam entered the AFC qualification process, while Indonesia were disqualified after being suspended for political interference.

Qualifying was altered significantly from the 2014 method, with changes to the structure of the preliminary rounds – which were held before the main draw. One home-and-away preliminary round reduced the 12 weakest entrants to 6, which then joined the 34 strongest sides in 8 groups of 5, with the winners and 4 best runners-up advancing to the final group stage, comprising two 6-team groups. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 6 advanced to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off in the fourth round for the right to play in an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot. The first two rounds also acted as the qualifiers for the expanded 2019 AFC Asian Cup.[10]

A total of 24 teams eliminated from World Cup qualification in the second round competed in the third round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification (which was separate from the third round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification), where they were divided into six groups of four teams and competed for the remaining slots of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The 24 teams consisted of the 16 highest ranked teams eliminated in the second round, and the eight teams that advanced from the play-off round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification which were contested by the remaining 12 teams eliminated in the second round.[11]

EuropeEdit

The European qualification was unchanged from the 2010 system. The 54 national teams were divided into nine groups of six teams, with the group winners qualifying directly to the finals, and the best eight runners-up playing home-and-away ties for the remaining four places.[12]

With the admission of Gibraltar and Kosovo as FIFA members in May 2016, both national teams made their debuts in World Cup qualifying.[13] With two groups of only five teams in the first round, Kosovo was assigned to group I as it was decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia should not play against Kosovo for security reasons, and Gibraltar was then added to group H.[14][15]

The introduction of the new UEFA Nations League is likely to change the qualifying format. although this is yet to be confirmed.

North and Central America and CaribbeanEdit

The 2018 CONCACAF qualification process changed significantly from the 2014 qualification cycle. The first three rounds had teams play home-and-away over two legs. A first preliminary round involved the 14 lowest ranked teams and the seven winners advanced to the second round. The 13 higher ranked sides received byes in the second round and were joined by the seven first round winners; the ten winners advanced to the third round. Two higher ranked teams received byes in the third round and were joined by ten second round winners; the six winners advanced to the preliminary group stage.

As in 2014, the remaining 12 teams played in 3 semifinal groups of 4 teams with the top two in each group advancing to a final six-team group.

The final round – often referred to as the "hexagonal" because there are six teams involved – saw the top three teams advance to the World Cup finals, while the fourth placed side entered an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot.

For the 2022 qualification, there have been proposals to replace the entire qualifying tournament and its "hexagonal" due to its perceived archaism and inequity.

OceaniaEdit

Qualification in Oceania was held as part of a further competition. The first stage took place with one group of four lowest ranked teams and the winner advanced to the second stage (which also acted as the 2016 OFC Nations Cup). In the second stage the top three teams advanced to the third round, among them Nations Cup champions New Zealand. Two groups of three teams contested the third round, or final group stage, and the winners of each group entered a two-leg final. The winners of this final advanced to an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

South AmericaEdit

As in recent qualification series CONMEBOL qualification consisted of a single group of all entrants. Unlike previous qualifying tournaments where the fixtures were pre-determined, the fixtures were determined by a draw, which was held as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw, on 25 July 2015.[16]

The top 4 teams from the 10-team group advanced to the World Cup finals, while the fifth placed team entered an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

Intercontinental play-offsEdit

Like the previous 2014 tournament, the pairings for the two play-offs were determined by an open draw on 25 July 2015, as part of the aforementioned preliminary draw. Intercontinental play-offs are played as home-and-away ties.

Qualification tournament rulesEdit

Qualification tournaments generally consist of a number of stages, made up of groups or knock-out ties.

GroupsEdit

In all group tournaments, three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. FIFA has set the order of the tie-breakers for teams that finish level on points:

  1. goal difference in all group matches
  2. greater number of goals scored in all group matches

Where teams are still not able to be separated, the following tie-breakers are used:

  1. greater number of points obtained in matches between the tied teams
  2. goal difference in matches between the tied teams
  3. greater number of goals scored in matches between the tied teams

Where teams are still equal, then a play-off on neutral ground, with extra time and penalties if necessary will be played if FIFA deems such a play-off able to be fitted within the coordinated international match calendar. If this is not deemed feasible, then the result will be determined by the drawing of lot.

Note that this order of tie-breaker application has not always been applied. While it was used in the 2010 qualifiers, the qualification for the 2006 World Cup used the head-to-head comparison prior to goal difference (although this system was – where applicable – used in the 2006 finals themselves). If these rules had applied in 2006, then Nigeria would have qualified rather than Angola.

Home-and-away tiesEdit

Most knock-out qualifiers (such as the inter-confederation play-offs, the second round of UEFA qualifying and many preliminary ties) are played over two legs. The team that scores a greater aggregate number of goals qualifies. Away goals rule applies. If these rules fail to determine the winner, extra time and penalty shootouts are used.

Occasionally – usually when one entrant lacks adequate facilities to host international matches – ties are played over a single leg, in which case matches level after 90 minutes will go to extra time and then to a penalty shootout if required.

Alternatively, "home" matches can be played in neutral countries, or occasionally one team will host both matches. In the latter case the visiting team will still be considered as the "home" team for one of the legs – which may determine which side advances under the away goals rule, as occurred in CONCACAF qualification in 2010.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "History of the FIFA World Cup preliminary competition (by year)" (PDF). fifa.com. FIFA. November 2009. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ "FIFA's 209 member associations" (PDF). fifa.com. FIFA. July 2012.
  3. ^ "Fifa makes major policy shift". BBC News. 30 November 2001.
  4. ^ "Current allocation of FIFA World Cup confederation slots maintained" (Press release). FIFA. 30 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Africa calls for FIFA to increase World Cup places". Ahram Online. Reuters. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  6. ^ "New Fifa chief backs 48-team World Cup". heraldlive. 7 October 2016. It’s an idea, just as the World Cup with 40 teams is already on the table with groups of four or five teams.
  7. ^ "World Cup could expand to 48 teams, Fifa's Gianni Infantino suggests". The Guardian. 3 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Fifa approves Infantino's plan to expand World Cup to 48 teams from 2026". The Guardian. 10 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Bureau of the Council recommends slot allocation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup". FIFA. 30 March 2017. Archived from the original on 9 April 2017.
  10. ^ "ExCo approves expanded AFC Asian Cup finals". AFC. 16 April 2014.
  11. ^ "World Cup draw looms large in Asia". FIFA.com. 13 April 2015. Completing the tournament's qualifying contenders will be the next 16 highest ranked teams, with the remaining 12 sides battling it out in play-off matches to claim the last eight spots.
  12. ^ "Uefa retains 2010 World Cup qualifying format for 2014". bbc.co.uk. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  13. ^ "FIFA Congress drives football forward, first female secretary general appointed". FIFA.com. 13 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Kosovo to play in Group I in European Qualifiers". uefa.org. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). 9 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Kosovo and Gibraltar assigned to 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying groups". FIFA.com. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). 9 June 2016.
  16. ^ "A unanimous decision: A draw will determine the classifications for the World Cup and CONMEBOL Tournaments". CONMEBOL.com. 23 January 2015.

External linksEdit