FIFA World Cup qualification

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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 current qualification process is the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification which commenced in 2019 and finishes in 2022.

History[edit]

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 continent[edit]

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]

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
Italy
(16)
1938
France
(15)1
1950
Brazil
(13)2
1954
Switzerland
(16)
1958
Sweden
(16)
1962
Chile
(16)
1966
England
(16)
1970
Mexico
(16)
1974
West Germany
(16)
1978
Argentina
(16)
1982
Spain
(24)
1986
Mexico
(24)
1990
Italy
(24)
1994
United States
(24)
1998
France
(32)
2002
South Korea
Japan
(32)
2006
Germany
(32)7
2010
South Africa
(32)
2014
Brazil
(32)
2018
Russia
(32)
2022
Qatar
(32)
2026
Canada
United States
Mexico
(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
8
Oceania did not exist 0.5 0.5 0.256 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1
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
–3H
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 did not exist 2
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 time[edit]

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
Italy
(16)
1938
France
(15)
1950
Brazil
(13)
1954
Switzerland
(16)
1958
Sweden
(16)
1962
Chile
(16)
1966
England
(16)
1970
Mexico
(16)
1974
West Germany
(16)
1978
Argentina
(16)
1982
Spain
(24)
1986
Mexico
(24)
1990
Italy
(24)
1994
United States
(24)
1998
France
(32)
2002
South Korea
Japan
(32)
2006
Germany
(32)
2010
South Africa
(32)
2014
Brazil
(32)
2018
Russia
(32)
2022
Qatar
(32)
2026
Canada
Mexico
United States
(48)
Europe 21 26 19 29 27 30 33 31 33 32 34 33 33 39 50 51 52 53 53 54 55
Africa 3 0 11 6 21 13 24 26 29 29 26 40 38 51 51 53 52 54 54
Asia 2 4 3 5 7 18 22 21 27 26 29 36 42 39 43 43 46 46
Oceania1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 5 7 10 10 12 11 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 35
South America 4 2 8 6 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 10 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 2115
Teams played3 27 21 19 33 46 49 51 68 90 95 103 110 103 130 168 193 194 2004 203 208 12
Matches played 27 22 26 57 89 92 127 172 226 252 306 308 314 497 643 777 847 853 828 872 11
Goals scored 141 96 121 208 341 325 393 542 620 723 797 801 735 1446 1922 2452 2464 2344 2303 2454 32
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 2.91
  • 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 These numbers included Tuvalu (see note 1) and South Africa. Although South Africa qualified automatically for 2010 as hosts, they competed in the CAF qualifiers, becoming the second hosts to compete in World Cup qualifying and the first to do it 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 attempted to qualify.
  • 5 This number includes Qatar. Although Qatar qualified automatically for 2022 as hosts, they compete in the AFC qualifiers, becoming the third hosts to do so; this is because the Asian Football Confederation used its 2022 World Cup qualifiers as the qualifying phase for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, a tournament for which Qatar are attempting to qualify.

First appearance in qualification by team[edit]

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.

World Cup Debuting teams Successor and renamed teams
Europe South America North, Central America and Caribbean Asia Africa Oceania T CT
Italy
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
 Mandatory Palestine[F]  Egypt[G] none 27 27
France
1938
 Finland
 Latvia
 Norway
none none none none none 3 30
Brazil
1950
 England
 Ireland[H]
 Scotland
 Turkey[I]
 Wales
none none  Syria none none 6 36  Ireland[C]
 Israel[F]
Switzerland
1954
 Saar  Brazil[J]
 Chile[K]
 Paraguay[L]
none  Japan[M]
 South Korea
none none 6 42  Northern Ireland[H]
 Republic of Ireland[C]
 West Germany[B]
Sweden
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
Chile
1962
 Cyprus[W]  Ecuador[X]  Dutch Guyana[Y]
 Honduras
none  Ethiopia
 Ghana
 Morocco
 Nigeria
 Tunisia
none 9 67  Netherlands Antilles[U]
England
1966
 Albania  Venezuela[Z]  Jamaica
 Trinidad and Tobago
 North Korea none  Australia 6 73
Mexico
1970
none none  Bermuda
 El Salvador[AA]
none  Algeria[AB]
 Cameroon[AC]
 Libya[AD]
 Rhodesia[AE]
 Senegal[AF]
 Zambia
 New Zealand 9 82
West Germany
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
Argentina
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  Suriname[Y]
Spain
1982
none none  Grenada  Macau  Gambia
 Liberia[AM]
 Madagascar[AN]
 Mozambique
 Somalia
 Fiji 8 125  Chinese Taipei[AK]
 Zimbabwe[AE]
Mexico
1986
none none none  Bangladesh
 Brunei
 Jordan
 India[AO]
   Nepal
 North Yemen[AP]
 South Yemen
 United Arab Emirates[AQ]
 Angola none 9 134  Benin[AH]
Italy
1990
none none none  Oman[AR]
 Pakistan
 Gabon[AS] none 3 137  Burkina Faso[AL]
United States
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  Germany[B]
 Representation of Czechs and Slovaks[A]
 Russia[N]
 Vietnam[AG]
 Yemen[AP]
France
1998
 Armenia
 Azerbaijan
 Belarus
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 Georgia
 Liechtenstein[AW]
 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  Czech Republic[A]
 DR Congo[AJ]
 FR Yugoslavia[E]
South KoreaJapan
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  Samoa[BB]
Germany
2006
none none none  Afghanistan none  New Caledonia 2 206  Serbia and Montenegro[E]
South Africa
2010
 Montenegro none none  Myanmar[BG]
 Timor-Leste
 Comoros  Tuvalu[BH] 5 211  Serbia[E]
Brazil
2014
none none none none none none 0 211  Curaçao[U]
Russia
2018
 Gibraltar
 Kosovo
none none  Bhutan[BI]  South Sudan none 4 215
Qatar
2022
none none none none none none 0 215  Eswatini[AV]
 North Macedonia[AX]
Notes
  1. ^ a b c 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 from the 1998 qualification.
  2. ^ a b c Germany was succeeded from the 1954 qualification by West Germany, which in turn was succeeded by the reunified Germany from the 1994 qualification.
  3. ^ a b c The Irish Free State was succeeded in the 1950 qualification by Ireland, which became officially known as the Republic of Ireland from the 1954 qualification.
  4. ^ Italy had to qualify for the tournament despite being the host.
  5. ^ a b c d Yugoslavia was succeeded from the 1998 qualification by FR Yugoslavia, which was renamed as Serbia and Montenegro for the 2006 qualification and was then succeeded by Serbia from the 2010 qualification.
  6. ^ a b Mandatory Palestine was succeeded by Israel from the 1950 qualification.
  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. ^ a b Ireland was succeeded by Northern Ireland from the 1954 qualification.
  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. ^ a b The Soviet Union was succeeded by Russia from the 1994 qualification.
  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. ^ a b c The Territory of Curaçao was succeeded from the 1962 qualification by the Netherlands Antilles, which in turn was succeeded by Curaçao from the 2014 qualification.
  22. ^ Indonesia entered the 1938 qualification as the  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. ^ a b Dutch Guyana entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was succeeded by Suriname from the 1978 qualification.
  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. ^ a b Rhodesia was succeeded by Zimbabwe from the 1982 qualification.
  32. ^ Senegal entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  33. ^ a b South Vietnam was succeeded by Vietnam from the 1994 qualification.
  34. ^ a b Dahomey was renamed as Benin from the 1986 qualification.
  35. ^ Guinea entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  36. ^ a b Zaire was renamed as DR Congo during the 1998 qualification.
  37. ^ a b The Republic of China entered the 1954 and 1958 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches. It became officially known as Chinese Taipei from the 1982 qualification.
  38. ^ a b Upper Volta was renamed as Burkina Faso from the 1990 qualification.
  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. ^ a b North Yemen was succeeded by Yemen from the 1994 qualification.
  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 (as  Ceylon) and 1978 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  48. ^ a b Swaziland was renamed as Eswatini from the 2022 qualification.
  49. ^ Liechtenstein entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  50. ^ a b Macedonia was renamed as North Macedonia from the 2022 qualification.
  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. ^ a b Western Samoa entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was renamed as Samoa from the 2002 qualification.
  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 the 2006 qualification and had not entered the FIFA World Cup, although the 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 (1934–2022)[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 has not participated there because it withdrew (India)
Team has not qualified for the main tournament but is assured of an automatic spot in 2022 as host (Qatar)
Team has not 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)

Teams in bold are currently participating or are yet to start in the 2022 qualification. The table is updated to the matches played in September 2019.

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 16 175 113 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 15 142 83 36 23 365 113 +252 285 2.007 AFC
4  South Korea 15 136 83 36 17 266 86 +180 285 2.096 AFC
5  Iran 11 129 79 34 16 269 81 +188 271 2.101 AFC
6  Netherlands 18 125 82 24 19 296 93 +203 270 2.160 UEFA
7  Spain 18 117 81 25 11 276 76 +200 268 2.291 UEFA
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  Japan 15 121 69 26 26 249 85 +164 233 1.926 AFC
23  Saudi Arabia 12 119 68 29 22 234 95 +139 233 1.958 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  China PR 12 109 67 16 26 235 74 +161 217 1.991 AFC
29  El Salvador 13 140 63 28 49 233 168 +65 217 1.550 CONCACAF
30  Colombia 16 152 57 46 49 180 159 +21 217 1.428 CONMEBOL
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  Qatar 12 114 51 23 40 187 121 +66 176 1.544 AFC
48  Cameroon 13 87 51 22 14 144 66 +78 175 2.011 CAF
49  Egypt 14 93 52 19 22 165 89 +76 175 1.882 CAF
50  Ecuador 15 143 47 33 63 169 202 −33 174 1.217 CONMEBOL
51  Iraq 12 102 48 25 29 202 104 +98 169 1.657 AFC
52  Uzbekistan 7 95 49 19 27 177 97 +80 166 1.747 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 13 95 49 14 32 167 95 +72 161 1.695 AFC
58  Zambia 13 96 45 20 31 145 88 +57 155 1.615 CAF
59  Israel (1950—)
 Mandatory Palestine (1934–1938)
20 122 40 34 48 166 178 −12 154 1.262 UEFA
60  United Arab Emirates 10 98 43 20 35 165 112 +53 149 1.520 AFC
61  Ivory Coast 11 78 41 25 12 144 67 +77 148 1.897 CAF
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  North Korea 11 85 41 19 25 119 77 +42 142 1.671 AFC
66  Jamaica 11 104 37 27 40 115 132 −17 138 1.327 CONCACAF
67  Wales 18 120 37 26 57 151 170 −19 137 1.142 UEFA
68  Haiti 14 90 39 17 34 152 120 +32 134 1.489 CONCACAF
69  Syria 15 85 37 20 28 179 99 +80 131 1.541 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  Bahrain 11 90 32 26 32 107 95 +12 122 1.356 AFC
74  Finland 19 129 32 23 74 134 287 −153 119 0.922 UEFA
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 9 71 30 19 22 117 71 +46 109 1.535 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  Jordan 10 71 29 14 28 107 93 +14 101 1.423 AFC
81  Senegal 12 63 26 22 15 90 56 +34 100 1.587 CAF
82  Angola 10 63 26 22 15 82 58 +24 100 1.587 CAF
83  Venezuela 13 140 25 25 90 120 314 −194 100 0.714 CONMEBOL
84  Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 58 28 10 20 112 69 +43 94 1.621 UEFA
85  Thailand 13 91 25 19 47 119 156 −37 94 1.033 AFC
86  South Africa 7 50 28 8 14 66 45 +21 92 1.840 CAF
87  Slovenia 6 62 25 15 22 81 68 +13 90 1.452 UEFA
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 13 75 23 15 37 92 131 −39 84 1.120 AFC
91  Zimbabwe (1982—)
 Rhodesia (1970)
11 63 22 16 25 65 77 −12 82 1.302 CAF
92  Togo 11 65 22 15 28 71 87 −16 81 1.246 CAF
93  Cuba 12 68 20 20 28 85 102 −17 80 1.176 CONCACAF
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  Malaysia 13 63 20 13 30 89 116 −27 73 1.159 AFC
99  Indonesia (1958—)
 Dutch East Indies (1938)
13 73 19 16 38 89 149 −60 73 1.000 AFC
100  Solomon Islands 7 54 21 9 24 112 113 −1 72 1.333 OFC
101  Latvia 8 75 19 15 41 82 130 −48 72 0.960 UEFA
102  Lebanon 8 57 19 14 24 87 79 +8 71 1.246 AFC
103  Suriname (1978—)
 Dutch Guyana (1962–1974)
14 65 19 14 32 91 111 −20 71 1.092 CONCACAF
104  Singapore 12 70 20 11 39 78 124 −46 71 1.014 AFC
105  Fiji 9 53 20 10 23 111 98 +13 70 1.321 OFC
106  Albania 12 104 18 14 72 72 188 −116 68 0.654 UEFA
107  Lithuania 9 73 17 16 40 59 111 −52 67 0.918 UEFA
108  Sudan 13 66 16 18 32 59 102 −43 66 1.000 CAF
109  New Caledonia 4 35 18 8 9 87 36 +51 62 1.771 OFC
110  Malawi 11 60 15 17 28 57 83 −26 62 1.033 CAF
111  Liberia 10 60 16 12 32 42 86 −44 60 1.000 CAF
112  Turkmenistan 7 42 18 5 19 66 61 +5 59 1.405 AFC
113  Tahiti 7 43 17 8 18 66 81 −15 59 1.372 OFC
114  Estonia 9 76 16 11 49 65 166 −101 59 0.776 UEFA
115  Cyprus 15 114 15 13 86 87 299 −212 58 0.509 UEFA
116  Curaçao (2014—)
 Netherlands Antilles (1962–2010)
 Territory of Curaçao (1958)
16 60 13 18 29 53 116 −63 57 0.950 CONCACAF
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—)
 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  Tajikistan 7 38 15 7 16 65 55 +10 52 1.368 AFC
122  Belarus 6 58 13 12 33 61 97 −36 51 0.879 UEFA
123  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7 58 14 8 36 77 170 −93 50 0.862 CONCACAF
124  Yemen (1994—)
 North Yemen (1986–1990)
10 52 12 13 27 56 84 −28 49 0.942 AFC
125  Kazakhstan 6 60 12 11 37 71 128 −57 47 0.783 UEFA
126  Benin (1986—)
 Dahomey (1974)
8 44 13 7 24 46 89 −43 46 1.045 CAF
127  Sierra Leone 11 47 12 9 26 41 72 −31 45 0.957 CAF
128  Madagascar 9 36 12 8 16 45 51 −6 44 1.222 CAF
129  Antigua and Barbuda 10 42 13 5 24 66 93 −27 44 1.048 CONCACAF
130  Armenia 6 62 10 14 38 52 122 −70 44 0.710 UEFA
131  Georgia 6 56 9 16 31 51 89 −38 43 0.768 UEFA
132  Cape Verde 5 34 13 3 18 34 46 −12 42 1.235 CAF
133  Ethiopia 12 43 10 12 21 48 66 −18 42 0.977 CAF
134  Namibia 8 44 11 9 24 41 83 −42 42 0.955 CAF
135  India 9 45 10 12 23 44 89 −45 42 0.933 AFC
136  Saint Kitts and Nevis 6 30 11 8 11 64 54 +10 41 1.367 CONCACAF
137  Montenegro 3 30 10 10 10 47 43 +4 40 1.333 UEFA
138  Kyrgyzstan 7 32 12 4 16 38 50 −12 40 1.250 AFC
139  Vanuatu 7 37 12 3 22 76 89 −13 39 1.054 OFC
140  Mozambique 9 36 10 8 18 33 50 −17 38 1.056 CAF
141  Vietnam (1994—)
 South Vietnam (1974)
9 42 11 4 27 43 81 −38 37 0.881 AFC
142  Palestine 6 28 10 6 12 51 38 +13 36 1.286 AFC
143  Botswana 7 36 10 6 20 33 53 −20 36 1.000 CAF
144  Bangladesh 10 51 10 6 35 34 123 −89 36 0.706 AFC
145  Dominican Republic 8 29 10 5 14 42 50 −8 35 1.207 CONCACAF
146  Azerbaijan 6 58 7 14 37 29 104 −75 35 0.603 UEFA
147  Barbados 8 37 10 4 23 35 73 −38 34 0.919 CONCACAF
148  Rwanda 7 38 8 9 21 39 54 −15 33 0.868 CAF
149  Tanzania 10 35 7 12 16 37 52 −15 33 0.943 CAF
150  Niger 7 30 9 5 16 27 48 −21 32 1.067 CAF
151  Samoa (2002—)
 Western Samoa (1998)
6 26 9 1 16 37 88 −51 28 1.077 OFC
152  Faroe Islands 7 70 7 7 56 34 184 −150 28 0.400 UEFA
153  Papua New Guinea 4 22 7 6 9 43 36 +7 27 1.227 OFC
154  Belize 6 26 7 6 13 32 54 −22 27 1.038 CONCACAF
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  Burundi 7 22 7 5 10 19 28 −9 26 1.182 CAF
158  Maldives 7 34 8 2 24 37 125 −88 26 0.765 AFC
159  Luxembourg 20 134 5 10 119 69 433 −364 25 0.187 UEFA
160  Grenada 7 25 7 3 15 49 54 −5 24 0.960 CONCACAF
161  Gambia 9 26 6 6 14 21 39 −18 24 0.923 CAF
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)
12 60 6 4 50 36 204 −168 22 0.367 AFC
166  Puerto Rico 9 25 5 6 14 22 55 −33 21 0.840 CONCACAF
167  Chad 6 18 6 2 10 16 26 −10 20 1.111 CAF
168    Nepal 8 32 5 4 23 25 107 −82 19 0.594 AFC
169  Equatorial Guinea 6 22 5 3 14 19 37 −18 18 0.818 CAF
170  Philippines 5 23 5 3 15 22 63 −41 18 0.783 AFC
171  Sri Lanka 8 35 4 6 25 24 79 −55 18 0.514 AFC
172  Eswatini (2022—)
 Swaziland (1994–2018)
8 21 4 5 12 16 41 −25 17 0.810 CAF
173  Mongolia 6 18 5 1 12 15 49 −34 16 0.889 AFC
174  Lesotho 8 26 2 10 14 15 52 −37 16 0.615 CAF
175  Cambodia 6 30 4 4 22 21 93 −72 16 0.533 AFC
176  Malta 12 102 2 10 90 33 300 −267 16 0.157 UEFA
177  Bahamas 5 14 4 3 7 20 43 −23 15 1.071 CONCACAF
178  Macau 10 37 4 2 31 16 168 −152 14 0.378 AFC
179  Guinea-Bissau 7 14 3 4 7 11 20 −9 13 0.929 CAF
180  Aruba 6 16 4 1 11 23 42 −19 13 0.812 CONCACAF
181  Dominica 6 20 3 4 13 15 54 −39 13 0.650 CONCACAF
182  Afghanistan 5 16 4 1 11 11 51 −40 13 0.812 AFC
183  Laos 5 28 3 4 21 23 125 −102 13 0.464 AFC
184  Liechtenstein 6 60 2 6 52 23 185 −162 12 0.200 UEFA
185  Myanmar 4 16 3 2 11 11 41 −30 11 0.687 AFC
186  Cook Islands 6 20 3 1 16 16 63 −47 10 0.500 OFC
187  Guam 3 14 3 1 10 9 57 −48 10 0.714 AFC
188  American Samoa 5 18 3 1 14 11 136 −125 10 0.556 OFC
189  Mauritania 6 16 2 3 11 13 31 −18 9 0.562 CAF
190  Bhutan 2 12 3 0 9 9 58 −49 9 0.750 AFC
191  U.S. Virgin Islands 5 15 3 0 12 8 80 −72 9 0.600 CONCACAF
192  Andorra 5 52 2 3 47 14 162 −148 9 0.173 UEFA
193  Djibouti 5 15 2 2 11 8 57 −49 8 0.533 CAF
194  São Tomé and Príncipe 5 10 2 1 7 5 25 −20 7 0.700 CAF
195  Somalia 7 13 1 3 9 3 29 −26 6 0.462 CAF
196  Mauritius 8 20 1 3 16 14 52 −38 6 0.300 CAF
197  Brunei 4 16 2 0 14 5 62 −57 6 0.375 AFC
198  Cayman Islands 6 16 0 5 11 6 35 −29 5 0.313 CONCACAF
199  Saar 1 4 1 1 2 4 8 −4 4 1.000 defunct
200  Central African Republic 3 10 1 1 8 8 21 −13 4 0.400 CAF
201  Comoros 4 10 0 4 6 5 21 −16 4 0.400 CAF
202  Pakistan 9 32 0 4 28 13 122 −109 4 0.125 AFC
203  Eritrea 5 10 0 3 7 4 20 −16 3 0.300 CAF
204  British Virgin Islands 5 10 0 3 7 7 34 −27 3 0.300 CONCACAF
205  Turks and Caicos Islands 5 10 1 0 9 6 46 −40 3 0.300 CONCACAF
206  South Sudan 2 4 0 2 2 2 7 −5 2 0.500 CAF
207  Seychelles 6 16 0 2 14 6 46 −40 2 0.125 CAF
208  San Marino 7 66 0 2 64 11 310 −299 2 0.030 UEFA
209  South Yemen 1 2 0 1 1 4 7 −3 1 0.500 defunct
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 4 16 0 0 16 6 80 −74 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 Guatemala Carlos Ruiz 39 47 0.75 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (10), 2010 (6), 2014 (6), 2018 (9)
2 Iran Ali Daei 35 50 0.70 1994 (7 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (10), 2006 (9)
3 Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo 30 38 0.79 2006 (7 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (15)
4 Iran Karim Bagheri 28 29 0.97 1998 (19 goals), 2002 (8), 2010 (1)
5 Japan Kazu Miura 27 25 1.08 1994 (13 goals), 1998 (14)
6 Ukraine Andriy Shevchenko 26 40 0.65 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (10), 2006 (6), 2010 (6)
7 Australia Tim Cahill 25 36 0.69 2006 (7 goals), 2010 (4), 2014 (3), 2018 (11)
8 Honduras Carlos Pavón 25 37 0.68 1998 (2 goals), 2002 (15), 2006 (1), 2010 (7)
9 Bosnia and Herzegovina Edin Džeko 24 31 0.77 2010 (9 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (5)
10 Mexico Jared Borgetti 23 24 0.96 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (14), 2010 (3)
11 Poland Robert Lewandowski 21 28 0.75 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (3), 2018 (16)
12 Costa Rica Paulo Wanchope 21 37 0.57 1998 (6 goals), 2002 (7), 2006 (8)
13 Argentina Lionel Messi 21 45 0.47 2010 (4 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (7)
14 Uruguay Luis Suárez 21 48 0.44 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (5)
15 Australia Archie Thompson 20 15 1.33 2002 (16 goals), 2006 (2), 2014 (2)
16 Trinidad and Tobago Stern John 20 49 0.41 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (3), 2006 (12), 2010 (2)
17 New Zealand Vaughan Coveny 19 19 1.00 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (6)
18 Haiti Emmanuel Sanon 19 20 0.95 1974 (11 goals), 1978 (8)
19 Portugal Pauleta 19 24 0.79 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (11)
20 Sweden Zlatan Ibrahimović 19 29 0.66 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (8), 2010 (2), 2014 (8)
21 Argentina Hernán Crespo 19 33 0.58 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (7)
22 Ivory Coast Didier Drogba 18 19 0.95 2006 (9 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (3)
23la Burkina Faso Moumouni Dagano 18 24 0.75 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (5), 2010 (12)
24 Cameroon Samuel Eto'o 18 29 0.62 2002 (3 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (9), 2014 (2)
25 El Salvador Raúl Díaz Arce 18 29 0.62 1994 (2 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (7)
26 Chile Marcelo Salas 18 32 0.56 1998 (11 goals), 2002 (4), 2006 (1), 2010 (2)
27 Republic of Ireland Robbie Keane 18 37 0.49 2002 (2 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (6), 2014 (6)
28 United States Clint Dempsey 18 43 0.42 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (5)
29 Chile Iván Zamorano 17 11 1.54 1990 (1 goal), 1998 (12), 2002 (4)
30 Belize Deon McCaulay 17 16 1.06 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (4)
31 Bulgaria Dimitar Berbatov 17 24 0.71 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (8), 2010 (5)
32 Switzerland Alexander Frei 17 25 0.68 2002 (5 goals), 2006 (7), 2010 (5)
33 Costa Rica Álvaro Saborío 17 41 0.41 2006 (3 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (8)

(updated as of FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers)

Current format[edit]

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 2022, except for Oceania, are outlined below.

Africa[edit]

The CAF qualification process reverted to the format used for the 2014 qualification, it will begin with one preliminary round to narrow the field of 28 entrants to 14 teams in September 2019.

The group stage consists of 10 groups of four, with the group winners advancing to the two-legged, home-and-away third round; the five winners advance to the World Cup finals.

Asia[edit]

Qualifying was altered significantly from the 2014 method, with changes to the structure of the preliminary rounds – which were held before the AFC's main draw. One home-and-away preliminary round reduced the 12 weakest entrants to six, which then joined the 34 strongest sides in eight groups of five, with the winners and 4 best runners-up advancing to the final group stage, comprising two 6-team groups. If Qatar is among the group winners or runners-up, only the seven other group winners will advance and the fifth-best group runners-up will enter instead; the winners and runners-up of the two final groups of six advance to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off for the right to play in an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot. The first two rounds also act as the qualifiers for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.[10]

A total of 24 teams eliminated from World Cup qualification in the second round compete in the third round of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification (which is separate from the third round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification), where they will be divided into six groups of four teams and compete for the remaining slots of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup; the 24 teams consist of the 16 highest ranked teams eliminated in the second round, and the eight teams that advanced from the play-off round of 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification which are contested by the remaining 12 teams eliminated in the second round.[11]

Europe[edit]

The European qualification may be changed from the 2010 to 2018 systems; the 55 national teams will be divided into five groups of six teams and five groups of five, with the group winners qualifying directly to the finals.

The introduction of the new UEFA Nations League is likely to change the qualifying format, although this has yet to be confirmed. One suggestion is to have two teams based on Nations League performance join the group runners-up to make it 12 teams playing two series of home-and-away ties for the remaining three places.

North and Central America and Caribbean[edit]

The 2022 CONCACAF qualification process changed significantly from the 2018 qualification cycle. There are two separate preliminary group stages, one for the six highest-ranked teams and another for the 29 lowest-ranked teams, to be based on the June 2020 FIFA rankings; the top-seeded round – still referred to as the "hexagonal" because there are six teams involved – will see the top three teams advance to the World Cup finals, while the fourth-placed side will enter a play-off against the winner of the lower-seeded knockout phase for a spot in the inter-continental play-offs.

The lower-seeded round will have the remaining 29 teams divided into five groups of four teams and three groups of three to play home-and-away round-robin matches; the winners of each group will advance to a knockout phase, each of the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final to be played in a two-legged home-and-away series. The winner of the knockout phase will advance to a play-off against the fourth-placed team of the top-seeded round for a spot in the inter-confederation play-offs.

Oceania[edit]

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 America[edit]

As in recent qualification series CONMEBOL qualification consists of a single group of all entrants. Unlike previous qualifying tournaments where the fixtures were pre-determined, the fixtures will be determined by a draw, to be held as part of CONMEBOL's preliminary draw, on an unknown date.[12]

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

Intercontinental play-offs[edit]

Like the previous 2018 tournament, the pairings for the two play-offs will be determined by an open draw on an unknown date. Intercontinental play-offs are played as home-and-away ties.

Qualification tournament rules[edit]

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

Groups[edit]

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
  4. goals scored away from home in matches between the tied teams, if the tie is only between two 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 fair play points and then the drawing of lots.

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 ties[edit]

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 also[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ "A unanimous decision: A draw will determine the classifications for the World Cup and CONMEBOL Tournaments". CONMEBOL.com. 23 January 2015.

External links[edit]