2018 World Cup qualifying: Who needs what to make it?

We’re almost there – and it’s getting tense for some big nations. But who’s qualified, and what does everyone else need to join them? 

The UEFA play-offs draw will be held in Zurich on Tuesday, October 17 (time TBC) – and the Republic of Ireland will be among eight teams in the mix after winning on their do-or-die trip to Wales on Monday night.

PLAY-OFF DATES

  • First legs: Thursday, Nov 9-Saturday, Nov 11
  • Second legs: Sunday, Nov 12-Tuesday, Nov 14

The four teams with the highest FIFA rankings will be seeded.

UEFA

Already qualified automatically (7 of 9): Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland

Assured of play-off (5 of 8): Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Croatia

That leaves only two more automatic berths up for grabs. France are in pole position to take Group A, and need only beat Belarus in Paris on Tuesday night to confirm their spot. Sweden currently trail them by a point, and will likely take a place in the play-offs barring a Bleus collapse (or a 13-goal swing in defeat to the Netherlands, which is the only way the Oranje are going through).

Group B is a straight shootout between Portugal and Switzerland, who face each other in Lisbon on Tuesday. The Swiss boast a 100% record in qualifying, meaning they take a three-point advantage into the final game and only need a point to top the group. Portugal have a superior goal difference, however, so victory for Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. would see them leapfrog their rivals.

In Group H, Greece and Bosnia are battling it out for the final play-off slot. The former hold a two-point advantage going in their final game againstr Gibraltar, who are pointless with a -40 goal difference from their nine matches so far. Bosnia travel to Estonia.  

CONMEBOL

Already qualified automatically (1 of 4): Brazil

Assured of at least play-off (1 place): Uruguay

Fascinating stuff in South America, with only Brazil assured of going to Russia having qualified about two years ago (OK, in March).

The top four make it through automatically here, with a fifth-placed team advancing to a play-off against New Zealand. Only four points separate second-placed Uruguay from seventh-placed Paraguay with one game to go. 

Argentina (25pts) are in sixth place, but still only a point behind third-placed Chile (26) – and Argentina will qualify if they beat Ecuador in their final game, since Peru (25pts) face Colombia (26) and at least one of them will drop points as a result. Chile visit Brazil in a tough final fixture, while Uruguay (28) host Bolivia and should secure safe passage through automatically.

CAF

Already qualified automatically (2 of 4): Nigeria, Egypt

Two places still up for grabs from Africa, after Nigeria and Egypt confirmed theirs on Sunday. In Group A, Tunisia have a three-point lead and two-goal advantage over DR Congo, and host bottom side Libya in their final game. DR Congo must beat Guinea handsomely to stand any chance of going through.

In Group C, Morocco and Ivory Coast will duke it out in a ding-dong final game. Morocco currently hold a one-point lead over the Elephants, so a draw would do for them – but the game is in Abidjan, where the Ivory Coast will be aiming to make home advantage count. Tasty.

CONCACAF

Already qualified automatically (2 of 3): Mexico, Costa Rica

Assured of play-off (1 place): N/A

The USA will be confident of wrapping up the last automatic qualification spot with a final game against bottom side Trinidad and Tobago, who have lost eight of their nine qualifiers so far. Victory will secure it for Bruce Arena's side, who got to this point by trashing Panama 4-0 in a vital game last time out.

That means Panama are in a spot of bother. They currently hold the play-off spot ahead of Honduras by virtue of a two-goal better GD, but face Costa Rica in their last game. Luckily for them, Honduras are taking on runaway leaders Mexico. 

AFC

Already qualified automatically (4 of 4): Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia

Qualified for play-off: Australia

Straightforward in Asia. The automatic places are settled and, after Australia's 3-2 aggregate win over Syria in a play-off, it's the Socceroos who'll take on the fourth-placed side from CONCACAF in a final play-off. 

OFC

Already qualified automatically: N/A

Assured of play-off (1 place): New Zealand

There's no automatic qualification spot for Oceania; instead, New Zealand worked their way through various group and knockout stages to eventually beat the Solomon Islands 8-3 in a dominant two-legged OFC final. Their reward will be the fifth-placed team from CONMEBOL in a final play-off. 

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