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Sure, the international breaks are about as fun as root canal surgery but the pain is worth it for the month-long fiesta of football that awaits at the World Cup.
As strange as it’ll be watching the world’s best footballers slug it out in Qatar’s intense heat while we shiver in the depths of winter next year, it’ll be the perfect build up to Christmas. We can hardly wait.
One team has already qualified and you get no points for guessing which country it is. That’s right, it’s Qatar.
Thankfully, we’re approaching the latter stages of qualification in Europe and a few countries could be booking their tickets to the World Cup in the coming days. But how are the other regions shaping up? We’ve taken a look across the globe to see who will be punching their tickets to Qatar 2022.
Europe’s elite look set to come out on top with, arguably, the 10 best teams on the continent currently topping the groups for an automatic spot at the World Cup. The likes of England, France, Italy, Denmark and Germany already have one foot in Qatar.
It gets a bit more confusing when it comes to the play-offs. The ten group runners-up will be joined by the best two Nations League group winners that finished outside the top two of their World Cup qualification group. The twelve teams will be split into three paths, playing two rounds of one-off play-off matches, with the three path champions qualifying for Qatar.
The Republic of Ireland are set to completely miss out having picked up two points from five games in Group A, Northern Ireland are well in the Group C mix, while Wales and Scotland look good for play-off spots in Group E and F respectively.
Asia has a four-stage process and it’s early days in the third round, which has the last 12 teams left standing split into two groups with home and away matches to be played. The top two teams in each group will qualify and currently Iran, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia are on track to progress.
What is the fourth round then? Well, the third-placed teams meet each other in a one-off match with the winner advancing to an inter-confederation play-off. The United Arab Emirates and Japan would slug it out in the last chance saloon if things stay as they are.
Just five spots at the World Cup go to African nations and their qualification process ramps up the drama at the third and final stage. They’re currently midway through the second round which involves 40 teams being split into 10 groups with home and away matches being played. The group winners will advance and World Cup regulars like Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana could already fall at this stage.
How do they cut the 10 group winners into five? Well, expect plenty of play-off drama as the remaining teams battle it out in two-legged ties with the winners earning their place in Qatar.
Encompassing North and Central American plus the Caribbean nations, CONCACAF qualification is split into three rounds to separate the men from the boys. The big-hitters in the region have reached the final stage where the eight teams left standing play each other home and away in a single group, with the top three qualifying for the World Cup. The country in fourth must win a dreaded inter-confederation play-off to join them in Qatar.
God bless the South Americans for having a straightforward qualification process. The 10 countries in the region play each other home and away with the top four earning a spot at the World Cup, with the fifth-placed team needing to win an inter-confederation play-off.
Brazil have a perfect record from nine games to top the lot and might as well start packing their bags for Qatar. Argentina are also in a healthy position with 19 points from nine games, while Ecuador and Uruguay currently have the edge on Colombia for automatic qualification.
The Oceania qualifiers have yet to get going due to problems arising from the coronavirus pandemic. The OFC are attempting to stage their qualification matches in Qatar in March 2022. It’s not clear what the schedule will look like but the country that comes out on top doesn’t even earn automatic entry to the World Cup as their ‘prize’ is an inter-confederation play-off spot.
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