World Cup 2022: What is the state of play outside of Europe in qualifying for Qatar?


It is crunch time on the road to Qatar 2022 but with the European slots nearly done and dusted, there are still several spaces left for nations across the globe.

The qualification picture for next year’s World Cup in Qatar is starting to emerge with 13 of the 32 finalists now known.

But while Portugal and Italy are heading for the nervy and newly-designed European play-offs, which established footballing nations are also sweating over their place at next winter’s showpiece event? We take a look at the state of play involving the other confederations.

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Qualified: Qatar

Europe – UEFA (13 places total)

Image: Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal will play in March's World Cup play-offs to try and reach Qatar 2022

Qualified: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland.

To be decided: A 12-team play-off tournament next March will determine Europe’s final three qualifiers.

The seeded teams involved: Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Wales.
The unseeded teams involved: Austria, North Macedonia, Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic

Also See:

  • 2022 World Cup play-offs: All you need to know
  • World Cup Qualifiers: Who’s through and who needs what?
  • World Cup qualifying fixtures
  • World Cup qualifying results

When is the play-off draw and how will it work?

The draw will take place in Zurich on Friday November 26 from 4pm, UK time.

The six best-ranked runners-up – based on criteria that starts with number of points, goal difference and goals scored – will be allocated to Pot 1 and drawn in six semi-finals as the home team.

The remaining teams will then be drawn from Pot 2 to semi-finals 1-6.

There will be three play-off paths, with each providing a World Cup finalist.

Semi-finals 1 and 2 make up play-off path A, semi-finals 3 and 4 form path B and semi-finals 5 and 6 will contest path C.

To determine which semi-final winner will play at home in the final, an additional draw will be held for each path.

South America – CONMEBOL (4/5 places)

Image: Brazil and Argentina have both qualified

Qualified: Argentina, Brazil.

Argentina drew 0-0 at home with Brazil in a tense and end-to-end game on Tuesday, but results elsewhere meant the point they earned was enough to secure them a place in next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Brazil, who guaranteed their spot last week, top the 10-team South American qualifying section with 35 points and Argentina have 29, six clear of third-placed Ecuador.

The top four teams qualify automatically, and the fifth-placed side go into an inter-regional play-off.

Even the Argentina players did not know they had qualified until well after the match in San Juan. It was only after Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia recorded wins later in the evening that the Argentinians were mathematically assured of their place in Qatar.

To be decided: There are four rounds of fixtures remaining in South America’s 10-team qualifying competition, from which the top four qualify automatically.

The fifth-placed side will get another chance in the intercontinental play-offs*.

Ecuador and Colombia currently occupy the remaining two automatic spots with Peru a close fifth but Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay are all still in contention.

*The intercontinental play-offs will see one side from Asia, South America, North/Central America/Caribbean and Oceania play two-legged ties to determine the last two berths. They will take place in June 2022.

Asia – AFC (4/5 places)

Image: Heung-Min Son is hoping to reach Qatar 2022 with South Korea

The top two finishers in both of Asia’s qualifying groups advance automatically to Qatar 2022 while the teams in third spot will progress to a series of play-offs.

The top two in each group automatically qualify with the two third-placed sides facing each other for the right to play in the intercontinental play-offs.

Qualified: None.

To be decided: There are four rounds of fixtures remaining in the final 12-team stage of qualifying, in which teams are divided into two groups of six.

Iran moved within touching distance of a third consecutive World Cup finals appearance as Dragan Skocic’s side brushed Syria aside 3-0 in Amman on Tuesday to maintain their unbeaten run in Group A of Asia’s preliminaries for Qatar 2022.

Sardar Azmoun, Ehsan Hajsafi and Ali Gholizadeh were all on target as the Iranians moved on to 16 points from six games in Group A and victory over Iraq when qualifying resumes on January 27 would secure their spot at next year’s tournament.

The Iranians are two points clear of South Korea, who enhanced their hopes of progressing with a 3-0 win over Iraq in Doha, while the United Arab Emirates moved into third place on six points by handing hosts Lebanon a 1-0 defeat.

Iran and South Korea are well clear in Group A with the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria apparently competing for third spot.

Saudi Arabia head Group B with Japan and Australia in a tight battle for second/third.

The two third-placed teams in each group from the third round will play against each other in a single match to determine which team advances to the inter-confederation play-offs*.

*The intercontinental play-offs will see one side from Asia, South America, North/Central America/Caribbean and Oceania play two-legged ties to determine the last two berths. They will take place in June 2022.

Africa – CAF (five places)

Image: Sadio Mane and Senegal are still in the mix for one of five African berths

All 54 FIFA-affiliated football associations from CAF entered qualification and the second round has just finished.

Among the nations to have failed to progress from the second round are Togo, South Africa, Gabon and Ivory Coast.

For Ivory Coast, their failure to reach Qatar is being viewed back home as a disaster given their wealth of talent. The country made the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, before failing to qualify in 2018.

Qualified: None.

To be decided: The third round will take place next year, when the 10 teams will be drawn into five two-legged ties with the aggregate winners representing Africa in Qatar. The two-legged ties will be played between March 24-29.

Those involved are Algeria, Cameroon, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

All but one of the 10 countries that have advanced to the last stage of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers will have another matter on their immediate agenda before determining who plays at the 2022 finals in Qatar.

Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia are all on course to qualify for Qatar but compete at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in January before switching focus back to World Cup qualification in March.

Only the Democratic Republic of Congo are through to the last round of Africa’s World Cup preliminaries despite having flopped in the Cup of Nations qualifiers this year.

North/Central America & Caribbean – CONCACAF (3/4 places)

Image: Alphonso Davies has helped Canada to the top of the group

Qualified: None

To be decided: There is still plenty to play for with six rounds of fixtures remaining in the eight-team final qualifying group. The top three sides qualify automatically with fourth place heading to the intercontinental play-offs*.

Currently just two points separate the top four of Canada, USA, Mexico and Panama. Costa Rica, Jamaica and El Salvador have work to do but are not out of the reckoning.

In the most recent round of fixtures, Cyle Larin struck twice to lift Canada to a 2-1 win over Mexico in frigid Edmonton on Tuesday, enabling the host nation to climb to the top of the standings.

Through eight matches Canada remain the only unbeaten team, sitting in first place on 16 points followed by the USA with 15 after a 1-1 draw with Jamaica.

It is an unfamiliar spot for the Canadians who have only once before qualified for a World Cup, in 1986.

*The intercontinental play-offs will see one side from Asia, South America, North/Central America/Caribbean and Oceania play two-legged ties to determine the last two berths. They will take place in June 2022.

Oceania – OFC (0/1 place)

Image: Can Burnley's Chris Wood fire New Zealand to Qatar?

Qualified: None

To be decided: The Oceania qualifying process – which guarantees only an entrant in the intercontinental play-offs rather than the finals tournament itself – is still to begin due to the practical difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

Plans are still to be finalised but a mini-tournament between the region’s 11 teams could take place in March.

The 11 OFC teams will be split into two groups during the first round based on their FIFA Ranking, and play single round-robin matches at centralised locations. The top two teams of each group advance.

During the second round, the four teams will play knockout two-legged home-and-away matches, consisting of the semi-finals and final. The winner advances to the inter-confederation play-offs*.

The countries in the region are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu.

*The intercontinental play-offs will see one side from Asia, South America, North/Central America/Caribbean and Oceania play two-legged ties to determine the last two berths. They will take place in June 2022.

What is the World Cup format and schedule?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will feature 32 teams in eight groups of four.

Four matches will be played each day during the group stage, which will run over a 12-day period and see winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16.

Matches will only be assigned to particular venues after the finals draw, so organisers can choose optimal kick-off times to suit television audiences in different countries, as well as supporters in Qatar.

The finals draw is scheduled to take place in April 2022, after the March window for international fixtures.

Unlike at Euro 2020, there will be a third-place play-off game on December 17.

Group stage: November 21- December 2
Round of 16: December 3-6
Quarter-finals: December 9/10
Semi-finals: December 13/14
Final: December 18

When will the matches kick off?

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Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow says he has concerns for both players and fans, as the Qatar 2022 World Cup will mean a five week break in Premier League next winter

FIFA has confirmed the first two rounds of matches will kick off at 1pm, 4pm, 7pm and 10pm local time (10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm in the United Kingdom).

Kick-off times in the final round of group games and knock-out round matches will be at 6pm and 10pm local time (3pm and 7pm UK time).

The final is scheduled to kick off at 6pm local time (3pm UK time)

What are the venues?

Image: This computer-generated image shows an artists impression of Ras Abu Aboud Stadium in the host city of Doha

The group games will take place across eight stadia: Al Bayt Stadium, Khalifa International Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Lusail Stadium, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, Education City Stadium and Al Janoub Stadium.

What happens to the Premier League in 2022/23?

The Premier League has confirmed key dates for the 2022/23 campaign, with the season adjusted to accommodate a World Cup that takes place in the middle of the domestic calendar.

The season will start a week earlier than normal on August 6 2022, with 16 matchdays taking place up to the weekend of November 12/13, before the tournament kicks off on November 21.

The Premier League will resume on Boxing Day following the World Cup final, which takes place on December 18.

The final match round of the 2022/23 season will be played on May 28 2023.

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