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FIFA World Cup qualification

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FIFA World Cup qualification

The FIFA World Cup qualification is the process that a national association football team goes through to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Finals. The FIFA World Cup is the largest international team sport competition in the world with a qualification process required to reduce the large field of countries from 209 to just 32 for the World Cup Finals.

Qualifying tournaments are held within the six FIFA continental zones (2014 FIFA World Cup qualification commenced in 2011 and finished in late 2013.

The hosts of the World Cup receive an automatic berth. Unlike many other sports, results of the previous World Cups or of the continental championships are not taken into account. Until 2002, the defending champions also received an automatic berth, but starting from the 2006 World Cup this is no longer the case.

Contents

  • History 1
    • Qualification spots by continent 1.1
    • Qualification competition entrants over time 1.2
    • First appearance in qualification by team 1.3
    • National teams results in World Cup preliminary competition 1934–2014 1.4
    • Top scorers in preliminary competition 1934–2014 1.5
  • Current format 2
    • Africa 2.1
    • Asia 2.2
    • Europe 2.3
    • North and Central America and Caribbean 2.4
    • Oceania 2.5
    • South America 2.6
    • Intercontinental play-offs 2.7
  • Qualification tournament rules 3
    • Groups 3.1
    • Home-and-away ties 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

History

Over many years, the World Cup's qualification has evolved, from having no qualification at all in 1930, when the tournament was invitational and only 13 teams entered, to the current two-year process. The first World Cup qualifying match was played on 11 June 1933 when Sweden defeated Estonia 6–2 in Stockholm. The first ever goal in a World Cup qualifying match was scored 7 minutes into the game: it was scored according to some sources by Swedish captain Knut Kroon, or according to other sources by Estonian goalkeeper Evald Tipner (own goal).

While the number of teams which qualified for the finals has increased steadily, from 16 between 1934 and 1978, to 24 between 1982 and 1994, and finally to 32 starting from 1998, the qualification format has been basically the same throughout the history of the World Cup. The teams have been grouped continentally, and they competed for a fixed number of places, with one or two places awarded to the winners of intercontinental play-offs.

Qualification spots by continent

The table below lists the numbers of spots allocated by FIFA for each continent in each tournament. If no places were allocated to a continent, such as in the case of Oceania prior to 1966 and Africa in 1950, this does not indicate an exclusion of those continents by FIFA, but rather that no country of those continents made an entry to the aforementioned Cups.[1]

A large part of Africa was under colonial rule during part of the 20th century, mainly the first half of the century. As of 1954, only 3 African countries were affiliated to FIFA: Egypt, in 1923, Sudan, in 1948, and Ethiopia, in 1952.[2] Sudan and Ethiopia made entries for no Cup prior to 1958. Egypt made entries for the 1934, 1938 and 1954 Cups, though not for the 1930 and 1950 Cups. Though an African country, Egypt entered in 1938 and 1954 in the European group, therefore the table below gives no data about Africa for these two Cups.

Places in the intercontinental play-offs count as 0.5 spots. Numbers in bold represent the winners of the intercontinental play-offs. "+C" denotes an additional spot for defending champions. "+H" denotes an additional spot for hosts.

Places allocated for continents
Continental zone 1934

(16)
1938

(15)1
1950

(13)2
1954

(16)
1958

(16)
1962

(16)
1966

(16)
1970

(16)
1974

(16)
1978

(16)
1982

(24)
1986

(24)
1990

(24)
1994

(24)
1998

(32)
2002


(32)
2006

(32)6
2010

(32)
2014

(32)
2018

(32)
2022

(32)
Africa 1 0 0.53 0.54 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 5 5 5 5
+H
5 5  
Asia 1 12 1 0.54 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3.5 2.5
+2H
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 H
Oceania 0 0.5 0.5 0.255 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5  
Europe 12 111
+C+H
72
+C
11
+H
9.53
+C+H
8+4
2×0.5
9
+H
8
+C
8.5
+H
8.5
+C
13
+H
12.5
+C
13
+H
12
+C
14
+H
13.5
+C
13
+H
13 13 13
+H
 
North and Central America
and Caribbean
1 1 2 1 1 0.5 1 1
+H
1 1 2 1
+H
2 1.255
+H
3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5  
South America 2 1 4
+H
1
+C
3 3.5
+C+H
3
+C
3 2.5
+C
2.5
+H
3
+C
4 2.5
+C
3.55 4
+C
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
+H
4.5  
Total 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 24 24 24 24 32 32 32 32 32 32 32
  • 1 In 1938, Austria withdrew after qualifying due to being annexed by Germany and were not replaced, so only 15 teams, 12 of them European, played in the finals.
  • 2 In 1950, India, Scotland and Turkey withdrew after qualifying and were not replaced, so only 13 teams, none of them Asian and 6 of them European, played in the finals.
  • 3 Initially in 1958, Africa and Asia together were given 1 spot, while Europe was given 9 spots. However, after Israel won the African and Asian zone without playing any matches due to withdrawals of other teams, a special play-off was arranged between them and a European team (Wales). So in effect, Africa and Asia together were given 0.5 spots, while Europe was given 9.5 spots.
  • 4 In 1962, Europe was given 8 automatic spots, plus 2 additional spots in the intercontinental play-offs, in effect giving them 9 spots. The two European teams played an African team and an Asian team respectively, and both European teams won. Therefore, 10 European teams played in the finals.
  • 5 In 1994, there were two rounds of intercontinental play-offs. First, an Oceanian team played a team from North and Central America and Caribbean, and the winner then played a South American team.
  • 6 From the 2006 qualifiers on, the defending champion no longer has an automatic spot secured.

Qualification competition entrants over time

The number of teams entering the qualification process and the number of matches played have been steadily growing over time. Though an African country, Egypt entered in 1938 and 1954 into the European group, therefore being zero the below indicator as for Africa in these years.

Number of teams entering qualification (including automatic qualifiers)
Continental zone 1934

(16)
1938

(15)
1950

(13)
1954

(16)
1958

(16)
1962

(16)
1966

(16)
1970

(16)
1974

(16)
1978

(16)
1982

(24)
1986

(24)
1990

(24)
1994

(24)
1998

(32)
2002


(32)
2006

(32)
2010

(32)
2014

(32)
2018

(32)
2022

(32)
Africa 3 0 0 0 11 6 21 13 24 26 29 29 26 40 38 51 51 53 52 54
Asia 2 4 3 5 7 18 22 21 27 26 29 36 42 39 43 43 46
Oceania1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 5 7 10 10 12 11 11 11
Europe 21 26 19 29 29 30 33 31 33 32 34 33 33 39 50 51 52 53 53 53
North and Central America
and Caribbean
4 7 3 5 6 8 10 14 14 17 15 18 16 23 30 35 34 35 35 35
South America 4 2 8 6 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 10 10 10 10 10 10
Total entrants 32 37 34 45 55 56 74 75 99 107 109 121 116 147 174 199 198 2053 204 209
Teams played2 27 21 19 33 46 49 51 68 90 95 103 110 103 130 168 193 194 2003 203 207
Matches played 27 22 26 57 89 92 127 172 226 252 306 308 314 497 643 777 847 853 828 26
Goals scored 141 96 121 208 341 325 393 542 620 723 797 801 735 1446 1922 2452 2464 2344 2303 75
Average goals per match 5.22 4.36 4.65 3.65 3.83 3.53 3.09 3.15 2.74 2.87 2.60 2.60 2.34 2.91 2.99 3.16 2.91 2.75 2.81 2.88
  • 1 Because the Oceania Football Confederation has used the World Cup Qualifiers as a phase of (or as the entire) Oceania Nations Cup, there is the possibility that non-FIFA countries may play in matches that double as World Cup qualifiers. In the 2006 qualifiers, New Caledonia were included in the tournament although they were not FIFA members at the date of close of entries. They are, however, included in the 12 nations listed as they joined FIFA during the course of qualification, even though they had been technically eliminated from contention a few days earlier (a similar situation occurred in the entries for 2010, with Montenegro's entry accepted prior to their admission by FIFA). By contrast, Tuvalu competed in the 2007 South Pacific Games Football tournament, which doubled as qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. As they were not FIFA members at the time of the completion of the competition, they are not included in the 11 OFC entrants, although their results counted towards the qualification of other teams.
  • 2 "Teams played" is the total number of teams that played at least one qualifying match.
  • 3 This number includes Tuvalu (see note 1) and South Africa. Although South Africa qualified automatically for 2010 as hosts, they competed in the CAF qualifiers, becoming the first hosts to compete in World Cup qualifying since 1934. This is because the Confederation of African Football used its 2010 World Cup qualifiers as the qualifying phase for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament for which South Africa had to attempt to qualify.

First appearance in qualification by team

Note: Only teams that played at least one match are considered for the purposes of first appearance. Teams that withdrew prior to the qualification, or that qualified to the World Cup automatically due to other teams' withdrawals, are not considered.

World Cup Europe South America North, Central America and Caribbean Asia Africa Oceania Total

1934
 Austria
 Belgium
 Bulgaria
 Czechoslovakia[upper-alpha 1]
 Estonia
 France
 Germany[upper-alpha 2]
 Greece
 Hungary
 Irish Free State[upper-alpha 3]
 Italy[upper-alpha 4]
 Lithuania
 Luxembourg
 Netherlands
 Poland
 Portugal
 Romania
 Spain
 Sweden
  Switzerland
 Yugoslavia[upper-alpha 5]
none  Cuba
 Haiti
 Mexico
 United States
 Palestine, British Mandate[upper-alpha 6]  Egypt none 27

1938
 Finland
 Latvia
 Norway
none none none none none 3

1950
 England
 Ireland[upper-alpha 7]
 Scotland
 Turkey[upper-alpha 8]
 Wales
none none  Syria none none 6

1954
 Saar  Brazil[upper-alpha 9]
 Chile[upper-alpha 10]
 Paraguay[upper-alpha 11]
none  Japan[upper-alpha 12]
 South Korea
none none 6

1958
 Denmark
 East Germany
 Iceland
 Soviet Union[upper-alpha 13]
 Argentina[upper-alpha 14]
 Bolivia[upper-alpha 15]
 Colombia[upper-alpha 16]
 Peru[upper-alpha 17]
 Uruguay[upper-alpha 18]
 Canada
 Costa Rica[upper-alpha 19]
 Guatemala
 Territory of Curaçao[upper-alpha 20]
 China PR
 Indonesia[upper-alpha 21]
 Sudan none 16

1962
 Cyprus[upper-alpha 22]  Ecuador[upper-alpha 23]  Dutch Guyana[upper-alpha 24]
 Honduras
none  Ethiopia
 Ghana
 Morocco
 Nigeria
 Tunisia
none 9

1966
 Albania  Venezuela[upper-alpha 25]  Jamaica
 Trinidad and Tobago
 North Korea none  Australia 6

1970
none none  Bermuda
 El Salvador[upper-alpha 26]
none  Algeria[upper-alpha 27]
 Cameroon[upper-alpha 28]
 Libya[upper-alpha 29]
 Rhodesia[upper-alpha 30]
 Senegal[upper-alpha 31]
 Zambia
 New Zealand 9

1974
 Malta none  Antigua and Barbuda
 Puerto Rico
 Hong Kong
 Iran
 Iraq
 Kuwait
 Malaysia
 South Vietnam
 Thailand
 Congo
 Dahomey[upper-alpha 32]
 Guinea[upper-alpha 33]
 Ivory Coast
 Kenya
 Lesotho
 Mauritius
 Sierra Leone
 Tanzania
 Togo
 Zaire[upper-alpha 34]
none 21

1978
none none  Barbados
 Dominican Republic
 Guyana
 Panama
 Bahrain
 Qatar
 Republic of China[upper-alpha 35]
 Saudi Arabia
 Singapore
 Malawi
 Mauritania
 Niger
 Uganda
 Upper Volta[upper-alpha 36]
none 14

1982
none none  Grenada  Macau  Gambia
 Liberia[upper-alpha 37]
 Madagascar[upper-alpha 38]
 Mozambique
 Somalia
 Fiji 8

1986
none none none  Bangladesh
 Brunei
 Jordan
 India[upper-alpha 39]
   Nepal
 North Yemen[upper-alpha 40]
 South Yemen
 United Arab Emirates[upper-alpha 41]
 Angola none 9

1990
none none none  Oman[upper-alpha 42]
 Pakistan
 Gabon[upper-alpha 43] none 3

1994
 Faroe Islands
 San Marino
none  Nicaragua
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Lebanon[upper-alpha 44]
 Sri Lanka[upper-alpha 45]
 Vietnam
 Botswana
 Burundi
 Namibia
 South Africa
 Swaziland
 Solomon Islands
 Tahiti
 Vanuatu
16

1998
 Armenia
 Azerbaijan
 Belarus
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 Georgia
 Liechtenstein[upper-alpha 46]
 Macedonia
 Moldova
 Slovakia
 Slovenia
 Ukraine
none  Aruba
 Belize
 Cayman Islands
 Dominica
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Cambodia
 Kazakhstan
 Kyrgyzstan
 Maldives[upper-alpha 47]
 Philippines[upper-alpha 48]
 Tajikistan
 Turkmenistan
 Uzbekistan
 Guinea-Bissau
 Rwanda[upper-alpha 49]
 Cook Islands
 Papua New Guinea
 Tonga
 Western Samoa[upper-alpha 50]
31

2002
 Andorra none  Anguilla
 Bahamas[upper-alpha 51]
 British Virgin Islands
 Montserrat
 Turks and Caicos Islands
 U.S. Virgin Islands
 Guam
 Laos
 Mongolia
 Palestine
 Cape Verde
 Central African Republic[upper-alpha 52]
 Chad
 Djibouti
 Equatorial Guinea
 Eritrea
 Mali[upper-alpha 53]
 São Tomé and Príncipe[upper-alpha 54]
 Seychelles
 American Samoa 21

2006
none none none  Afghanistan none  New Caledonia[upper-alpha 55] 2

2010
 Montenegro none none  Myanmar[upper-alpha 56]
 Timor-Leste
 Comoros  Tuvalu[upper-alpha 57] 5

2014
none none none none none none 0

2018
none none none  Bhutan[upper-alpha 58]  South Sudan none 2
Total 214[upper-alpha 59]
  1. ^ The Czechoslovakia team was officially renamed as the  Representation of Czechs and Slovaks during the 1994 qualification, and was then succeeded by the  Czech Republic (first appearance: 1998).
  2. ^ Germany was later succeeded by  West Germany (first appearance: 1954), and then by the reunified  Germany (first appearance: 1994).
  3. ^ The Irish Free State was later succeeded by  Ireland (first appearance: 1950), which later became officially known as the  Republic of Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  4. ^ Despite being the host, Italy had to qualify for the tournament.
  5. ^ The  Kingdom of Yugoslavia was later succeeded by the  Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1950), then by the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1998), then by  Serbia and Montenegro (first appearance: 2006), and then by  Serbia (first appearance: 2010).
  6. ^ Mandatory Palestine was later succeeded by  Israel (first appearance: 1950).
  7. ^ Ireland was later succeeded by  Northern Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  8. ^ Turkey entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  9. ^ Brazil entered the 1934 and 1938 qualifications, but on both occasions qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1950 World Cup as host.
  10. ^ Chile entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals.
  11. ^ Paraguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals.
  12. ^ Japan entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  13. ^ The Soviet Union was later succeeded by  Russia (first appearance: 1994).
  14. ^ Argentina entered the 1934 qualification, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1938 and 1950 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  15. ^ Bolivia entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals.
  16. ^ Colombia entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  17. ^ Peru entered the 1934, 1950 and 1954 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  18. ^ Uruguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1954 World Cup as defending champion.
  19. ^ Costa Rica entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  20. ^ The  Territory of Curaçao (six islands) was later succeeded by the  Netherlands Antilles (first appearance: 1962), and then by  Curaçao (one island; first appearance: 2014).
  21. ^ Indonesia entered the 1938 qualification as  Dutch East Indies, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  22. ^ Cyprus entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  23. ^ Ecuador entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  24. ^ Dutch Guyana entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later succeeded by  Suriname (first appearance: 1978).
  25. ^ Venezuela entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  26. ^ El Salvador entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  27. ^ Algeria entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  28. ^ Cameroon entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  29. ^ Libya entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  30. ^ Rhodesia was later succeeded by  Zimbabwe (first appearance: 1982).
  31. ^ Senegal entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  32. ^ Dahomey was later renamed as  Benin (first appearance: 1986).
  33. ^ Guinea entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  34. ^ Zaire was renamed as  DR Congo during the 1998 qualification.
  35. ^ The Republic of China entered the 1954 and 1958 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches. It later became officially known as  Chinese Taipei (first appearance: 1982).
  36. ^ Upper Volta was later renamed as  Burkina Faso (first appearance: 1990).
  37. ^ Liberia entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  38. ^ Madagascar entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  39. ^ India entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified automatically due to other teams' withdrawals, and subsequently withdrew from participation in the finals. It also entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  40. ^ North Yemen was later succeeded by  Yemen (first appearance: 1994).
  41. ^ The United Arab Emirates entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  42. ^ Oman entered the 1986 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  43. ^ Gabon entered the 1966 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  44. ^ Lebanon entered but was disqualified during the 1986 qualification, and the team's matches from that campaign were annulled.
  45. ^ Sri Lanka entered the 1974 (as  Ceylon) and 1978 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  46. ^ Liechtenstein entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  47. ^ The Maldives entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  48. ^ The Philippines entered the 1950 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  49. ^ Rwanda entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  50. ^ Western Samoa entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later renamed as  Samoa (first appearance: 2002).
  51. ^ The Bahamas entered the 1998 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  52. ^ The Central African Republic entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1982 qualification, but was disqualified before playing any matches.
  53. ^ Mali entered the 1966, 1994 and 1998 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  54. ^ São Tomé and Príncipe entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  55. ^ New Caledonia was not a member of FIFA at the time of the qualification.
  56. ^ Myanmar entered the 1950 (as  Burma), 1994 and 2002 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  57. ^ Matches in the Football tournament of the South Pacific Games counted towards the qualification tournament for the OFC, and Tuvalu's results counted in determining advancement from this stage. However, Tuvalu was not a member of FIFA at the time of qualification and had not entered the FIFA World Cup.
  58. ^ Bhutan entered the 2010 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  59. ^ Confederation subtotals are not given because a few teams have appeared in World Cup qualifiers in multiple confederations.

National teams results in World Cup preliminary competition 1934–2014

  • Note that prior to qualification for the 1998 World Cup 2 points were awarded for a victory but all victories in the table below are awarded 3 points; a draw is awarded 1 point.
Key to colours in the table
Country has won the World Cup
Country has qualified for the main tournament
Team Pld W D L GF GA Pts Confederation
 Mexico 159 102 33 24 407 118 339 CONCACAF
 Costa Rica 156 76 38 42 270 165 266 CONCACAF
 Netherlands 115 76 23 16 275 81 251 UEFA
 South Korea 117 70 33 14 226 76 243 AFC
 Russia (1994—)
 Soviet Union (1958–1990)
115 73 23 19 227 75 242 UEFA
 United States 138 70 32 36 229 165 242 CONCACAF
 Spain 107 72 24 11 240 73 240 UEFA
 Czech Republic (1998—)
 Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (1994)
 Czechoslovakia (1934–1994)
128 71 26 31 249 106 239 UEFA
 Sweden 119 73 19 27 240 112 238 UEFA
 Serbia (2010—)
 Serbia and Montenegro (2006)
 Yugoslavia (1998–2002)
 Yugoslavia (1950–1990)
 Yugoslavia (1934–1938)
118 69 28 21 249 104 235 UEFA
 Australia 119 68 30 21 311 95 234 AFC
 Portugal 129 67 33 29 230 135 234 UEFA
 Argentina 118 68 29 21 216 111 233 CONMEBOL
 Belgium 123 68 24 31 234 135 228 UEFA
 England 102 68 23 11 257 64 227 UEFA
 Iran 110 66 28 16 231 76 226 AFC
 Honduras 132 64 33 35 235 145 225 CONCACAF
 Italy 97 67 23 7 200 60 224 UEFA
 Uruguay 136 60 38 38 186 144 218 CONMEBOL
 Romania 118 64 22 32 211 124 214 UEFA
 Germany (1994—)
 West Germany (1954–1990)
 Germany (1934–1938)
84 64 18 2 249 66 210 UEFA
 El Salvador 130 60 25 45 221 152 205 CONCACAF
 Paraguay 136 59 27 50 182 164 204 CONMEBOL
 Scotland 115 57 25 33 175 124 196 UEFA
 France 101 58 21 22 198 82 195 UEFA
  Switzerland 120 54 32 34 181 139 194 UEFA
 Bulgaria 119 56 26 37 195 158 194 UEFA
 Brazil 92 56 25 11 199 59 193 CONMEBOL
 Saudi Arabia 100 56 25 19 187 79 193 AFC
 Republic of Ireland (1954—)
 Ireland (1950)
 Irish Free State (1934–1938)
129 51 38 40 186 158 191 UEFA
 Austria 113 55 25 33 198 124 190 UEFA
 Colombia 134 50 40 44 159 140 190 CONMEBOL
 Japan 102 55 23 24 203 78 188 AFC
 Hungary 112 54 25 33 202 149 187 UEFA
 Nigeria 96 53 27 16 162 74 186 CAF
 Chile 128 53 27 48 191 168 186 CONMEBOL
 China PR 90 58 11 21 195 63 185 AFC
 Denmark 110 51 27 32 187 132 180 UEFA
 Tunisia 96 51 26 19 165 78 179 CAF
 Morocco 104 48 35 21 140 79 179 CAF
 Poland 107 52 20 35 200 129 176 UEFA
 Trinidad and Tobago 121 50 25 46 181 155 175 CONCACAF
 Canada 111 46 33 32 156 128 171 CONCACAF
 Greece 116 49 24 43 141 161 171 UEFA
 Cameroon 79 49 17 13 134 57 164 CAF
 Egypt[n 1] 86 48 18 20 155 85 162 CAF
 Guatemala 112 44 29 39 173 138 161 CONCACAF
 Ecuador 125 41 31 53 143 173 154 CONMEBOL
 Turkey 118 43 21 54 162 174 150 UEFA
 New Zealand 83 45 14 24 197 93 149 OFC
 Norway 116 40 29 47 153 162 149 UEFA
 Kuwait 85 45 13 27 148 82 148 AFC
 Zambia 90 43 18 29 139 82 147 CAF
 Iraq 85 42 19 24 177 85 145 AFC
 Northern Ireland (1954—)
 Ireland (1950)
122 37 34 51 132 154 145 UEFA
 Qatar 94 41 21 32 144 102 144 AFC
 Israel (1950—)
 Palestine, British Mandate (1934–1938)
112 36 34 42 156 163 142 UEFA
 Ivory Coast 71 38 23 10 134 62 137 CAF
 Peru 129 35 31 63 135 185 136 CONMEBOL
 Algeria 81 38 21 22 111 79 135 CAF
 Uzbekistan 76 38 18 20 151 81 132 AFC
 Bolivia 132 35 27 70 161 246 132 CONMEBOL
 Ghana 75 38 17 20 123 61 131 CAF
 Jamaica 96 35 26 35 109 119 131 CONCACAF
 Haiti 82 36 16 30 144 115 124 CONCACAF
 North Korea 75 34 18 23 102 69 120 AFC
 Wales 110 33 21 56 138 164 120 UEFA
 United Arab Emirates 79 33 17 29 126 94 116 AFC
 Guinea 70 34 11 25 112 86 113 CAF
 Ukraine 60 30 20 10 95 43 110 UEFA
 Finland 119 30 20 69 125 274 110 UEFA
 DR Congo (1998—)
 Zaire (1974–1998)
69 31 16 22 112 77 109 CAF
 Bahrain 80 28 25 27 95 84 109 AFC
 Croatia 50 29 15 6 89 42 102 UEFA
 Syria[n 1] 64 27 15 22 137 75 96 AFC
 Angola 59 24 22 13 78 53 94 CAF
 Oman 62 25 17 20 104 63 92 AFC
 Slovakia 54 26 14 14 93 57 92 UEFA
 Venezuela 122 23 19 80 101 279 88 CONMEBOL
 Senegal 55 21 19 15 75 51 82 CAF
 South Africa 42 25 7 10 55 34 82 CAF
 Jordan 62 23 13 26 84 85 82 AFC
 Iceland 96 21 18 57 100 208 81 UEFA
 Panama 78 21 17 40 88 142 80 CONCACAF
 Zimbabwe (1982—)
 Rhodesia (1970)
63 21 16 26 63 80 79 CAF
 Kenya 64 21 15 28 71 87 78 CAF
 Cuba 66 20 18 28 84 101 78 CONCACAF
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 48 23 8 17 88 56 77 UEFA
 Togo 61 21 14 26 68 82 77 CAF
 Burkina Faso (1990—)
 Upper Volta (1978)
53 23 7 23 76 73 76 CAF
 Slovenia 52 21 12 19 69 61 75 UEFA
 East Germany 47 22 8 17 87 65 74 Defunct
 Thailand 73 20 14 39 96 126 74 AFC
 Indonesia 71 19 16 36 87 143 73 AFC
 Suriname (1978—)
 Dutch Guyana (1962–1974)
63 19 14 30 90 107 71 CONCACAF
 Hong Kong 65 19 12 34 78 123 69 AFC
 Congo 54 19 11 24 59 67 68 CAF
 Fiji 46 19 9 18 104 84 66 OFC
 Libya 49 18 12 19 55 52 66 CAF
 Gabon 49 19 8 22 54 57 65 CAF
 Latvia 65 17 14 34 75 112 65 UEFA
 Sudan 62 15 17 30 56 98 62 CAF
 Lithuania 63 16 13 34 52 91 61 UEFA
 Lebanon 48 16 12 20 75 71 60 AFC
 Solomon Islands 44 17 8 19 101 95 59 OFC
 Malaysia 51 15 13 23 66 81 58 AFC
 Singapore 60 16 9 35 65 112 57 AFC
 Malawi 57 13 17 27 56 82 56 CAF
 Albania 94 14 13 67 62 175 55 UEFA
 Liberia 55 14 11 30 37 82 53 CAF
 New Caledonia 27 16 4 7 74 28 52 OFC
 Curaçao (2014—)
 Netherlands Antilles (1962–2010)
 Curaçao (1958)
54 12 15 27 48 110 51 CONCACAF
 Tahiti 36 14 6 16 52 74 48 OFC
 Estonia 66 13 9 44 52 147 48 UEFA
 Cyprus 104 12 12 80 78 281 48 UEFA
 Bermuda 32 13 8 11 68 45 47 CONCACAF
 Mali 32 13 7 12 46 41 46 CAF
 Belarus 48 12 10 26 55 76 46 UEFA
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 48 13 6 29 62 128 45 CONCACAF
 Kazakhstan 50 12 8 30 65 102 44 UEFA
 Turkmenistan 32 13 4 15 54 48 43 AFC
 Ethiopia 41 11 10 20 48 64 43 CAF
 Macedonia 50 11 10 29 56 87 43 UEFA
 Benin (1986—)
 Dahomey (1974)
42 12 7 23 44 86 43 CAF
 Tajikistan 28 12 5 11 54 35 41 AFC
 Madagascar 33 11 7 15 38 44 40 CAF
 Yemen (1994—)
 North Yemen (1986–1990)
40 10 10 20 47 62 40 AFC
 Uganda 34 11 6 17 34 55 39 CAF
 Sierra Leone 43 10 9 24 37 67 39 CAF
 Antigua and Barbuda 38 11 5 22 60 87 38 CONCACAF
 Georgia 46 9 11 26 43 75 38 UEFA
 Armenia 52 8 13 31 42 96 37 UEFA
 Vanuatu 34 11 3 20 73 81 36 OFC
 Dominican Republic 27 10 5 12 41 45 35 CONCACAF
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 26 9 7 10 49 44 34 CONCACAF
 India 33 8 10 15 36 69 34 AFC
 Cape Verde 26 10 3 13 28 33 33 CAF
 Namibia 39 8 8 23 34 79 32 CAF
 Tanzania 33 7 10 16 34 45 31 CAF
 Bangladesh 40 9 4 27 31 90 31 AFC
 Rwanda 35 7 9 19 30 51 30 CAF
 Mozambique 32 7 8 17 29 49 29 CAF
 Samoa (2002—)
 Western Samoa (1998)
23 9 1 13 37 69 28 OFC
 Barbados 33 8 4 21 29 69 28 CONCACAF
 Kyrgyzstan 23 8 2 13 28 41 26 AFC
 Botswana 30 7 5 18 26 48 26 CAF
 Vietnam 32 8 2 22 35 68 26 AFC
 Niger 26 7 4 15 21 45 25 CAF
 Guyana 32 7 4 21 30 75 25 CONCACAF
 Moldova 48 5 10 33 31 92 25 UEFA
 Azerbaijan 48 4 13 31 19 85 25 UEFA
 Montenegro 20 5 9 6 27 31 24 UEFA
 Gambia 22 6 5 11 18 33 23 CAF
 Tonga 22 7 1 14 23 82 22 OFC
 Grenada 21 6 3 12 46 47 21 CONCACAF
 Palestine 18 5 4 9 24 31 19 AFC
 Saint Lucia 22 6 1 15 28 57 19 CONCACAF
 Faroe Islands 60 5 4 51 30 168 19 UEFA
 Chinese Taipei 50 5 4 41 28 180 19 AFC
 Luxembourg 124 4 7 113 61 407 19 UEFA
 Burundi 16 5 3 8 12 20 18 CAF
 Belize 20 5 3 12 25 48 18 CONCACAF
 Puerto Rico 23 4 6 13 21 53 18 CONCACAF
 Maldives 24 5 2 17 28 100 17 AFC
 Papua New Guinea 13 4 3 6 24 23 15 OFC
 Bahamas 12 4 3 5 20 35 15 CONCACAF
 Sri Lanka[n 2] 29 3 6 20 20 72 15 AFC
   Nepal 28 4 3 21 23 98 15 AFC
 Malta 92 2 9 81 30 275 15 UEFA
 Chad 12 4 1 7 12 17 13 CAF
 Lesotho 22 2 6 14 13 50 12 CAF
 Liechtenstein 50 2 6 42 22 146 12 UEFA
 Equatorial Guinea 18 3 2 13 16 34 11 CAF
 American Samoa 18 3 1 14 11 136 10 OFC
 Cook Islands 20 3 1 16 16 63 10 OFC
 Macau 33 3 1 29 14 161 10 AFC
 Swaziland 15 2 3 10 7 36 9 CAF
 Dominica 16 2 3 11 12 46 9 CONCACAF
 Laos 18 2 2 14 17 95 8 AFC
 Aruba 12 2 1 9 18 37 7 CONCACAF
 Nicaragua 16 2 1 13 10 39 7 CONCACAF
 Guinea-Bissau 10 1 3 6 6 15 6 CAF
 U.S. Virgin Islands 13 2 0 11 7 76 6 CONCACAF
 Mauritania 14 1 2 11 7 33 5 CAF
 Mauritius 16 1 2 13 12 44 5 CAF
 Philippines 13 1 2 10 8 45 5 AFC
 Cambodia 16 1 2 13 11 62 5 AFC
 Andorra 42 1 2 39 12 139 5 UEFA
 Saar 4 1 1 2 4 8 4 Defunct
 São Tomé and Príncipe 6 1 1 4 3 19 4 CAF
 Mongolia 12 1 1 10 5 46 4 AFC
 Djibouti 11 1 1 9 5 48 4 CAF
 South Vietnam 3 1 0 2 1 5 3 Defunct
 Eritrea 6 0 3 3 2 11 3 CAF
 Central African Republic 8 1 0 7 6 16 3 CAF
 Myanmar[n 3] 6 1 0 5 2 17 3 AFC
 Somalia 9 0 3 6 1 20 3 CAF
 Cayman Islands 14 0 3 11 5 34 3 CONCACAF
 Turks and Caicos Islands 8 1 0 7 2 34 3 CONCACAF
 Pakistan 28 0 3 25 11 115 3 AFC
 British Virgin Islands 8 0 2 6 5 31 2 CONCACAF
 Seychelles 12 0 2 10 6 33 2 CAF
 San Marino 56 0 2 54 9 259 2 UEFA
 South Yemen 2 0 1 1 4 7 1 Defunct
 Afghanistan 6 0 1 5 2 21 1 AFC
 Tuvalu[n 4] 4 0 1 3 2 22 1 OFC
 Anguilla 8 0 1 7 2 33 1 CONCACAF
 Comoros 4 0 0 4 3 15 0 CAF
 Timor-Leste 4 0 0 4 4 18 0 AFC
 Guam 2 0 0 2 0 35 0 AFC
 Montserrat 7 0 0 7 5 41 0 CONCACAF
 Brunei 12 0 0 12 2 57 0 AFC
 Bhutan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 AFC
 South Sudan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 CAF

Last updated: All OFC and Canada as of October 26, 2015

Footnotes
  1. ^ a b Egypt and Syria formed a joint association in 1960 and entered the preliminary competition for World Cup 1962 as a joint team called United Arab Republic, but withdrew before playing any game. Later, Egypt entered the preliminary rounds for World Cup 1966 under the name of United Arab Republic, but withdrew yet again before playing.
  2. ^ Sri Lanka entered the preliminary competition for World Cup 1974 as Ceylon, but withdrew before playing any game.
  3. ^ Myanmar entered the preliminary competition for World Cup 1950 as Burma, but withdrew before playing any game.
  4. ^ Tuvalu is a member of the OFC, but not a member of FIFA.

Top scorers in preliminary competition 1934–2014

Players in bold are still active.

Rank Nation Player Goals Games played Goal ratio Qualification tournaments
1 Ali Daei 35 51 0.69 1994 (7 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (10), 2006 (9)
2 Carlos Ruiz 31 37 0.81 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (10), 2010 (6), 2014 (6), 2018 (1)
3 Karim Bagheri 28 29 0.97 1998 (19 goals), 2002 (8), 2010 (1)
4 Kazu Miura 27 25 1.08 1994 (13 goals), 1998 (14)
5 Andriy Shevchenko 26 40 0.65 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (10), 2006 (6), 2010 (6)
6 Carlos Pavón 25 37 0.68 1998 (2 goals), 2002 (15), 2006 (1), 2010 (7)
7 Jared Borgetti 23 24 0.96 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (14), 2010 (3)
8 Paulo Wanchope 21 37 0.57 1998 (6 goals), 2002 (7), 2006 (8)
9 Stern John 20 45 0.44 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (3), 2006 (12), 2010 (2)
10 Archie Thompson 20 15 1.33 2002 (16 goals), 2006 (2), 2014 (2)
11 Vaughan Coveny 19 19 1.00 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (6)
12 Emmanuel Sanon 19 20 0.95 1974 (11 goals), 1978 (8)
13 Edin Džeko 19 22 0.86 2010 (9 goals), 2014 (10)
14 Pauleta 19 24 0.79 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (11)
15 Zlatan Ibrahimović 19 29 0.66 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (8), 2010 (2), 2014 (8)
16 Hernán Crespo 19 33 0.58 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (7)
17 Didier Drogba 18 19 0.95 2006 (9 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (3)
18 Moumouni Dagano 18 24 0.75 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (5), 2010 (12)
19 Samuel Eto'o 18 29 0.62 2002 (3 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (9), 2014 (2)
20 Raúl Díaz Arce 18 29 0.62 1994 (2 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (7)
21 Marcelo Salas 18 32 0.56 1998 (11 goals), 2002 (4), 2006 (1), 2010 (2)
22 Robbie Keane 18 37 0.49 2002 (2 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (6), 2014 (6)
23 Deon McCaulay 17 unk unk 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (4)

(update of FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers in progress, last update: 18 May 2014)

Current format

Currently, 32 places are available in the final tournament. One of them is reserved for the host nation, but if two or more nations host the competition jointly, each is awarded a place. From 1934 to 2002, one berth was reserved for the winners of the previous World Cup. In November 2001, FIFA announced that the defending champion would no longer get automatic entry to the subsequent tournament, starting with the 2006 finals. This decision was made to address the issue of the returning champions being at a disadvantage to their fellow competitors due to having not played a competitive match in the previous two years.[3] The problem was amply demonstrated at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as returning champions France tumbled out in the first round, finishing bottom of their group without scoring a single goal. 2002 winner Brazil qualified for 2006 at the top of their qualifiers group. However, Italy, defending champions from 2006, finished bottom of their group in 2010, despite playing in the qualifying matches. At Brazil 2014, 2010 champions Spain finished third in their group and failed to advance to the Round of 16, despite having qualified first of their group.

FIFA decides beforehand the number of spots awarded to each of the continental zones. For the 2018 World Cup, the following numbers are being used:[4]

  • UEFA (Europe) – 13 berths, plus the host Russia
  • CAF (Africa) – 5 berths
  • AFC (Asia) – 4 berths
  • CONMEBOL (South America) – 4 berths
  • CONCACAF (North and Central America and Caribbean) – 3 berths
  • 2 berths for the winners of play-offs between the best team from the OFC (Oceania), as well as additional teams from the AFC, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF. The pairings for these play-offs will be determined by an open draw.

The number of berths allocated per continent is widely debated, with the main point of contention being the extent to which berths should be allocated to regions based on sheer population vs. talent. A historically weaker continent, Africa has called for more places, as they are allocated only 5 in comparison to Europe's 13.[5]

These numbers vary slightly between tournaments (see above).

Qualification in all zones ends at approximately the same time, in September–November of the year preceding the finals.

The formats of the qualification tournaments differ between confederations and over time. The systems being used in 2014 are outlined below.

Africa

The CAF qualification process began with a preliminary round (to narrow the field of 52 entrants to 40 teams) in November 2011. Mauritania was the only team not to enter the qualifying draw.

The group stage consisted of 10 groups of 4, with the group winners advancing. The final stage will pair the 10 remaining teams in 5 knock-out ties, with the winners advancing to the World Cup finals.

Asia

Bhutan and Guam did not enter the AFC qualification process, while Brunei were suspended and therefore ineligible.

Qualifying has only been altered slightly from the 2010 method, with changes to the structure of the preliminary rounds – which were held before the main draw. As with the 2010 qualifying, two knock-out preliminary rounds reduced the 43 entrants to 20, followed by a first group stage with the top two sides from 5 groups of 4 advancing to a final group stage. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 5 advanced to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides, Jordan and Uzbekistan, playing off for the right to play in an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot.

Europe

The European qualification is unchanged from the 2010 system. The 53 national teams were divided into nine groups, with the group winners qualifying directly to the finals, and the best eight runners-up playing home-and-away ties for the remaining four places.[6]

North and Central America and Caribbean

The CONCACAF qualification process has changed significantly from the 2010 qualification cycle. A single preliminary round involved the 10 lowest ranked teams, reducing the 35 entrants to 30. The six highest ranked sides received byes in the first group stage, while the remaining 24 teams played in six groups of four, with the winners advancing to a second group stage. As in 2006 and 2010, the remaining 12 teams are playing in 3 semifinal groups of 4 teams with the top two in each group advancing to a final 6-team group.

The final round – often referred to as "the hexagonal" because of the number of teams involved – will see the top three teams advance to the World Cup finals, while the fourth placed side will enter an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot.

Oceania

Qualification in Oceania was held as part of two further competitions. The first stage took place at the 2011 Pacific Games, with the top 3 eligible teams advancing to a final round group stage with New Zealand. The winner of the final group stage (which also acted as the 2012 OFC Nations Cup) will enter an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

South America

As in recent qualification series CONMEBOL qualification consists of a single group of all entrants not automatically qualified for the finals. Brazil, as hosts of the 2014 finals, qualified automatically and are not competing in qualifying.

The top 4 teams from the 9 teams group will advance to the World Cup finals, while the fifth placed team will enter an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

Intercontinental play-offs

Unlike previous tournaments, the pairings for the two play-offs were determined by an open draw on 30 July 2011, a day prior to the main draw. Intercontinental play-offs are played as home-and-away ties.

Qualification tournament rules

Qualification tournaments generally consist of a number of stages, made up of groups or knock-out ties.

Groups

In all group tournaments, three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. FIFA has set the order of the tie-breakers for teams that finish level on points:

  1. goal difference in all group matches
  2. greater number of goals scored in all group matches

Where teams are still not able to be separated, the following tie-breakers are used:

  1. greater number of points obtained in matches between the tied teams
  2. goal difference in matches between the tied teams
  3. greater number of goals scored in matches between the tied teams

Where teams are still equal, then a play-off on neutral ground, with extra time and penalties if necessary will be played if FIFA deems such a play-off able to be fitted within the coordinated international match calendar. If this is not deemed feasible, then the result will be determined by the drawing of lot.

Note that this order of tie-breaker application has not always been applied. While it was used in the 2010 qualifiers, the qualification for the 2006 World Cup used the head-to-head comparison prior to goal difference (although this system was – where applicable – used in the 2006 finals themselves). If these rules had applied in 2006, then Nigeria would have qualified rather than Angola.

Home-and-away ties

Most knock-out qualifiers (such as the inter-confederation play-offs, the second round of UEFA qualifying and many preliminary ties) are played over two legs. The team that scores a greater aggregate number of goals qualifies. Away goals rule applies. If these rules fail to determine the winner, extra time and penalty shootouts are used.

Occasionally – usually when one entrant lacks adequate facilities to host international matches – ties are played over a single leg, in which case matches level after 90 minutes will go to extra time and then to a penalty shootout if required.

Alternatively, "home" matches can be played in neutral countries, or occasionally one team will host both matches. In the latter case the visiting team will still be considered as the "home" team for one of the legs – which may determine which side advances under the away goals rule, as occurred in CONCACAF qualification in 2010.

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/mencompwc/51/97/75/fs-201_19a_fwc-prel-history.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/organisation/52/00/10/fs-120_01a_mas.pdf
  3. ^ "Fifa makes major policy shift". BBC News. 2001-11-30. 
  4. ^ Financial report presented, Brazil 2014 slots & host countries decided, FIFA Official site. Retrieved on 9 June 2011
  5. ^ [2], Ahram Online. Retrieved on 12 October 2013
  6. ^ Uefa retains 2010 World Cup qualifying format for 2014, bbc.co.uk. Retrieved on 9 June 2011

External links

  • FIFA World Cup Preliminary Competition Statistics (from FIFA.com)
  • FIFA World Cup Preliminary History (from FIFA.com)
  • FIFA World Cup 2010 Regulations
  • 33 facts you need to know about the 2010 FIFA World Cup preliminary competition
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