The Road to Russia 2018 is getting shorter and shorter with every passing day. After the last round of qualifying matches, in 4 confederations over the last 4 days, we have now 23 confirmed teams participating in the global spectacle next year.
Portugal and France confirmed their passage to Russia next summer from the last two automatic spots from UEFA qualifying groups on Tuesday.
In the two Americas, Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia clinched the remaining three automatic spots from CONMEBOL, while Panama qualified as the third direct qualifier from the CONCACAF zone.
Out of the remaining 9 spots, 3 will be filled up by the remaining 3 automatic qualifiers from Africa to join the already qualified Nigeria and Egypt.
The remaining 6 spots will be fought by 12 teams across 5 continents in the continental and inter-continental play-offs.
In the UEFA continental play-offs, the top 8 ranked second placed teams will be battling it out for one last chance to qualify. After the completion of the 10 rounds of matches across 9 groups, Italy, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Ireland and Greece have finished as the best 8 second placed teams knocking out Slovakia. The 8 teams will be drawn against each other to play two legged play-off games. 4 out of the 8 teams mentioned above will be seeded based on FIFA rankings and they will not be pitted against each other in the play-off draw. In general, the seeded teams will play their home legs first.
The FIFA ranking to be published on 16th October will be taken into account to seed the teams. The draw for the play-offs will take place on 17th October 2017 at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
While the teams will lock horns in the first leg from 9-11 November, the second leg concludes between 12-14.
The inter-continental play-offs will be involving four confederations – AFC (Asia), CONCACAF (North America), CONMEBOL (South America) and OFC (Oceania).
For AFC, the two third placed teams from either qualifying groups play a double legged qualifier between themselves. The winner advances to the inter continental round.
The fourth placed team in the CONCACAF final qualifying round, advances to the last round.
In CONMEBOL, the 5th placed team goes on to the final round.
The OFC has no automatic spots available. The two winners from both the qualifying groups play a double legged tie with the winner advancing to play a team from another continent.
This time, after the draw for the inter-continental play-offs, AFC was pitted against CONCACAF, while CONMEBOL was drawn against OFC.
Australia earlier got the better of Syria over two legs in the Asian play-off round to advance to the inter continental round. Honduras’ last day win against Mexico propelled them to 4th place above USA to take them into the play-off round. Thus the Socceroos will be travelling to the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula to take on Honduras in the first leg. For the final leg, the Los Catrachos will be visiting the Stadium Australia in Sydney.
Peru salvaged a 82nd minute equaliser against Colombia to secure the 5th place in the South American qualifiers on Tuesday. New Zealand had defeated the Solomon Islands 8-3 over two legs in the Oceanian play-offs last September to advance. Thus, Peru will be looking to make the world cup finals for the first time in 36 years when they take on New Zealand. The Blanquirojas will travel to the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, before hosting the All Whites at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.
Both the play-offs will be held in between 6th and 14th November. FIFA will be confirming the dates in mid October.