2022 World Cup qualifying: How it works around the world

Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup began on June 6, 2019, when minor nations from the Asian confederation played their first round of matches. Mongolia's Norjmoogiin Tsedenbal scored the very first goal in a 2-0 win over Brunei Darussalam.

We are now into the final stretch, with all regular qualifying paths to be completed by the end of March. We now know 29 of the 32 qualifiers, and the finals draw will be held on April 1. The last three places will be settled in the intercontinental playoffs, and the postponed UEFA path, in June.

QUALIFIED (29/32): Qatar (as hosts), Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Belgium, France, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, Argentina, IR Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Ecuador, Uruguay, Canada, Ghana, Senegal, Poland, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mexico, United States

EUROPE (UEFA; 13 PLACES)

European qualifying home page

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

There are 55 European nations and qualifying ran from March to November 2021.

The 10 group winners, in bold, went direct to the finals.

Group A: Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan
Group B: Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia, Kosovo
Group C: Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group D: France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan
Group E: Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia
Group F: Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group G: Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, Gibraltar
Group H: Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta
Group I: England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, San Marino
Group J: Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein

- Final tables

Three more places are allocated via playoffs. This involves the 10 runners-up plus the two best-ranked group winners from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League who did not finish in the top two in their qualifying group: Austria and Czech Republic.

There are three routes, each with four teams featuring a semifinal and a final for a place at the World Cup.

The draw was seeded based upon qualifying-round points. The two UEFA Nations League teams were unseeded.

Russia were removed from the competition due to the invasion of Ukraine.

PATH A

Semifinals
Scotland P-P Ukraine (delayed to June 1)
Wales 2-1 Austria

Final
Wales will be at home in the final in June 5, winners qualify for the World Cup.

PATH B

Semifinals
Russia vs. Poland (walkover to Poland)
Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic

Final
Poland won 2-0 at home to Sweden in the final to qualify for the World Cup.

PATH C

Semifinals
Italy 0-1 North Macedonia
Portugal 3-1 Turkey

Final
Portugal won 2-0 at home to North Macedonia to qualify for the World Cup.

SOUTH AMERICA (CONMEBOL 4.5 PLACES)

South American qualifying home page

Qualified teams: Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay
Playoff team: Peru

As in recent qualifying competitions, all 10 nations play each other home and away. The top four nations qualify directly to the finals. The fifth-place team will go into an intercontinental playoff against the winners of the AFC playoff, Australia or United Arab Emirates, on June 13.

The first four rounds of qualifiers in March and September 2020 were suspended and it finally began in October 2020. However, the two planned rounds of matches in March 2021 were postponed due to issues with European players being able to travel to South America amid the pandemic. Qualifying resumed with two rounds before the Copa America in early June 2021 with an additional international break in January 2022.

Brazil were the first country to qualify, on Nov. 11, 2021, and Argentina followed five days later, before Ecuador and Uruguay took the final two automatic spots. Peru secured the playoff berth.

- Check out the results | Final table

NORTH AMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, CARIBBEAN (CONCACAF; 3.5 PLACES)

CONCACAF qualifying home page

Qualified teams: Canada, Mexico, United States
Playoff team: Costa Rica

CONCACAF has 35 FIFA-affiliated nations, most of them very minor in world football. A revamped qualification process was confirmed for the 2022 edition, which was due to begin in September 2020 and run to September 2021. However, this was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The format had to be reworked again, as follows:

Round One: Nations ranked 6-35 in the FIFA World Ranking were drawn into six groups of five. Each team played every other team in their group only once, in March and June 2021. The six group winners, in bold, progressed.

- Final tables

Group A: El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, US Virgin Islands
Group B: Canada,Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba
Group C: Curaçao, Guatemala, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, British Virgin Islands
Group D: Panama, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla
Group E: Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize, St Lucia (withdrew), Turks and Caicos Islands
Group F: Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Bahamas

Round Two: The six group winners played home and away in a direct elimination format, on June 12 and 15, 2021. The three winners progressed.

Saint Kitts and Nevis (F) 0-6 El Salvador (A)
Haiti (E) 0-4 Canada (B)
Panama (D) 2-1 Curacao (C)

Final Round: Canada, El Salvador and Panama join the teams ranked 1-5 in FIFA's World Ranking (Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, United States). The eight teams play each other home and away, a total of 14 matches. The top three qualify directly, with the fourth-placed team going to a intercontinental playoff against New Zealand on June 14, 2022.

Canada were the first team to book their place, on March 27. Mexico and United States booked their spots on March 30, while Costa Rica took the fourth place spot for the intercontinental playoff spot.

- Check out the latest fixtures and results here | Latest table

AFRICA (CAF; 5 PLACES)

African qualifying home page

Qualified teams: Cameroon, Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Tunisia

There are 54 FIFA-affiliated nations.

Round One: The 28 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties, played in September 2019, with the full list of results available here.
Round Two: The 14 winners from the first round were joined by the other 26 African nations. Those 40 teams were split into 10 groups of four teams, with the group winners advancing to the final round.

This round was due to begin in March 2020 and run through to October 2021 until football was suspended. The group stage finally began in September 2021, and was completed in November -- effectively concluding the group phase in 11 weeks.

The groups, with winners in bold, were:

Group A: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Djibouti
Group B: Tunisia, Zambia, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea,
Group C: Nigeria, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Liberia
Group D: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Malawi
Group E: Mali, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda
Group F: Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Angola
Group G: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia
Group H: Senegal, Congo, Namibia, Togo
Group I: Morocco, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan
Group J: Congo DR, Benin, Madagascar, Tanzania

- Final tables

Round Three: The 10 group winners were drawn into five head-to-head, two-legged ties to earn one of the five places at the World Cup.

Cameroon vs. Algeria (agg 2-2; Cameroon win on away goals)
DR Congo vs. Morocco (agg 2-5)
Egypt vs. Senegal (agg 1-1; Senegal won 3-1 on penalties)
Ghana vs. Nigeria (agg 1-1; Ghana won on away goals)
Mali vs. Tunisia (agg 0-1)

ASIA (AFC; 4.5 PLACES)

Asia qualifying home page

Qualified teams: IR Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan

The first two rounds of qualifying were completed exactly the same as four years ago.

Round One: The 12 lowest ranked nations played two-legged ties in June 2019. Guam, Macau, Mongolia, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh and Cambodia advanced.
Round Two: The six winners from the first round joined the other 34 Asian nations, drawn into eight groups of five teams -- also played as qualifiers for the 2023 Asian Cup finals (for this reason World Cup hosts Qatar took part).

In an attempt to get all games completed, the AFC decided to hold all matches on a centralised basis. The round was eventually completed between May 31 and June 15, 2021.

The seven group winners (Qatar were the eighth) and the five best group runners-up progressed. The 12 nations shown in bold advanced to round three.

Group A: China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam
Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal
Group C: IR Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore
Group E: Bangladesh, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Qatar
Group F: Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia
Group G: United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Group H: South Korea, Lebanon, North Korea (withdrew), Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka

Round Three (final group round): The remaining 12 nations were drawn into two groups of six teams. Group winners and runners-up will qualify for the World Cup. IR Iran were the first to qualify in January 2022, quickly followed by South Korea. From Group B, Saudi Arabia and Japan qualified.

Group A: IR Iran, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
Group B: Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, Vietnam

- Check out the latest fixtures and results here | Latest tables

Round Four: The teams finishing third, Australia and United Arab Emirates, will meet in a one-match playoff in Qatar on June 7. The winners then advance to an intercontinental playoff against Peru, to be played on June 13 for a place at the World Cup.

OCEANIA (OFC; 0.5 PLACES)

Oceania qualifying home page

Nine of the 11 FIFA-affiliated national teams were due to take part in qualifying, which will finally be played March 17-30, 2022, in Qatar.

Round One: Tonga and Cook Islands -- the two lowest-ranked OFC teams in the FIFA World Ranking -- were due to play a single elimination match. However, Tonga withdrew and Cook Islands received a bye.

Round Two: Teams are then split into two groups of four teams and will play each other once. The top two nations in each group progress.

Vanuatu were due to be in Group A but had to withdraw due to positive coronavirus cases in their squad. Cook Islands then suffered an outbreak after their first game, leaving only Solomon Islands and Tahiti active in the group. The first group match between Cook Islands and Solomon Islands was deemed void. That left one game between Solomon Islands and Tahiti, with the winners deemed group winners and losers the group runners-up.

Group A: Solomon Islands, Tahiti
Group B: New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea

Round Three: The format is two semifinals and a final. The winner of the final goes forward to the intercontinental playoff.

In the semifinals, Solomon Islands beat Papua New Guinea 2-1, while New Zealand edged Tahiti 1-0.

New Zealand beat Solomon Islands in the final, and will now play Costa Rica, the fourth placed team in CONCACAF, on June 14 for a place in the finals.

INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS (2 PLACES)

June 13: Australia or United Arab Emirates (AFC) vs. Peru (CONMEBOL)
June 14: Costa Rica (CONCACAF) vs. New Zealand (OFC)