January 11, 2022

World Cup Qualifiers in 2022

The FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar will be the twenty-second edition of the competition. Only eight nations have lifted the Cup before, Brazil (on five occasions), Germany, and Italy (four times each), Argentina, France and Uruguay (on two occasions each), and England and Spain (once each). With over 200 associated nations involved in the quadrennial battle for the Cup, it is the most coveted sporting prize in the world.

Prior to each tournament, the 200 plus teams must first fight for limited places available at the main event…only the best make it through to the final competition. This year's Cup will see the competitors whittled down to thirty-two national teams, who, come November, will be locked in a battle for the title of World Champions. 

Each of the six global football confederations is allocated, by FIFA, a specific number of places for their teams to make up the thirty-two. Each holds a qualification competition to determine their representatives. Twenty-nine slots will be decided directly via the confederation's competitions this year. Two places will be determined by an inter-confederation playoff tournament, whose participants are selected via the individual confederation's qualifiers. And, the final slot was automatically awarded to the tournament's hosts - this year's nation being Qatar.

Allocated Slots:

  • Hosts: 1
  • AFC (Asia): 4 or 5 (via the playoffs)
  • CAF (Africa): 5
  • CONCACAF (North, Central America and the Caribbean): 3 or 4 (via the playoffs)
  • CONMEBOL (South America): 4 or 5 (via the playoffs)
  • OFC (Oceania): 0 or 1 (via the playoffs)
  • UEFA (Europe): 13

By the end of the 2021 November break, thirteen teams had qualified for the 2022 tournament through the confederation competitions (Qatar, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Argentina). Another nineteen will need to qualify this year to make up the thirty-two squads. 

After the Winter break, the majority of qualifiers are due to start up again at the end of January, completed by March-end. And, though the final two slots, to be decided via the playoffs, won't be determined until June '22, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will be held in April in Doha. So, with only a few months until the teams for the tournament are decided, let's take a look at the current state of play in the qualifying competitions:


Slots available: 4.5

The AFC qualifiers are in their third round. The competition opened with forty-six competing nations, with Round’s One and Two reducing that number to twelve. Round Three, which starts up again on January 27th and is four matchdays away from completion, will pare the remaining twelve down once again. Divided into two groups (A&B), the twelve teams are contesting the top two places in each group. The top four teams will qualify directly to the 2022 tournament. The two third-placed teams will meet again in a fourth-round in May/June to determine who goes through to the inter-confederation playoffs for another chance at qualifying.

Currently, Iran and South Korea top the table in Group A, with Iran 10 points clear of third-placed UAE and South Korea 8 points ahead. Though anything can happen in football, it looks likely that the front runners will remain secure and advance to the World Cup. The battle now will be for third place and a chance at the playoffs between the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Iraq - Syria are currently at the bottom of the table on just two points. 

In Group B, Saudi Arabia and Japan are at the top of the standings on 16 and 12 points each, though Australia is within touching distance of the pair on 11 points. Saudi, unbeaten in the third round so far, is likely to maintain its position over the final matchdays. However, if Australia can recover from its shaky end to 2021 - the squad were beaten 1-0 by Japan and could only draw against Saudi and fifth-placed China, they still stand a good chance of displacing Japan to qualify directly. Oman and China have an outside chance of direct qualification, either directly or more likely via the playoffs. Vietnam is all but out of the race.


Slots available: 5

Africa's best teams are about to begin the third and final round of the CAF qualification competition. Only ten nations remain in the running after thirty were knocked out in the first two rounds. Round Three will see the final ten drawn into two groups to play home and away over two legs. The five winners will advance to the World Cup in November. The draw for the two groups is scheduled to take place on January 26th. Each team will be seeded according to the latest FIFA rankings, and the five highest-ranked teams will play against the five lowest - the first leg will be played at home for the lower-ranked teams. The final round commences on March 21st and will be completed on March 29th.

Seeded teams

(as of December 23rd 2021)

  • Senegal (20th)
  • Morocco (28th)
  • Algeria (29th)
  • Tunisia (20th)
  • Nigeria (36th)
  • Egypt (45th)
  • Cameroon (50th)
  • Ghana (52nd)
  • Mali (53rd)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (64th)


Slots available: 3.5

Only eight nations remain in the third and final round of the CONCACAF qualifiers tournament from a total of thirty-four. The concluding round is in its latter stages, with only six matches out of fourteen to be played. Round Three of the tournament consists of the continent's top five football teams, as of July 2020, and the three winners of the competition's second round. The eight squads are playing a series of home and away round-robin matches. The top three teams will take their place at the 2022 tournament. The fourth-placed team enters the June 2022 playoffs. The final round will recommence on January 27th and conclude on March 30th.

Currently, Canada is at the top of the standings on 16 points. The USA are one point behind in second, and Mexico and Panama sit on 14 points each in third and fourth place, respectively. With 18 possible points to gain over the next six matches, the race is still open at the top of the table. To date, rising star Canada is unbeaten, the USA has suffered just one loss at the hands of Panama, and football giants Mexico have been beaten twice, once by Canada and once by the USA.  Across the final six matches, Canada will only meet the USA, giving hope to their campaign to remain on top. Mexico and the USA must meet each other and Canada - tough opponents, all around. To keep the rest of the teams from leapfrogging into the qualification slots, Panama has to try to defeat all three to maintain or exceed its position. Costa Rica (9 points), Jamaica (7 points), El Salvador (6 points) and Honduras (3 points) are still in the running but more likely for a playoff place rather than a direct ticket to Qatar.


Slots available: 4.5

The South American qualifiers competition is organised into a league of home and away round-robin matches over eighteen matchdays. The ten teams play as a single group. Two of CONMEBOL’s teams, Brazil and Argentina, have already won their qualification spots to Qatar. Last November, both teams qualified on points with several games in hand to play. Two slots remain open for direct qualification to the 2022 tournament and one for the June playoffs. The qualifiers have just four matchdays from eighteen remaining, and the competition will begin again on January 27th and end on March 30th. 

The current state of play sees Ecuador and Colombia in the final two qualification spots on 23 and 17 points and Peru in playoff position, also on 17 points. With Chile and Uruguay on 16 points each, Bolivia on 15 points and Paraguay on 13 points, the race is still very much open for the final qualifying and playoff places. Venezuela is languishing in last place on 7 points. Ecuador has the unenviable task of meeting both Brazil and Argentina over their next four matches, but they may hold onto their qualification spot if they can hold their nerve. Columbia, which has only been beaten by Uruguay, Ecuador and Brazil this tournament, will need to work hard to stop the advances of Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela over the coming weeks to maintain their position. Similarly, Peru will need to find an edge over Columbia and battle to keep the other teams clambering for a higher position at bay.


Slots available: 0.5

Of the six confederations, the OFC has yet to kick off its tournament. Due to begin in September 2020, the competition organisers were forced to postpone the tournament's start date on several occasions. Continued delays and issues with organising the competition within the Oceania region have meant that the contest will now be played out in Qatar in March 2022, which will certainly be cutting it fine. 

The OFC qualifiers will be contested by eight teams (across two rounds. Seven teams automatically qualified for the competition's Group Stage; the eighth team will be decided with a qualification match between the two lowest-ranked teams, Tonga and the Cooks Islands, on March 13th. The final eight will be divided into two groups (A&B), each containing four teams that will play in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals, with the winners facing off in the final for a playoff place. The teams will be playing for 0.5 slots at the 2022 World Cup - the only way to qualify for the Oceania teams is via the inter-confederation playoff in June 2022. The competition will commence on March 17th and run until March 24th in Doha.

Group A consists of the Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Vanuatu and the winner of the qualification match on the 17th. Group B will be made up of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.


Slots available: 13

Fifty-five teams contested the UEFA qualifiers in the first round of the competition. The initial round was held from March to November 2021. It consisted of ten groups (A-J) playing a series of home and away round-robin matches across ten matchdays to determine the outright group winners, who won the right to a direct spot at the World Cup in Qatar. In order of qualification, the ten qualifying nations include Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The ten group runners-up will now advance to a mini playoff tournament in March to decide the final three teams heading to Qatar in November.

The group runners-up - Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and Wales, plus two of the highest-ranked Nations League 2020/21 squads (Austria and the Czech Republic), make up the twelve teams contesting the final playoff round of the European qualifiers. The remaining twelve have been drawn into three playoff paths (A, B and C), each containing four teams. Each playoff path will consist of two single-leg semi-finals (on March 24th), the winners of which will advance to a single-leg final (on March 29th). The winner of the final in each playoff path will qualify for the World Cup.

Prior to the draw, the twelve teams were seeded, depending on the final points (and goal difference) amassed during the tournament. Of the ten qualifying squads, the top six were seeded and the bottom four unseeded. The two Nations League winners joined the bottom four as unseeded teams. During the draw on November 26th, the seeded teams were pitted against unseeded teams for their semi-final matches. Seeded squads will have the home advantage.

Playoff Matches



  • Wales vs Austria (Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff)
  • Scotland vs Ukraine (Hampden Park, Glasgow)


  • Wales or Scotland vs Austria or Ukraine (Cardiff or Vienna)



  • Russia vs Poland (Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow)
  • Sweden vs Czech Republic (Friends Arena, Solna)


  • Russia or Poland vs Sweden or Czech Republic (Moscow or Warsaw)



  • Italy vs North Macedonia (Stadio Renzo Barbera, Palermo)
  • Portugal vs Turkey (Estádio do Dragão, Porto)


  • Italy or North Macedonia vs Portugal or Turkey (Porto or Konya)

Italy has played at the World Cup on eighteen previous occasions and won four times. It was a shock for many to see them relegated to the playoffs. While they haven't made an appearance at the tournament since 2014, the team would be a favourite to do well, having graced the final six times and the top four a total of eight times. However, Italy has been drawn into the same path as Portugal. The Portuguese, who have played at seven Cups and reached the semis twice, will be keen to reach the 2022 tournament, not least to give their star player, Christiano Ronaldo, a last shot at lifting the Cup before he retires. Whether Italy or Portugal win or lose their semi-final matches against North Macedonia and Turkey, respectively, only one of the two nations can make it all the way to the 2022 World Cup - the battle will be fierce.

Check out our 'Who Nailed the World Cup Qualifiers in 2021?' article to find out more about which teams booked their tickets to the upcoming 2022 tournament and who will make their mark in Qatar.

Main image: shutterstock/silvi photo

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