January 11, 2022
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Who Nailed the World Cup Qualifiers in 2021?

2022, the year of the FIFA World Cup Qatar, has begun. In just over ten months, 32 teams will take their places in Qatar's stunning new tournament stadiums to fight for the ultimate football prize, the title of World Champions. While the majority of the 32 teams have yet to be determined, thirteen squads managed to secure their places at the competition at the end of 2021. With the remaining qualifier competition starting up again at the end of January and due for completion in March, and the draw for the Group Stage of the 2022 tournament due in Spring, let's recap on who has booked their places in Qatar so far…

Qualified Teams

For some countries, qualification came early as they won the point advantage over their opponents. For others, qualification was down to the wire in final all-or-nothing matches during the last international break of the year. Whatever the ease or drama with which they qualified, the names in the lineup will come as no surprise with many favourites in the final already.

Qatar

Qualification date: December 2nd 2010

Confederation: Asian Football Confederation (AFC)

Qatar qualified automatically for the 2022 World Cup as tournament hosts. Following their bid win in 2010, the tiny Arab nation has been on a mission to improve its footballing prowess, ready for the 2022 competition. A relative unknown on the international football scene and having never previously qualified for the World Cup, they have become an Asian team to be reckoned with in recent years. They are the current Asian Champions, having won the 2019 Asian Cup, and recently qualified, unbeaten at the top of their group, for the upcoming 2023 Asian Cup. The current squad has also gained international experience as guests at the 2019 Copa America, the 2021 Gold Cup (making it to the semi-finals against the USA) and the European 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Qatar won't be the strongest team to represent Asia, with Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan, or Australia likely to be at the 2022 competition. But, given the improvements the team has made, they should make an impact. They are entering the race, having risen from 112th in the 2010 FIFA Rankings to their current position of 48th.

Image: shutterstock/A.Ricardo

Germany

Qualification date: October 11th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Germany qualified for the 2022 competition back in October with two games in hand and ended the qualifiers having earned 27 points out of a possible 30. They were the second country after Qatar to qualify. Out of twenty-two World Cups, since its 1930 inception, Germany will be appearing for the 20th time. Only Brazil has made more appearances. The German team has won the coveted Cup on four occasions, in 1954 and 1974 - as West Germany - and in 1990 and 2014. They have made it to the final at eight tournaments, beaten only by England in 1966, Italy in 1982, Argentina in 1986 and Brazil in 2002. Of their twenty appearances, Germany has made the knockout stage on all but two occasions, 1978 and 2018. Their 2018 outing at the competition wasn't their best. The team were knocked out during the initial stage of the tournament at the bottom of their group. The current squad will be hoping to improve on their 2018 result later this year.

Image: shutterstock/Mikolij Lacobucci Epp

Denmark

Qualification date: October 12th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Denmark also qualified in October 2021 with a 100% record and two matches in hand. They have qualified for the tournament on five previous occasions, though the furthest they have reached is the quarter-finals in 1998, finishing in eighth position. In 2018, they reached the Round of 16 but had to settle for eleventh place after losing out to Croatia after their 1-1 match went to penalties. Having ended the 2022 qualifiers after eight straight wins without conceding a single goal, conceding goals only in their last two games - their final match against Scotland in their only loss of the tournament - the team is in good form and suitably placed to mount a charge to the later stages of the knockouts this year. 

Image: thescotsman

Brazil

Qualification date: November 12th 2021

Confederation: South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL)

The Brazilians have graced the World Cup stage at every tournament edition, qualifying directly to each. In terms of the World Cup competition, Brazil is the most successful nation, winning the trophy five times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) - only Germany and Italy come close, winning four times each. Brazil has also finished in second, third and fourth place twice each. The team has only been knocked out twice at Group Stage, once in the inaugural competition in 1930 and again in 1966. Since their victory in 2002, the Seleção has made the competition's quarter-finals on three occasions (2006, 2010 and 2018) and the semis once (2014), achieving fourth place. During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Brazil was beaten 2-1 by the current World's best, Belgium. After sailing through the South American 2022 qualifiers unbeaten to date - the team qualified in November with five matches in hand - and considering their previous form at the World Cup, Brazil is understandably one of the favourites to win in 2022.

Image: shutterstock/A.Ricardo

France

Qualification date: November 13th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

The reigning World Cup champions and the current world's 3rd best team won the 2018 tournament after beating rivals Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium, and Croatia during the knockouts. The victory was France's second World Cup win, having also lifted the Cup in 1998. After France's qualification for the 2022 World Cup in November, unbeaten in their group and with a game in hand, they will be appearing for the 16th time at this year's tournament. Aside from their two previous wins, they have reached the knockouts seven times - placing second in 2006, third in 1958 and 1986, and fourth in 1982. The current team, which has an incredible depth of talent, will be looking to retain their title this year - an achievement only managed by Brazil to date with wins in 1958 and 1962. However, after a slightly lacklustre Group Stage - the French only managed to draw against the Ukraine, home and away, and only managed a total of 18 out of 30 possible points - the team will have to up the ante in November if they want to keep their title.

Image: shutterstock/ph.FAB

Belgium

Qualification date: November 13th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Belgium, the world's current number one team, qualified for the 2022 tournament in November. The national team will be making their 14th appearance at this year's World Cup, though they have never won the trophy. The team's highest position to date is third place, which they achieved at Russia's 2018 tournament. The Red Devils beat Japan and Brazil to the semi-finals but were bested 1-0 by France, the competition winners that year. They took a 2-0 victory over England to claim the bronze in the third-place playoffs. During last year's 2022 qualifying campaign, the team hardly worked up a sweat and will be hoping to continue their impressive qualifying form later this year. However, for a team fielding a relatively mature lineup, with the majority of mainstay players over the age of 26, they will have to work hard to attain the ultimate prize, as this World Cup, for many on the team, maybe their final chance to lift the trophy.

Image: shutterstock/Marco Lacobucci Epp

Croatia

Qualification date: November 14th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Since gaining independence in 1991, Croatia has appeared in the FIFA World Cup on five previous occasions, in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2018. On their initial outing in 1998, the national team made it to the semi-finals, disposing of Romania and Germany along the way, only to be beaten 2-1 by France. They took third place instead with a victory over the Netherlands. In 2018, the team reached the knockouts leaving Denmark, Russia and England in their wake, but were beaten at the final - once again, they lost to France, 4-2. During the 2022 qualifiers, Croatia battled tooth and nail throughout against group rival Russia. In the end, qualification came down to the very last match between the pair, and it was only an own-goal mistake by Russia that gave Croatia the edge and pushed them through to the next stage of the competition. The Croatians will be hoping to equal, if not better, their 1998 and 2018 performances in November, but they will be up against some stiff competition in Qatar.

Image: espn

Spain

Qualification date: November 14th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

The Spanish will enter the World Cup arena this November for the sixteenth time since the tournament's inception. The team, who lost just one match during the recent qualifiers, took their qualification competition down to the wire against Sweden. They led the Swedes into the final game by just one point. The Spanish managed to pip the Blue and Yellows to the post on the day with a single 86th-minute goal taking them to the 2022 tournament. The Spaniards have reached the knockouts of the World Cup on nine occasions to date, placing fourth in 1950 and lifting the Cup more recently in 2010. In 2018, they only reached the Round of 16, where they went out against Russia after losing a penalty shoot-out. While the current team has a stack of exciting young players on their books, their lack of experience and issues around converting their dominance on the ball into goals may scupper their chances of placing too highly in 2022.

Image: shutterstock/Marco Lacobucci Epp

Serbia

Qualification date: November 14th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Serbia reached the knockouts in Qatar after an unbeaten qualifying campaign. They beat the group's favourites Portugal in the pairs final match of the qualifiers competition. The Eagles defeated Portugal, also unbeaten up to that stage, with a dramatic late header by substitute Alexsandar Mitrovic, stealing the qualification ticket from under Portugal's nose. Serbia has only competed as an independent nation in the World Cup on two previous occasions, 2010 and 2018. Before 2010, Serbia competed as part of the former Yugoslavia (1930 to 2002) and alongside Montenegro (2006). The Serbians didn't make it out of the Group Stage during their 2010 and 2018 campaigns, but the current team should pose a more significant threat during the 2022 tournament.

Image: AP photo

England

Qualification date: November 15th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

England qualified for 2022 with relative ease in November last year, unbeaten and earning 26 of the 30 points available. They have entered every edition of the competition since 1950 and have qualified sixteen times to date, with twelve Knockout Stage appearances. They lifted the Cup in 1966 but have only reached as high as fourth place in the years since (1990 and 2018). During their 2018 campaign in Russia, the Three Lions made it to the semis past Colombia and Sweden. However, they were beaten by Croatia, who went on to the final and Belgium in the third-place playoffs. At the 2022 tournament in Qatar, an ever-improving young English team under the wing of Gareth Southgate should be able to capitalise on their abilities to push just a little further up the winning line.

Image: shutterstock/Vlad1988

Switzerland

Qualification date: November 15th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Unbeaten in their group and having conceded only two goals across the tournament, the Swiss qualified for the 2022 World Cup. However, of more note, they topped the group and booked their place in Qatar at the expense of competition stalwarts and four-time winners, Italy. Entering the final break for the European qualifiers, both teams were level on the scoreboard. After a 1-1 draw against one another, they could only sit back and watch and wait while the other played their next qualification game to see who would qualify. Switzerland routed Bulgaria 4-0, but, unfortunately for the Italians, their game against Northern Ireland ended in a draw sending the Swiss directly to the 2022 competition. This year's World Cup will be Team Natis twelfth appearance since 1934 and the fifth consecutive time since 2006. However, the Swiss team has never reached beyond the quarter-finals (1934, 1938 and 1954) and, more recently, the Round of 16 (1994, 2006, 2014 and 2018). Whether the current team can achieve a higher place in Qatar remains to be seen.

Image: shutterstock/Marco Lacobucci Epp

Netherlands

Qualification date: November 16th 2021

Confederation: Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

The Netherlands race to the qualifiers was relatively nail-biting. Heading into the final qualifier matches, the Netherlands held just a two-point lead over Turkey and Norway, having conceded a relatively high number of goals during the competition. On the day, Turkey collected three points for their win over Montenegro; the final outcome depended on the Flying Dutchmen's result against Norway. In the do-or-die contest, late goals from the Dutch won the day and the teams' ticket to the 2022 tournament. Though having never won the Cup, the Dutch have an extremely good record at the competition. They made it to the semis in 1998 and 2014, beaten by Brazil and Argentina on penalties. They also made the final in 2010 against Spain. They did not, however, qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Under current coach Louis van Gaal, who took them to the 2014 semis, with excellent players at his disposal, the Dutch should make an impression on the tournament this year if they can hold their nerve and avoid conceding goals.

Image: shutterstock/Vlad1988

Argentina

Qualification date: November 17th 2021

Confederation: South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL)

Two-time winners of the World Cup, Argentina, qualified in November last year unbeaten with four matches in hand. The Argentines will join the 2022 World Cup for their 18th appearance, missing just four since its inception. They withdrew from the competition on three occasions (1938, 1950 and 1954) and failed to qualify just once in 1970. During the years they played, the team lifted the Cup in 1978, with a 3-1 win over the Netherlands, and 1986, with a 3-2 victory over Germany. Since 1986, La Albiceleste has reached the Round of 16 twice (1994/2018), the quarter-finals three times (1998, 2006 and 2010) and the semis twice (1990/2014). Lionel Messi, who has played in four World Cup's since 2006, will be keen to win the coveted prize before he retires finally, and, by all accounts, the entire Argentine team are eager to see that goal come to fruition. After winning the 2021 Copa America, ​​Lionel Scaloni's team, though not the most exciting Argentina has ever fielded, will need to hope they can maintain their winning streak throughout the coming year.

Image: shutterstock/A.Ricardo

So, thirteen teams have been determined; the final nineteen are months off of being decided. The final rounds of the qualifiers for Asia, Africa, the Americas, and South America are due to recommence at the end of January. The Asian and European playoffs and Oceania's qualifiers will be played out in March. And, the inter-confederation playoffs for the final two qualification spots will be held in June. Only then will all 32 teams for the FIFA 2022 World Cup be revealed. Check out our World Cup Qualifiers in 2022 article to find out more about the remaining qualifiers.

Main image: shutterstock/A.Ricardo

Published: January 10, 2022
Last updated: January 11, 2022
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