2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
Tournament details
Dates12 March 2015 – 15 November 2017
Teams210 (from 6 confederations)
Tournament statistics
Matches played869
Goals scored2,454 (2.82 per match)
Attendance18,720,691 (21,543 per match)
Top scorer(s)Poland Robert Lewandowski
Saudi Arabia Mohammad Al-Sahlawi[n 1]
United Arab Emirates Ahmed Khalil
(16 goals each)
2014
2022

The 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification process was a series of tournaments organised by the six FIFA confederations to decide 31 of the 32 teams which would play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with Russia qualifying automatically as hosts. All 210 remaining FIFA member associations were eligible to enter the qualifying process, and for the first time in World Cup history, all eligible national teams registered for the preliminary competition,[1] but Zimbabwe and Indonesia were disqualified before playing their first matches.[2][3] Bhutan, South Sudan, Gibraltar and Kosovo made their FIFA World Cup qualification debuts.[4][5][6][7][8]

While the main qualifying draw took place at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg, on 25 July 2015,[9][10] qualification matches were played before that.[11] The first, between Timor-Leste and Mongolia, began in Dili on 12 March 2015 as part of the AFC's qualification,[12] with East Timorese player Chiquito do Carmo scoring the first goal in qualification.[n 2] Matches were also played in CONCACAF prior to the main draw.

Qualified teams

.mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  Teams qualified for World Cup   Teams failed to qualify for World Cup   Teams expelled from the tournament by FIFA prior to playing a match   Countries were not FIFA members
  Teams qualified for World Cup
  Teams failed to qualify for World Cup
  Teams expelled from the tournament by FIFA prior to playing a match
  Countries were not FIFA members
Team Method of
qualification
Date of
qualification
Total
times
qualified
Last
time
qualified
Current
consecutive
appearances
Previous best
performance
 Russia Hosts 2 December 2010 11[a] 2014 2 Fourth place (1966)
 Brazil CONMEBOL winners 28 March 2017 21 2014 21 Winners (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
 Iran AFC third round Group A winners 12 June 2017 5 2014 2 Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014)
 Japan AFC third round Group B winners 31 August 2017 6 2014 6 Round of 16 (2002, 2010)
 Mexico CONCACAF fifth round winners 1 September 2017 16 2014 7 Quarter-finals (1970, 1986)
 Belgium UEFA Group H winners 3 September 2017 13 2014 2 Fourth place (1986)
 South Korea AFC third round Group A runners-up 5 September 2017 10 2014 9 Fourth place (2002)
 Saudi Arabia AFC third round Group B runners-up 5 September 2017 5 2006 1 Round of 16 (1994)
 Germany UEFA Group C winners 5 October 2017 19[b] 2014 17 Winners (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
 England UEFA Group F winners 5 October 2017 15 2014 6 Winners (1966)
 Spain UEFA Group G winners 6 October 2017 15 2014 11 Winners (2010)
 Nigeria CAF third round Group B winners 7 October 2017 6 2014 3 Round of 16 (1994, 1998, 2014)
 Costa Rica CONCACAF fifth round runners-up 7 October 2017 5 2014 2 Quarter-finals (2014)
 Poland UEFA Group E winners 8 October 2017 8 2006 1 Third place (1974, 1982)
 Egypt CAF third round Group E winners 8 October 2017 3 1990 1 First round (1934), group stage (1990)
 Iceland UEFA Group I winners 9 October 2017 1 1
 Serbia UEFA Group D winners 9 October 2017 12[c] 2010 1 Fourth place (1930, 1962)
 Portugal UEFA Group B winners 10 October 2017 7 2014 5 Third place (1966)
 France UEFA Group A winners 10 October 2017 15 2014 6 Winners (1998)
 Uruguay CONMEBOL runners-up 10 October 2017 13 2014 3 Winners (1930, 1950)
 Argentina CONMEBOL third place 10 October 2017 17 2014 12 Winners (1978, 1986)
 Colombia CONMEBOL fourth place 10 October 2017 6 2014 2 Quarter-finals (2014)
 Panama CONCACAF fifth round third place 10 October 2017 1 1
 Senegal CAF third round Group D winners 10 November 2017 2 2002 1 Quarter-finals (2002)
 Morocco CAF third round Group C winners 11 November 2017 5 1998 1 Round of 16 (1986)
 Tunisia CAF third round Group A winners 11 November 2017 5 2006 1 Group stage (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006)
  Switzerland UEFA second round winners 12 November 2017 11 2014 4 Quarter-finals (1934, 1938, 1954)
 Croatia UEFA second round winners 12 November 2017 5 2014 2 Third place (1998)
 Sweden UEFA second round winners 13 November 2017 12 2006 1 Runners-up (1958)
 Denmark UEFA second round winners 14 November 2017 5 2010 1 Quarter-finals (1998)
 Australia CONCACAF v AFC play-off winners 15 November 2017 5 2014 4 Round of 16 (2006)
 Peru OFC v CONMEBOL play-off winners 15 November 2017 5 1982 1 Quarter-finals (1970), second round (1978)[d]
Notes
  1. ^ This is the 4th appearance of Russia at the FIFA World Cup; however, FIFA considers Russia as the successor team of the Soviet Union who themselves qualified on 7 occasions.
  2. ^ Germany between 1950 and 1990 competed as "West Germany", as a separate East German team existed then.
  3. ^ This is the 2nd appearance of Serbia at the FIFA World Cup. However, FIFA considers Serbia as the successor team of the Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro, who between them qualified on 10 occasions.
  4. ^ In 1978, the second round was another group stage which involved 8 teams qualified from the first round.

Qualification process

The number of teams participating in the final tournament was 32. Even though the qualification process began in March 2015, the allocation of slots for each confederation was discussed by the FIFA Executive Committee on 30 May 2015 in Zürich after the FIFA Congress.[13] It was decided that the same allocation as 2014 would be kept for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.[14]

Proposal for expansion

In October 2013, UEFA President Michel Platini proposed that the World Cup finals should be expanded from 32 to 40 teams starting from 2018. The format would have been the same, but in groups of five instead of four.[15] This was in response to FIFA President Sepp Blatter's comments that Africa and Asia deserved more spots in the World Cup finals at the expense of European and South American teams.[16] However, FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke said that expansion in 2018 would be "unlikely", while Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said that the country was "preparing on the basis that 32 teams will be taking part."[17][18] Expansion was ultimately delayed until 10 January 2017, when the FIFA Council voted unanimously to expand to 48 teams starting in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.[19]

Summary of qualification

While all FIFA members entered the tournament, not all competed. Zimbabwe were expelled from the competition on 12 March 2015 for their failure to pay former coach José Claudinei a severance fee and Indonesia were excluded from the qualifying competition following the suspension of their football association by FIFA on 30 May 2015.[3] Kuwait had a number of their qualifiers cancelled for a similar suspension that began while their campaign was underway,[20] which eventually resulted in their elimination. Brazil were the first team to achieve qualification for the tournament following their 3–0 victory over Paraguay and Uruguay's loss to Peru on 28 March 2017.[21] Peru became the 32nd and final team to qualify when, 233 days after Brazil secured their place, they beat New Zealand 2–0 on aggregate in the OFC-CONMEBOL play-off.[22]

World Map FIFA2.svg
Confederation Available slots in finals Teams started Teams eliminated Teams qualified Qualifying start date Qualifying end date
AFC 4.5 46 41 5 12 March 2015 15 November 2017
CAF 5 54 49 5 7 October 2015 14 November 2017
CONCACAF 3.5 35 32 3 22 March 2015 15 November 2017
CONMEBOL 4.5 10 5 5 8 October 2015 15 November 2017
OFC 0.5 11 11 0 31 August 2015 15 November 2017
UEFA 13+1 54+1 41 13+1 4 September 2016 14 November 2017
Total 31+1 210+1 179 31+1 12 March 2015 15 November 2017

Note: One team each from AFC, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, and OFC played in the inter-confederation play-offs, between 10–15 November 2017 (CONCACAF v AFC and OFC v CONMEBOL).

Note: UEFA total includes +1 for Russia as hosts.

Format

The formats of the qualifying competitions depended on each confederation (see below). Each round might be played in either of the following formats:[23]

Tiebreakers

In league format, the ranking of teams in each group is based on the following criteria (regulations Articles 20.6 and 20.7):[23]

  1. Points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss)
  2. Overall goal difference
  3. Overall goals scored
  4. Points in matches between tied teams
  5. Goal difference in matches between tied teams
  6. Goals scored in matches between tied teams
  7. Away goals scored in matches between tied teams (if the tie is only between two teams in home-and-away league format)
  8. Fair play points
    • first yellow card: minus 1 point
    • indirect red card (second yellow card): minus 3 points
    • direct red card: minus 4 points
    • yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points
  9. Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee

In cases where teams finishing in the same position across different groups are compared for determining which teams advance to the next stage, the criteria are decided by the confederation and require the approval of FIFA (regulations Article 20.8).[23]

In knockout format, the team that has the higher aggregate score over the two legs progresses to the next round. In the event that aggregate scores finish level, the away goals rule is applied, i.e. the team that scored more goals away from home over the two legs progresses. If away goals are also equal, then thirty minutes of extra time are played, divided into two fifteen-minutes halves. The away goals rule is again applied after extra time, i.e. if there are goals scored during extra time and the aggregate score is still level, the visiting team qualifies by virtue of more away goals scored. If no goals are scored during extra time, the tie is decided by penalty shoot-out (regulations Article 20.9).[23]

Confederation qualification

AFC

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (AFC)

The AFC Executive Committee meeting on 16 April 2014 approved the proposal to merge the preliminary qualification rounds of the FIFA World Cup and the AFC Asian Cup, which was expanded to 24 teams starting in 2019:[24]

Final positions (third round)

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – AFC Third Round

The draw for the third round was held on 12 April 2016 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[25]

Group A Group B
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Iran 10 22
2  South Korea 10 15
3  Syria 10 13
4  Uzbekistan 10 13
5  China PR 10 12
6  Qatar 10 7
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Japan 10 20
2  Saudi Arabia 10 19
3  Australia 10 19
4  United Arab Emirates 10 13
5  Iraq 10 11
6  Thailand 10 2
Source: FIFA

Fourth round

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – AFC Fourth Round

The third-placed teams from each group in the third round played against each other home-and-away over two legs to determine which team advanced to the inter-confederation play-offs.

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
Syria  2–3  Australia 1–1 1–2 (a.e.t.)

CAF

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (CAF)

The CAF Executive Committee approved the format for the qualifiers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on 14 January 2015.[26] However, on 9 July 2015 FIFA officially announced that only three rounds would be played instead of four.[27]

Zimbabwe, even though they entered the competition, were expelled on 12 March 2015 for their failure to pay former coach José Claudinei a severance fee.[2] Therefore, only 53 African teams were involved in the draw.

Final positions (third round)

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – CAF Third Round

The draw for the third round was held on 24 June 2016 at the CAF headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.[28]

Group A Group B Group C
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Tunisia 6 14
2  DR Congo 6 13
3  Libya 6 4
4  Guinea 6 3
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Nigeria 6 13
2  Zambia 6 8
3  Cameroon 6 7
4  Algeria 6 4
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Morocco 6 12
2  Ivory Coast 6 8
3  Gabon 6 6
4  Mali 6 4
Source: FIFA
Group D Group E
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Senegal 6 14
2  Burkina Faso 6 9
3  Cape Verde 6 6
4  South Africa 6 4
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Egypt 6 13
2  Uganda 6 9
3  Ghana 6 7
4  Congo 6 2
Source: FIFA

CONCACAF

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF)

An amendment to the qualification process for this tournament had been suggested,[31] which would see the first three rounds played as knockout rounds, with both the fourth round and the final round (referred to as 'The Hex') played as group stages. The first round would be played during the FIFA international dates of 23–31 March 2015.[32] CONCACAF announced the full details on 12 January 2015:[33][34]

Final positions (fifth round)

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – CONCACAF Fifth Round

The draw for the fifth round (to decide the fixtures) was held on 8 July 2016 at the CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Beach, United States.[35]

Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Mexico 10 21
2  Costa Rica 10 16
3  Panama 10 13
4  Honduras 10 13
5  United States 10 12
6  Trinidad and Tobago 10 6
Source: FIFA

CONMEBOL

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONMEBOL)

The qualification structure was the same as the previous five editions. The ten teams played in a league of home-and-away round-robin matches. The top four teams qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the fifth-placed team advanced to the inter-confederation play-offs.

Unlike previous qualifying tournaments where the fixtures were pre-determined, the fixtures were decided by a draw held on 25 July 2015, at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg, Russia.[36]

Final positions

Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Brazil 18 41
2  Uruguay 18 31
3  Argentina 18 28
4  Colombia 18 27
5  Peru 18 26
6  Chile 18 26
7  Paraguay 18 24
8  Ecuador 18 20
9  Bolivia 18 14
10  Venezuela 18 12
Source: FIFA

OFC

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (OFC)

The qualification structure was as follows:[37][27]

The OFC had considered different proposals of the qualifying tournament.[38] A previous proposal adopted by the OFC in October 2014 would have the eight teams divided into two groups of four teams to play home-and-away round-robin matches in the second round, followed by the top two teams of each group advancing to the third round to play in a single group of home-and-away round-robin matches to decide the winners of the 2016 OFC Nations Cup which would qualify to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and advance to the inter-confederation play-offs.[39] However, it was later reported in April 2015 that the OFC had reversed its decision, and the 2016 OFC Nations Cup was played as a one-off tournament similar to the 2012 OFC Nations Cup.[40]

Final positions (third round)

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – OFC Third Round

The draw for the third round was held on 8 July 2016 at the OFC headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand.[41]

Group A Group B
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  New Zealand 4 10
2  New Caledonia 4 5
3  Fiji 4 1
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Solomon Islands 4 9
2  Tahiti 4 6
3  Papua New Guinea 4 3
Source: FIFA

Final
The draw for the final (which decided the order of legs) was held on 15 June 2017 at the OFC headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand.[43] The winners of the final advanced to inter-confederation play-offs.

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
New Zealand  8–3  Solomon Islands 6–1 2–2

UEFA

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (UEFA)

Russia qualified automatically as hosts. The qualifying format for the remaining FIFA-affiliated UEFA teams was confirmed by the UEFA Executive Committee meeting on 22–23 March 2015 in Vienna.[44][45]

Final positions (first round)

The draw for the first round was held on 25 July 2015, at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg, Russia.[27]

Group A Group B Group C
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  France 10 23
2  Sweden 10 19
3  Netherlands 10 19
4  Bulgaria 10 13
5  Luxembourg 10 6
6  Belarus 10 5
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Portugal 10 27
2   Switzerland 10 27
3  Hungary 10 13
4  Faroe Islands 10 9
5  Latvia 10 7
6  Andorra 10 4
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Germany 10 30
2  Northern Ireland 10 19
3  Czech Republic 10 15
4  Norway 10 13
5  Azerbaijan 10 10
6  San Marino 10 0
Source: FIFA
Group D Group E Group F
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Serbia 10 21
2  Republic of Ireland 10 19
3  Wales 10 17
4  Austria 10 15
5  Georgia 10 5
6  Moldova 10 2
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Poland 10 25
2  Denmark 10 20
3  Montenegro 10 16
4  Romania 10 13
5  Armenia 10 7
6  Kazakhstan 10 3
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  England 10 26
2  Slovakia 10 18
3  Scotland 10 18
4  Slovenia 10 15
5  Lithuania 10 6
6  Malta 10 1
Source: FIFA
Group G Group H Group I
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Spain 10 28
2  Italy 10 23
3  Albania 10 13
4  Israel 10 12
5  Macedonia 10 11
6  Liechtenstein 10 0
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Belgium 10 28
2  Greece 10 19
3  Bosnia and Herzegovina 10 17
4  Estonia 10 11
5  Cyprus 10 10
6  Gibraltar 10 0
Source: FIFA
Pos Team Pld Pts
1  Iceland 10 22
2  Croatia 10 20
3  Ukraine 10 17
4  Turkey 10 15
5  Finland 10 9
6  Kosovo 10 1
Source: FIFA
Ranking of runners-up
Pos Grp Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1 B   Switzerland 8 7 0 1 18 6 +12 21 Advance to second round (play-offs)
2 G  Italy 8 5 2 1 12 8 +4 17
3 E  Denmark 8 4 2 2 13 6 +7 14
4 I  Croatia 8 4 2 2 8 4 +4 14
5 A  Sweden 8 4 1 3 18 9 +9 13
6 C  Northern Ireland 8 4 1 3 10 6 +4 13
7 H  Greece 8 3 4 1 9 5 +4 13
8 D  Republic of Ireland 8 3 4 1 7 5 +2 13
9 F  Slovakia 8 4 0 4 11 6 +5 12
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Counting only matches against teams ranked first to fifth in the group, 1) Points; 2) Goal difference; 3) Goals scored; 4) Fair play points; 5) Drawing of lots.[47][48]

Second round

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Second Round

The draw for the second round (play-offs) was held on 17 October 2017 at the FIFA headquarters in Zürich, Switzerland.[49] The winners of each tie qualified for the World Cup.

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
Northern Ireland  0–1   Switzerland 0–1 0–0
Croatia  4–1  Greece 4–1 0–0
Denmark  5–1  Republic of Ireland 0–0 5–1
Sweden  1–0  Italy 1–0 0–0

Inter-confederation play-offs

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (inter-confederation play-offs)

There were two inter-confederation playoffs to determine the final two qualification spots for the finals. The first legs were played on 10 and 11 November 2017, and the second legs were played on 15 November 2017.[50][51]

The matchups were decided at the preliminary draw which was held on 25 July 2015, at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg, Russia.[27]

CONCACAF v AFC

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (CONCACAF–AFC play-off)

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
Honduras  1–3  Australia 0–0 1–3

OFC v CONMEBOL

Main article: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (OFC–CONMEBOL play-off)

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
New Zealand  0–2  Peru 0–0 0–2

Top goalscorers

There were 2454 goals scored in 869 matches, for an average of 2.82 goals per match.

16 goals

15 goals

11 goals

10 goals

9 goals

8 goals

For each confederation and inter-confederation play-offs, see sections in each article:

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d This player's goal tally included one or more goals that were scored in subsequently forfeited matches, but were counted in FIFA's statistics nevertheless.
  2. ^ The match originally ended 4–1 to Timor-Leste, but FIFA later awarded it as 3–0 to Mongolia due to Timor-Leste having fielded ineligible players. Nevertheless, FIFA continues to count the original goalscorers in its statistics. If they were excluded, the first scorer in qualification would be Chan Vathanaka of Cambodia, who scored against Macau later the same day.

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