This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.

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 211 to just 32 for the World Cup finals.

Qualifying tournaments are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), and are organized by their respective confederations. For each tournament, FIFA decides beforehand the number of places in the finals allocated to each of the continental zones, based on the numbers or relative strength of the confederations' teams.

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.

The most recent qualification process was the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification which commenced in 2015 and finished in 2017.

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 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 as per the case of Oceania prior to 1966 and Africa in 1938-1954 and 1966, this does not indicate an exclusion of those continents by FIFA, but rather that no country from those continents made an entry to the aforementioned Cups.[1]

It should be noted that a large part of Africa was under European colonial rule for the majority of the 20th century. Consequently, only three African countries were affiliated to FIFA in 1954: Egypt (since 1923), Sudan (since 1948) and Ethiopia (since 1952).[2] Egypt entered the 1934, 1938 and 1954 Cups, but not the 1930 or 1950 Cups, while Sudan and Ethiopia did not enter the Cup until 1958. Though an African country, Egypt entered in 1938 and 1954 in the European group, and therefore the table below gives no data about Africa for these two Cups.

Places in the intercontinental play-offs count as 0.5 spots, and numbers in bold represent the winners of the intercontinental play-offs. "+C" denotes an additional spot for defending champions (1938-2002), and "+H" denotes an additional spot for host nations (from 1938).

Places allocated for continents
Continental zone 1934
Italy
(16)
1938
France
(15)1
1950
Brazil
(13)2
1954
Switzerland
(16)
1958
Sweden
(16)
1962
Chile
(16)
1966
England
(16)
1970
Mexico
(16)
1974
West Germany
(16)
1978
Argentina
(16)
1982
Spain
(24)
1986
Mexico
(24)
1990
Italy
(24)
1994
United States
(24)
1998
France
(32)
2002
South Korea
Japan
(32)
2006
Germany
(32)7
2010
South Africa
(32)
2014
Brazil
(32)
2018
Russia
(32)
2022
Qatar
(32)
2026
Canada
Mexico
United States
(48)
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
13 16
Africa 1 0 0.53 0.54 05 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 5 5 5 5
+H
5 5 5 9
Asia 1 12 1 0.54 15 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 3.5 2.5
+2H
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
+H
8
Oceania did not exist 0.5 0.5 0.256 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1
North and Central America
and Caribbean
1 1 2 1 1 0.5 1 1
+H
1 1 2 1
+H
2 1.256
+H
3 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 6
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
3.56 4
+C
4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
+H
4.5 4.5 6
Play-off tournament did not exist 2
Total 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 24 24 24 24 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 48
1 In 1938, Austria withdrew after qualifying after 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 1966, Africa and Asia were given one place, contested between the winner of a four team Asian tournament and three group winners from the second round of African qualifiers. All 15 African teams subsequently withdrew to protest FIFA's failure to allocate a place to an African team, leaving North Korea to qualify.
6 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.
7 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. Although Egypt, an African country, entered qualifying in 1938 and 1954, it was in the European group; thus, the number of teams for Africa is considered to be zero in these years.

Number of teams entering qualification (including automatic qualifiers)
Continental zone 1934
Italy
(16)
1938
France
(15)
1950
Brazil
(13)
1954
Switzerland
(16)
1958
Sweden
(16)
1962
Chile
(16)
1966
England
(16)
1970
Mexico
(16)
1974
West Germany
(16)
1978
Argentina
(16)
1982
Spain
(24)
1986
Mexico
(24)
1990
Italy
(24)
1994
United States
(24)
1998
France
(32)
2002
South Korea
Japan
(32)
2006
Germany
(32)
2010
South Africa
(32)
2014
Brazil
(32)
2018
Russia
(32)
2022
Qatar
(32)
2026
Canada
Mexico
United States
(48)
Europe 21 26 19 29 29 30 33 31 33 32 34 33 33 39 50 51 52 53 53 54
Africa 3 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
North and Central America
and Caribbean2
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 2054 204 210
Teams played3 27 21 19 33 46 49 51 68 90 95 103 110 103 130 168 193 194 2004 203 208
Matches played 27 22 26 57 89 92 127 172 226 252 306 308 314 497 643 777 847 853 828 872
Goals scored 141 96 121 208 341 325 393 542 620 723 797 801 735 1446 1922 2452 2464 2344 2303 2454
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 2.81
  • 1 Because the Oceania Football Confederation has used the World Cup Qualifiers as a phase of (or as the entire) OFC 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 From 1973 to 1989, the CONCACAF Championship and its qualifying tournament determined CONCACAF's entrant in the World Cup. The confederation's champion qualified outright.
  • 3 "Teams played" is the total number of teams that played at least one qualifying match.
  • 4 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 attempted 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 by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals, are not considered. Teams that succeeded in their first qualification attempt are in bold. Teams that have never qualified for the World Cup finals are in italic.

World Cup Europe South America North, Central America and Caribbean Asia Africa Oceania T CT
Italy
1934
 Austria
 Belgium
 Bulgaria
 Czechoslovakia[A]
 Estonia
 France
 Germany[B]
 Greece
 Hungary
 Irish Free State[C]
 Italy[D]
 Lithuania
 Luxembourg
 Netherlands
 Poland
 Portugal
 Romania
 Spain
 Sweden
  Switzerland
 Yugoslavia[E]
none  Cuba
 Haiti
 Mexico
 United States
 Palestine, British Mandate[F]  Egypt[G] none 27 27
France
1938
 Finland
 Latvia
 Norway
none none none none none 3 30
Brazil
1950
 England
 Ireland[H]
 Scotland
 Turkey[I]
 Wales
none none  Syria none none 6 36
Switzerland
1954
 Saar  Brazil[J]
 Chile[K]
 Paraguay[L]
none  Japan[M]
 South Korea
none none 6 42
Sweden
1958
 Denmark
 East Germany
 Iceland
 Soviet Union[N]
 Argentina[O]
 Bolivia[P]
 Colombia[Q]
 Peru[R]
 Uruguay[S]
 Canada
 Costa Rica[T]
 Guatemala
 Territory of Curaçao[U]
 China PR
 Indonesia[V]
 Sudan none 16 58
Chile
1962
 Cyprus[W]  Ecuador[X]  Dutch Guyana[Y]
 Honduras
none  Ethiopia
 Ghana
 Morocco
 Nigeria
 Tunisia
none 9 67
England
1966
 Albania  Venezuela[Z]  Jamaica
 Trinidad and Tobago
 North Korea none  Australia 6 73
Mexico
1970
none none  Bermuda
 El Salvador[AA]
none  Algeria[AB]
 Cameroon[AC]
 Libya[AD]
 Rhodesia[AE]
 Senegal[AF]
 Zambia
 New Zealand 9 82
West Germany
1974
 Malta none  Antigua and Barbuda
 Puerto Rico
 Hong Kong
 Iran
 Iraq
 Kuwait
 Malaysia
 South Vietnam[AG]
 Thailand
 Congo
 Dahomey[AH]
 Guinea[AI]
 Ivory Coast
 Kenya
 Lesotho
 Mauritius
 Sierra Leone
 Tanzania
 Togo
 Zaire[AJ]
none 21 103
Argentina
1978
none none  Barbados
 Dominican Republic
 Guyana
 Panama
 Bahrain
 Qatar
 Republic of China[AK]
 Saudi Arabia
 Singapore
 Malawi
 Mauritania
 Niger
 Uganda
 Upper Volta[AL]
none 14 117
Spain
1982
none none  Grenada  Macau  Gambia
 Liberia[AM]
 Madagascar[AN]
 Mozambique
 Somalia
 Fiji 8 125
Mexico
1986
none none none  Bangladesh
 Brunei
 Jordan
 India[AO]
   Nepal
 North Yemen[AP]
 South Yemen
 United Arab Emirates[AQ]
 Angola none 9 134
Italy
1990
none none none  Oman[AR]
 Pakistan
 Gabon[AS] none 3 137
United States
1994
 Faroe Islands
 San Marino
none  Nicaragua
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Lebanon[AT]
 Sri Lanka[AU]
 Botswana
 Burundi
 Namibia
 South Africa
 Swaziland[AV]
 Solomon Islands
 Tahiti
 Vanuatu
15 152
France
1998
 Armenia
 Azerbaijan
 Belarus
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 Georgia
 Liechtenstein[AW]
 Macedonia
 Moldova
 Slovakia
 Slovenia
 Ukraine
none  Aruba
 Belize
 Cayman Islands
 Dominica
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Cambodia
 Kazakhstan
 Kyrgyzstan
 Maldives[AX]
 Philippines[AY]
 Tajikistan
 Turkmenistan
 Uzbekistan
 Guinea-Bissau
 Rwanda[AZ]
 Cook Islands
 Papua New Guinea
 Tonga
 Western Samoa[BA]
31 183
South KoreaJapan
2002
 Andorra none  Anguilla
 Bahamas[BB]
 British Virgin Islands
 Montserrat
 Turks and Caicos Islands
 U.S. Virgin Islands
 Guam
 Laos
 Mongolia
 Palestine
 Cape Verde
 Central African Republic[BC]
 Chad
 Djibouti
 Equatorial Guinea
 Eritrea
 Mali[BD]
 São Tomé and Príncipe[BE]
 Seychelles
 American Samoa 21 204
Germany
2006
none none none  Afghanistan none  New Caledonia 2 206
South Africa
2010
 Montenegro none none  Myanmar[BF]
 Timor-Leste
 Comoros  Tuvalu[BG] 5 211
Brazil
2014
none none none none none none 0 211
Russia
2018
 Gibraltar
 Kosovo
none none  Bhutan[BH]  South Sudan none 4 215
Notes
  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), which in turn was succeeded 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. ^ Italy had to qualify for the tournament despite being the host.
  5. ^ The  Kingdom of Yugoslavia was later succeeded by the  Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1950), which was then succeeded by the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (first appearance: 1998), which was later renamed as  Serbia and Montenegro (first appearance: 2006), which in turn was succeeded by  Serbia (first appearance: 2010).
  6. ^ Mandatory Palestine was later succeeded by  Israel (first appearance: 1950).
  7. ^ Egypt was later succeeded by the  United Arab Republic, a political union between Egypt and Syria, which entered the 1962 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. Later, Egypt entered the 1966 qualification independently but still under the name "United Arab Republic", but withdrew yet again before playing any matches. The team's first appearance after it changed its name back to  Egypt came in 1974.
  8. ^ Ireland was later succeeded by  Northern Ireland (first appearance: 1954).
  9. ^ Turkey entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  10. ^ Brazil entered the 1934 and 1938 qualifications, but on both occasions qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1950 World Cup as host.
  11. ^ Chile entered the 1934 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  12. ^ Paraguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  13. ^ Japan entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  14. ^ The Soviet Union was later succeeded by  Russia (first appearance: 1994).
  15. ^ Argentina entered the 1934 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1938 and 1950 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  16. ^ Bolivia entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals.
  17. ^ Colombia entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  18. ^ Peru entered the 1934, 1950 and 1954 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  19. ^ Uruguay entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also qualified automatically for the 1954 World Cup as defending champion.
  20. ^ Costa Rica entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  21. ^ The  Territory of Curaçao (six islands) was later succeeded by the  Netherlands Antilles (first appearance: 1962), which in turn was succeeded by  Curaçao (one island; first appearance: 2014).
  22. ^ Indonesia entered the 1938 qualification as  Dutch East Indies, but qualified by walkover due to other teams' withdrawals. It also entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  23. ^ Cyprus entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  24. ^ Ecuador entered the 1950 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  25. ^ Dutch Guyana entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later succeeded by  Suriname (first appearance: 1978).
  26. ^ Venezuela entered the 1958 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  27. ^ El Salvador entered the 1938 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  28. ^ Algeria entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  29. ^ Cameroon entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  30. ^ Libya entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  31. ^ Rhodesia was later succeeded by  Zimbabwe (first appearance: 1982).
  32. ^ Senegal entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  33. ^ South Vietnam was later succeeded by  Vietnam (first appearance: 1994).
  34. ^ Dahomey was later renamed as  Benin (first appearance: 1986).
  35. ^ Guinea entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  36. ^ Zaire was renamed as  DR Congo during the 1998 qualification.
  37. ^ 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).
  38. ^ Upper Volta was later renamed as  Burkina Faso (first appearance: 1990).
  39. ^ Liberia entered the 1966 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  40. ^ Madagascar entered the 1974 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  41. ^ India entered the 1950 qualification, but qualified by walkover 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.
  42. ^ North Yemen was later succeeded by  Yemen (first appearance: 1994).
  43. ^ The United Arab Emirates entered the 1978 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  44. ^ Oman entered the 1986 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  45. ^ Gabon entered the 1966 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  46. ^ Lebanon entered but was disqualified during the 1986 qualification, and the team's matches from that campaign were annulled.
  47. ^ Sri Lanka entered the 1974 and 1978 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  48. ^ Swaziland was renamed as  Eswatini during the 2022 qualification.
  49. ^ Liechtenstein entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  50. ^ The Maldives entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  51. ^ The Philippines entered the 1950 and 1974 qualifications, but on both occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  52. ^ Rwanda entered the 1990 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  53. ^ Western Samoa entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches. It was later renamed as  Samoa (first appearance: 2002).
  54. ^ The Bahamas entered the 1998 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  55. ^ 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.
  56. ^ Mali entered the 1966, 1994 and 1998 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  57. ^ São Tomé and Príncipe entered the 1994 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.
  58. ^ Myanmar entered the 1950 (as  Burma), 1994 and 2002 qualifications, but on all three occasions withdrew before playing any matches.
  59. ^ Tuvalu was not a member of FIFA at the time of qualification and had not entered the FIFA World Cup, although matches in the Football tournament of the South Pacific Games did count towards the qualification tournament for the OFC, and Tuvalu's results did count in determining advancement from this stage.
  60. ^ Bhutan entered the 2010 qualification, but withdrew before playing any matches.

National teams results in World Cup preliminary competition (1934–2018)

Legend
Team has won the World Cup
Team has qualified for the main tournament through a qualifying process
Team has qualified for the main tournament only by walkover (Cuba, and Indonesia as Dutch East Indies)
Team has qualified for the main tournament by walkover but hasn't participated there because it withdrew (India)
Team hasn't qualified for the main tournament but is assured of an automatic spot in 2022 as host (Qatar)
Team hasn't qualified for the main tournament
Defunct team that has qualified for the main tournament (East Germany)
Defunct team that never qualified for the main tournament (Saar and South Yemen)
Team is not a member of FIFA and is not eligible for the main tournament (Tuvalu)

Up to and including the 2018 qualification.

No.[n 1] Team App's[n 2] Overall qualification record Points[n 3] Confederation
Pld W D L GF GA GD Total Avg
1  Mexico 19 175 113 37 25 436 126 +310 376 2.149 CONCACAF
2  Costa Rica 16 172 85 43 44 295 176 +119 298 1.733 CONCACAF
3  Australia 14 141 82 36 23 362 113 +249 282 2.000 AFC
4  South Korea 14 135 82 36 17 264 86 +178 282 2.089 AFC
5  Netherlands 18 125 82 24 19 296 93 +203 270 2.160 UEFA
6  Spain 18 117 81 25 11 276 76 +200 268 2.291 UEFA
7  Iran 10 128 78 34 16 267 81 +186 268 2.094 AFC
8  United States 18 154 77 36 41 266 181 +85 267 1.734 CONCACAF
9  Sweden 19 131 80 21 30 267 121 +146 261 1.992 UEFA
10  Portugal 20 139 76 33 30 262 139 +123 261 1.878 UEFA
11  Argentina 13 136 75 36 25 235 127 +108 261 1.919 CONMEBOL
12  Serbia (2010–)
 Serbia and Montenegro (2006)
 FR Yugoslavia (1998–2002)
 SFR Yugoslavia (1950–1990)
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1934–1938)
19 128 75 31 22 269 114 +155 256 2.000 UEFA
13  Belgium 19 133 77 25 31 277 141 +136 256 1.925 UEFA
14  Czech Republic (1998–)
 Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (1994)
 Czechoslovakia (1934–1994)
19 138 75 29 34 266 116 +150 254 1.841 UEFA
15  England 16 112 76 25 11 275 67 +208 253 2.259 UEFA
16  Uruguay 16 154 69 42 43 218 164 +54 249 1.617 CONMEBOL
17  Italy 16 109 74 26 9 221 69 +152 248 2.275 UEFA
18  Honduras 14 150 69 40 41 255 173 +82 247 1.647 CONCACAF
19  Russia (1994–)
 Soviet Union (1958–1990)
15 115 73 23 19 227 75 +152 242 2.104 UEFA
20  Germany (1994–)
 West Germany (1954–1990)
 Germany (1934–1938)
14 94 74 18 2 292 70 +222 240 2.553 UEFA
21  Brazil 12 110 68 30 12 240 70 +170 234 2.127 CONMEBOL
22  Saudi Arabia 11 118 68 28 22 232 93 +139 232 1.966 AFC
23  Japan 14 120 68 26 26 247 85 +162 230 1.917 AFC
24  Paraguay 17 154 66 30 58 201 189 +12 228 1.481 CONMEBOL
25  Romania 17 128 67 26 35 223 134 +89 227 1.773 UEFA
26   Switzerland 19 132 64 33 35 205 146 +59 225 1.705 UEFA
27  France 17 111 65 23 23 216 88 +128 218 1.964 UEFA
28  El Salvador 13 140 63 28 49 233 168 +65 217 1.550 CONCACAF
29  Colombia 16 152 57 46 49 180 159 +21 217 1.428 CONMEBOL
30  China PR 11 108 66 16 26 230 74 +156 214 1.981 AFC
31  Scotland 18 125 62 28 35 192 136 +56 214 1.712 UEFA
32  Chile 15 146 61 29 56 217 195 +22 212 1.452 CONMEBOL
33  Republic of Ireland (1954–)
 Ireland (1950)
 Irish Free State (1934–1938)
20 141 56 43 42 199 169 +30 211 1.496 UEFA
34  Bulgaria 19 129 60 27 42 209 177 +32 207 1.605 UEFA
35  Austria 18 123 59 28 36 212 136 +76 205 1.667 UEFA
36  Denmark 15 122 58 30 34 212 141 +71 204 1.672 UEFA
37  Nigeria 14 104 58 29 17 175 80 +95 203 1.952 CAF
38  Poland 18 117 60 21 36 228 143 +85 201 1.718 UEFA
39  Hungary 18 122 58 26 38 216 163 +53 200 1.639 UEFA
40  Tunisia 14 104 57 28 19 180 84 +96 199 1.913 CAF
41  Trinidad and Tobago 14 137 55 27 55 201 183 +18 192 1.401 CONCACAF
42  Morocco 14 111 51 38 22 150 80 +70 191 1.721 CAF
43  Greece 19 128 54 29 45 159 171 −12 191 1.492 UEFA
44  Guatemala 15 122 49 31 42 194 150 +44 178 1.459 CONCACAF
45  Canada 14 117 48 34 35 161 136 +25 178 1.521 CONCACAF
46  New Zealand 13 96 53 18 25 221 99 +122 177 1.844 OFC
47  Cameroon 13 87 51 22 14 144 66 +78 175 2.011 CAF
48  Egypt 14 93 52 19 22 165 89 +76 175 1.882 CAF
49  Ecuador 15 143 47 33 63 169 202 −33 174 1.217 CONMEBOL
50  Qatar 11 112 50 22 40 181 121 +60 172 1.536 AFC
51  Iraq 11 101 48 24 29 201 103 +98 168 1.663 AFC
52  Uzbekistan 6 94 49 19 26 177 95 +82 166 1.766 AFC
53  Peru 16 149 43 37 69 164 211 −47 166 1.114 CONMEBOL
54  Turkey 17 128 47 24 57 176 187 −11 165 1.289 UEFA
55  Northern Ireland (1954–)
 Ireland (1950)
18 134 43 36 55 149 161 −12 165 1.231 UEFA
56  Norway 18 126 44 30 52 170 178 −8 162 1.286 UEFA
57  Kuwait 12 93 48 14 31 160 92 +68 158 1.699 AFC
58  Zambia 13 96 45 20 31 145 88 +57 155 1.615 CAF
59  Israel (1950–)
 Palestine, British Mandate (1934–1938)
20 122 40 34 48 166 178 −12 154 1.262 UEFA
60  Ivory Coast 11 78 41 25 12 144 67 +77 148 1.897 CAF
61  United Arab Emirates 9 97 42 20 35 163 111 +52 146 1.505 AFC
62  Bolivia 16 150 39 29 82 177 284 −107 146 0.973 CONMEBOL
63  Algeria 13 89 40 23 26 126 91 +35 143 1.607 CAF
64  Ghana 13 83 40 22 21 132 66 +66 142 1.711 CAF
65  Jamaica 11 104 37 27 40 115 132 −17 138 1.327 CONCACAF
66  Wales 18 120 37 26 57 151 170 −19 137 1.142 UEFA
67  North Korea 10 83 39 19 25 116 77 +39 136 1.639 AFC
68  Haiti 14 90 39 17 34 152 120 +32 134 1.489 CONCACAF
69  Syria 14 84 36 20 28 174 97 +77 128 1.524 AFC
70  Ukraine 6 70 35 22 13 108 52 +56 127 1.814 UEFA
71  Croatia 6 62 36 18 8 108 47 +61 126 2.032 UEFA
72  DR Congo (1998–)
 Zaire (1974–1998)
10 76 36 17 23 128 84 +44 125 1.645 CAF
73  Finland 19 129 32 23 74 134 287 −153 119 0.922 UEFA
74  Bahrain 10 88 31 25 32 105 94 +11 118 1.341 AFC
75  Guinea 12 75 35 10 30 114 97 +17 115 1.533 CAF
76  Slovakia 6 64 32 14 18 110 64 +46 110 1.719 UEFA
77  Oman 8 70 29 19 22 115 70 +45 106 1.514 AFC
78  Panama 11 94 27 22 45 104 157 −53 103 1.096 CONCACAF
79  Iceland 13 106 28 19 59 116 215 −99 103 0.972 UEFA
80  Senegal 12 63 26 22 15 90 56 +34 100 1.587 CAF
81  Venezuela 13 140 25 25 90 120 314 −194 100 0.714 CONMEBOL
82  Jordan 9 70 28 14 28 105 92 +13 98 1.400 AFC
83  Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 58 28 10 20 112 69 +43 94 1.621 UEFA
84  Angola 9 61 24 22 15 79 57 +22 94 1.541 CAF
85  South Africa 7 50 28 8 14 66 45 +21 92 1.840 CAF
86  Slovenia 6 62 25 15 22 81 68 +13 90 1.452 UEFA
87  Thailand 12 89 24 18 47 116 156 −40 90 1.011 AFC
88  Burkina Faso (1990–)
 Upper Volta (1978)
8 60 26 10 24 87 78 +9 88 1.467 CAF
89  Kenya 12 68 23 16 29 77 91 −14 85 1.250 CAF
90  Hong Kong 12 73 23 14 36 91 128 −37 83 1.137 AFC
91  Cuba 12 68 20 20 28 85 102 −17 80 1.176 CONCACAF
92  Zimbabwe (1982–)
 Rhodesia (1970)
10 61 21 16 24 62 75 −13 79 1.295 CAF
93  Togo 10 63 21 14 28 68 86 −18 77 1.222 CAF
94  Libya 10 56 21 13 22 63 62 +1 76 1.357 CAF
95  Congo 9 62 21 13 28 70 83 −13 76 1.226 CAF
96  East Germany 9 47 22 8 17 87 65 +22 74 1.574 defunct
97  Gabon 8 57 21 11 25 57 65 −8 74 1.298 CAF
98  Indonesia (1958–)
 Dutch East Indies (1938)
12 71 19 16 36 87 143 −56 73 1.028 AFC
99  Solomon Islands 7 54 21 9 24 112 113 −1 72 1.333 OFC
100  Latvia 8 75 19 15 41 82 130 −48 72 0.960 UEFA
101  Lebanon 7 56 19 14 23 87 77 +10 71 1.268 AFC
102  Suriname (1978–)
 Dutch Guyana (1962–1974)
14 65 19 14 32 91 111 −20 71 1.092 CONCACAF
103  Fiji 9 53 20 10 23 111 98 +13 70 1.321 OFC
104  Albania 12 104 18 14 72 72 188 −116 68 0.654 UEFA
105  Singapore 11 68 19 10 39 74 121 −47 67 0.985 AFC
106  Lithuania 9 73 17 16 40 59 111 −52 67 0.918 UEFA
107  Malaysia 12 59 17 13 29 73 110 −37 64 1.085 AFC
108  New Caledonia 4 35 18 8 9 87 36 +51 62 1.771 OFC
109  Sudan 12 64 15 17 32 56 101 −45 62 0.969 CAF
110  Tahiti 7 43 17 8 18 66 81 −15 59 1.372 OFC
111  Estonia 9 76 16 11 49 65 166 −101 59 0.776 UEFA
112  Malawi 10 58 14 16 28 56 83 −27 58 1.000 CAF
113  Cyprus 15 114 15 13 86 87 299 −212 58 0.509 UEFA
114  Liberia 9 58 15 12 31 39 84 −45 57 0.983 CAF
115  Curaçao (2014–)
 Netherlands Antilles (1962–2010)
 Territory of Curaçao (1958)
16 60 13 18 29 53 116 −63 57 0.950 CONCACAF
116  Turkmenistan 6 40 17 5 18 64 59 +5 56 1.400 AFC
117  Bermuda 7 36 15 9 12 76 46 +30 54 1.500 CONCACAF
118  Uganda 9 42 15 9 18 41 57 −16 54 1.286 CAF
119  Macedonia 6 60 14 12 34 71 102 −31 54 0.900 UEFA
120  Mali 5 40 14 11 15 50 52 −2 53 1.325 CAF
121  Belarus 6 58 13 12 33 61 97 −36 51 0.879 UEFA
122  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7 58 14 8 36 77 170 −93 50 0.862 CONCACAF
123  Yemen (1994–)
 North Yemen (1986–1990)
9 50 12 11 27 52 80 −28 47 0.940 AFC
124  Kazakhstan 6 60 12 11 37 71 128 −57 47 0.783 UEFA
125  Tajikistan 6 36 13 7 16 63 55 +8 46 1.278 AFC
126  Benin (1986–)
 Dahomey (1974)
8 44 13 7 24 46 89 −43 46 1.045 CAF
127  Madagascar 9 36 12 8 16 45 51 −6 44 1.222 CAF
128  Antigua and Barbuda 10 42 13 5 24 66 93 −27 44 1.048 CONCACAF
129  Armenia 6 62 10 14 38 52 122 −70 44 0.710 UEFA
130  Georgia 6 56 9 16 31 51 89 −38 43 0.768 UEFA
131  Cape Verde 5 34 13 3 18 34 46 −12 42 1.235 CAF
132  Sierra Leone 10 45 11 9 25 39 69 −30 42 0.933 CAF
133  Saint Kitts and Nevis 6 30 11 8 11 64 54 +10 41 1.367 CONCACAF
134  India 8 43 10 11 22 43 87 −44 41 0.953 AFC
135  Montenegro 3 30 10 10 10 47 43 +4 40 1.333 UEFA
136  Kyrgyzstan 6 31 12 4 15 38 49 −11 40 1.290 AFC
137  Ethiopia 11 41 10 10 21 47 65 −18 40 0.976 CAF
138  Vanuatu 7 37 12 3 22 76 89 −13 39 1.054 OFC
139  Vietnam (1994–)
 South Vietnam (1974)
8 41 11 3 27 43 81 −38 36 0.878 AFC
140  Namibia 7 42 9 9 24 37 82 −45 36 0.857 CAF
141  Dominican Republic 8 29 10 5 14 42 50 −8 35 1.207 CONCACAF
142  Botswana 6 34 10 5 19 33 52 −19 35 1.029 CAF
143  Azerbaijan 6 58 7 14 37 29 104 −75 35 0.603 UEFA
144  Barbados 8 37 10 4 23 35 73 −38 34 0.919 CONCACAF
145  Palestine 5 26 9 6 11 48 36 +12 33 1.269 AFC
146  Mozambique 8 34 8 8 18 30 50 −20 32 0.941 CAF
147  Niger 7 30 9 5 16 27 48 −21 32 1.067 CAF
148  Bangladesh 9 48 9 5 34 33 122 −89 32 0.667 AFC
149  Tanzania 9 33 7 10 16 35 50 −15 31 0.939 CAF
150  Samoa (2002–)
 Western Samoa (1998)
6 26 9 1 16 37 88 −51 28 1.077 OFC
151  Faroe Islands 7 70 7 7 56 34 184 −150 28 0.400 UEFA
152  Papua New Guinea 4 22 7 6 9 43 36 +7 27 1.227 OFC
153  Belize 6 26 7 6 13 32 54 −22 27 1.038 CONCACAF
154  Rwanda 6 36 6 9 21 29 54 −25 27 0.750 CAF
155  Guyana 10 34 7 6 21 36 81 −45 27 0.794 CONCACAF
156  Moldova 6 58 5 12 41 35 115 −80 27 0.466 UEFA
157  Luxembourg 20 134 5 10 119 69 433 −364 25 0.187 UEFA
158  Grenada 7 25 7 3 15 49 54 −5 24 0.960 CONCACAF
159  Burundi 6 20 7 3 10 17 26 −9 24 1.200 CAF
160  Gambia 8 24 6 6 12 20 36 −16 24 1.000 CAF
161  Maldives 6 32 7 2 23 36 120 −84 23 0.719 AFC
162  Nicaragua 7 22 7 1 14 25 44 −19 22 1.000 CONCACAF
163  Saint Lucia 7 24 7 1 16 32 62 −30 22 0.917 CONCACAF
164  Tonga 6 22 7 1 14 23 82 −59 22 1.000 OFC
165  Chinese Taipei (1982–)
 Republic of China (1978)
11 58 6 4 48 35 200 −165 22 0.379 AFC
166  Puerto Rico 9 25 5 6 14 22 55 −33 21 0.840 CONCACAF
167  Chad 5 16 6 1 9 15 23 −8 19 1.187 CAF
168  Eswatini (2022–)
 Swaziland (1994–2018)
7 19 4 4 11 15 39 −24 16 0.842 CAF
169    Nepal 7 30 4 4 22 23 100 −77 16 0.533 AFC
170  Malta 12 102 2 10 90 33 300 −267 16 0.157 UEFA
171  Bahamas 5 14 4 3 7 20 43 −23 15 1.071 CONCACAF
172  Philippines 4 21 4 3 14 16 57 −41 15 0.714 AFC
173  Sri Lanka 7 31 3 6 22 21 75 −54 15 0.484 AFC
174  Equatorial Guinea 5 20 4 2 14 17 36 −19 14 0.700 CAF
175  Lesotho 7 24 2 8 14 14 51 −37 14 0.583 CAF
176  Aruba 6 16 4 1 11 23 42 −19 13 0.812 CONCACAF
177  Dominica 6 20 3 4 13 15 54 −39 13 0.650 CONCACAF
178  Laos 4 26 3 3 20 23 124 −101 12 0.462 AFC
179  Liechtenstein 6 60 2 6 52 23 185 −162 12 0.200 UEFA
180  Myanmar 3 14 3 2 9 11 38 −27 11 0.786 AFC
181  Macau 9 35 3 2 30 15 165 −150 11 0.314 AFC
182  Mongolia 5 14 3 1 10 11 46 −35 10 0.714 AFC
183  Afghanistan 4 14 3 1 10 10 45 −35 10 0.714 AFC
184  Cook Islands 6 20 3 1 16 16 63 −47 10 0.500 OFC
185  American Samoa 5 18 3 1 14 11 136 −125 10 0.556 OFC
186  Mauritania 6 16 2 3 11 13 31 −18 9 0.562 CAF
187  U.S. Virgin Islands 5 15 3 0 12 8 80 −72 9 0.600 CONCACAF
188  Cambodia 5 26 2 3 21 16 90 −74 9 0.346 AFC
189  Andorra 5 52 2 3 47 14 162 −148 9 0.173 UEFA
190  Guinea-Bissau 6 12 1 4 7 8 19 −11 7 0.583 CAF
191  São Tomé and Príncipe 4 8 2 1 5 4 22 −18 7 0.875 CAF
192  Guam 2 10 2 1 7 3 51 −48 7 0.700 AFC
193  Mauritius 7 18 1 3 14 14 49 −35 6 0.333 CAF
194  Bhutan 1 10 2 0 8 8 53 −45 6 0.600 AFC
195  Cayman Islands 6 16 0 5 11 6 35 −29 5 0.313 CONCACAF
196  Saar 1 4 1 1 2 4 8 −4 4 1.000 defunct
197  Central African Republic 3 10 1 1 8 8 21 −13 4 0.400 CAF
198  Djibouti 4 13 1 1 11 6 56 −50 4 0.308 CAF
199  Pakistan 8 30 0 4 26 12 118 −106 4 0.133 AFC
200  Eritrea 4 8 0 3 5 3 16 −13 3 0.375 CAF
201  Comoros 3 8 0 3 5 4 18 −14 3 0.375 CAF
202  Somalia 6 11 0 3 8 1 26 −25 3 0.273 CAF
203  British Virgin Islands 5 10 0 3 7 7 34 −27 3 0.300 CONCACAF
204  Turks and Caicos Islands 5 10 1 0 9 6 46 −40 3 0.300 CONCACAF
205  Brunei 3 14 1 0 13 3 59 −56 3 0.214 AFC
206  Seychelles 5 14 0 2 12 6 36 −30 2 0.143 CAF
207  San Marino 7 66 0 2 64 11 310 −299 2 0.030 UEFA
208  South Yemen 1 2 0 1 1 4 7 −3 1 0.500 defunct
209  South Sudan 1 2 0 1 1 1 5 −4 1 0.500 CAF
210  Tuvalu 1 4 0 1 3 2 22 −20 1 0.250 OFC
211  Kosovo 1 10 0 1 9 3 24 −21 1 0.100 UEFA
212  Montserrat 5 9 0 1 8 8 45 −37 1 0.111 CONCACAF
213  Anguilla 5 10 0 1 9 2 41 −39 1 0.100 CONCACAF
214  Gibraltar 1 10 0 0 10 3 47 −44 0 0.000 UEFA
215  Timor-Leste 3 14 0 0 14 4 68 −64 0 0.000 AFC
Footnotes
  1. ^ Teams are ranked by total points, then by goal difference, then by goals scored. Note that this column does not represent any official rankings.
  2. ^ Only qualifying campaigns are counted where the team played at least one match that was not annulled.
  3. ^ The three points for a win system is used.

Top scorers in preliminary competition (1934–2018)

# Nation Player Goals Games
played
Goal
ratio
Qualification tournaments
1 Guatemala Carlos Ruiz 39 47 0.75 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (10), 2010 (6), 2014 (6), 2018 (9)
2 Iran Ali Daei 35 50 0.70 1994 (7 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (10), 2006 (9)
3 Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo 30 38 0.79 2006 (7 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (15)
4 Iran Karim Bagheri 28 29 0.97 1998 (19 goals), 2002 (8), 2010 (1)
5 Japan Kazu Miura 27 25 1.08 1994 (13 goals), 1998 (14)
6 Ukraine Andriy Shevchenko 26 40 0.65 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (10), 2006 (6), 2010 (6)
7 Australia Tim Cahill 25 36 0.69 2006 (7 goals), 2010 (4), 2014 (3), 2018 (11)
8 Honduras Carlos Pavón 25 37 0.68 1998 (2 goals), 2002 (15), 2006 (1), 2010 (7)
9 Bosnia and Herzegovina Edin Džeko 24 31 0.77 2010 (9 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (5)
10 Mexico Jared Borgetti 23 24 0.96 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (14), 2010 (3)
11 Poland Robert Lewandowski 21 28 0.75 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (3), 2018 (16)
12 Costa Rica Paulo Wanchope 21 37 0.57 1998 (6 goals), 2002 (7), 2006 (8)
13 Argentina Lionel Messi 21 45 0.47 2010 (4 goals), 2014 (10), 2018 (7)
14 Uruguay Luis Suárez 21 48 0.44 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (5)
15 Australia Archie Thompson 20 15 1.33 2002 (16 goals), 2006 (2), 2014 (2)
16 Trinidad and Tobago Stern John 20 49 0.41 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (3), 2006 (12), 2010 (2)
17 New Zealand Vaughan Coveny 19 19 1.00 1998 (4 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (6)
18 Haiti Emmanuel Sanon 19 20 0.95 1974 (11 goals), 1978 (8)
19 Portugal Pauleta 19 24 0.79 2002 (8 goals), 2006 (11)
20 Sweden Zlatan Ibrahimović 19 29 0.66 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (8), 2010 (2), 2014 (8)
21 Argentina Hernán Crespo 19 33 0.58 1998 (3 goals), 2002 (9), 2006 (7)
22 Ivory Coast Didier Drogba 18 19 0.95 2006 (9 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (3)
23 Burkina Faso Moumouni Dagano 18 24 0.75 2002 (1 goal), 2006 (5), 2010 (12)
24 Cameroon Samuel Eto'o 18 29 0.62 2002 (3 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (9), 2014 (2)
25 El Salvador Raúl Díaz Arce 18 29 0.62 1994 (2 goals), 1998 (9), 2002 (7)
26 Chile Marcelo Salas 18 32 0.56 1998 (11 goals), 2002 (4), 2006 (1), 2010 (2)
27 Republic of Ireland Robbie Keane 18 37 0.49 2002 (2 goals), 2006 (4), 2010 (6), 2014 (6)
28 United States Clint Dempsey 18 43 0.42 2010 (5 goals), 2014 (8), 2018 (5)
29 Chile Iván Zamorano 17 11 1.54 1990 (1 goal), 1998 (12), 2002 (4)
30 Belize Deon McCaulay 17 16 1.06 2010 (2 goals), 2014 (11), 2018 (4)
31 Bulgaria Dimitar Berbatov 17 24 0.71 2002 (6 goals), 2006 (8), 2010 (5)
32 Switzerland Alexander Frei 17 25 0.68 2002 (5 goals), 2006 (7), 2010 (5)
33 Costa Rica Álvaro Saborío 17 41 0.41 2006 (3 goals), 2010 (6), 2014 (8)

(updated as of FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers)

First games and goalscorers in preliminary competition (1934–2018)

World Cup First game First goal
Italy
1934
11 June 1933; Sweden  6–2  Estonia 11 June 1933; Knut Kroon for  Sweden vs.  Estonia
France
1938
16 June 1937; Sweden  4–0  Finland 16 June 1937; Lennart Bunke for  Sweden vs.  Finland
Brazil
1950
2 June 1949; Sweden  3–1  Republic of Ireland 2 June 1949; Davy Walsh for  Republic of Ireland vs.  Sweden
Switzerland
1954
9 May 1953; Yugoslavia  1–0  Greece 9 May 1953; Frane Matošić for  Yugoslavia vs.  Greece
Sweden
1958
30 September 1956; Austria  7–0  Luxembourg 30 September 1956; Gerhard Hanappi for  Austria vs.  Luxembourg
Chile
1962
21 August 1960; Costa Rica  3–2  Guatemala 21 August 1960; Jorge Hernán Monge for  Costa Rica vs.  Guatemala
England
1966
24 May 1964; Netherlands  2–0  Albania 24 May 1964; Daan Schrijvers for  Netherlands vs.  Albania
Mexico
1970
19 May 1968; Austria  7–1  Cyprus 19 May 1968; Erich Hof for  Austria vs.  Cyprus
West Germany
1974
14 November 1971; Malta  0–2  Hungary 14 November 1971; Ferenc Bene for  Hungary vs.  Malta
Argentina
1978
4 April 1976; Panama  3–2  Costa Rica 4 April 1976; Javier Jiménez for  Costa Rica vs.  Panama
Spain
1982
26 March 1980; Israel  0–0  Northern Ireland
26 March 1980; Cyprus  2–3  Republic of Ireland
26 March 1980; Paul McGee for  Republic of Ireland vs.  Cyprus
Mexico
1986
2 May 1984; Cyprus  1–2  Austria 2 May 1984; Martin Gisinger for  Austria vs.  Cyprus
Italy
1990
17 April 1988; Guyana  0–4  Trinidad and Tobago 17 April 1988; Paul Elliot-Allen for  Trinidad and Tobago vs.  Guyana
United States
1994
21 March 1992; Dominican Republic  0–4  Puerto Rico 21 March 1992; Marcos Lugris for  Puerto Rico vs.  Dominican Republic
France
1998
10 March 1996; Dominica  3–3  Antigua and Barbuda 10 March 1996; Anthony Dominique for  Dominica vs.  Antigua and Barbuda
South KoreaJapan
2002
4 March 2000; Trinidad and Tobago  5–0  Netherlands Antilles
4 March 2000; Honduras  3–0  Nicaragua
4 March 2000; Marvin Andrews for  Trinidad and Tobago vs.  Netherlands Antilles
Germany
2006
6 September 2003; Ecuador  2–0  Venezuela 6 September 2003; Giovanny Espinoza for  Ecuador vs.  Venezuela
South Africa
2010
25 August 2007; Tahiti  0–1  New Caledonia 25 August 2007; Pierre Wajoka for  New Caledonia vs.  Tahiti
Brazil
2014
15 June 2011; Montserrat  2–5  Belize 15 June 2011; Deon McCauley for  Belize vs.  Montserrat
Russia
2018
12 March 2015; Timor-Leste  0–3  Mongolia (forfeited) 12 March 2015; Chan Vathanaka for  Cambodia vs.  Macau

Current format

Currently, 32 places are available in the final tournament until 2022. One of them is reserved for the host nation, but if two or more nations co-host the competition, each is awarded a place.

From 1934 to 2002, one berth was reserved for the winners of the previous World Cup, but 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, but 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 as first in their group.

FIFA decides beforehand the number of spots awarded to each of the continental zones. For the 2018 World Cup, the following numbers were 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 intercontinental 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 were 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 five in comparison to Europe's 13.[5]

In early October 2016, it was announced that the World Cup would have featured 40 teams starting with the 2026 tournament,[6] then FIFA President Gianni Infantino stated his support for a 48-team World Cup,[7] mainly to address African concerns. On 10 January 2017, the FIFA Council voted unanimously to expand the World Cup to a 48 team tournament that will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, with two teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32.[8] The new format for the qualifying process has yet to be confirmed, other than a play-off tournament that consists of one team from each confederation (except UEFA) and one additional team from the confederation of the host country for the last two World Cup berths.[9]

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 used in 2018 are outlined below.

Africa

The CAF qualification process began with two preliminary rounds to narrow the field of 53 entrants to 20 teams in October 2015 (Zimbabwe were disqualified).

The group stage consisted of 5 groups of 4, with the group winners advancing to the World Cup finals.

Asia

Bhutan and Guam entered the AFC qualification process, while Indonesia were disqualified after being suspended for political interference.

Qualifying was altered significantly from the 2014 method, with changes to the structure of the preliminary rounds – which were held before the main draw. One home-and-away preliminary round reduced the 12 weakest entrants to 6, which then joined the 34 strongest sides in 8 groups of 5, with the winners and 4 best runners-up advancing to the final group stage, comprising two 6-team groups. The winners and runners-up of the two final groups of 6 advanced to the World Cup finals with the two third-placed sides playing off in the fourth round for the right to play in an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot. The first two rounds also acted as the qualifiers for the expanded 2019 AFC Asian Cup.[10]

A total of 24 teams eliminated from World Cup qualification in the second round competed in the third round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification (which was separate from the third round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification), where they were divided into six groups of four teams and competed for the remaining slots of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The 24 teams consisted of the 16 highest ranked teams eliminated in the second round, and the eight teams that advanced from the play-off round of 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification which were contested by the remaining 12 teams eliminated in the second round.[11]

Europe

The European qualification was unchanged from the 2010 system. The 54 national teams were divided into nine groups of six teams, 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.[12]

With the admission of Gibraltar and Kosovo as FIFA members in May 2016, both national teams made their debuts in World Cup qualifying.[13] With two groups of only five teams in the first round, Kosovo was assigned to group I as it was decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia should not play against Kosovo for security reasons, and Gibraltar was then added to group H.[14][15]

The Introduction of the new UEFA Nations League is likely to change the qualifying format. although this is yet to be confirmed.

North and Central America and Caribbean

The 2018 CONCACAF qualification process changed significantly from the 2014 qualification cycle. The first three rounds had teams play home-and-away over two legs. A first preliminary round involved the 14 lowest ranked teams and the seven winners advanced to the second round. The 13 higher ranked sides received byes in the second round and were joined by the seven first round winners; the ten winners advanced to the third round. Two higher ranked teams received byes in the third round and were joined by ten second round winners; the six winners advanced to the preliminary group stage.

As in 2014, the remaining 12 teams played in 3 semifinal groups of 4 teams with the top two in each group advancing to a final six-team group.

The final round – often referred to as the "hexagonal" because there are six teams involved – saw the top three teams advance to the World Cup finals, while the fourth placed side entered an inter-confederation play-off for a final World Cup spot.

Oceania

Qualification in Oceania was held as part of a further competition. The first stage took place with one group of four lowest ranked teams and the winner advanced to the second stage (which also acted as the 2016 OFC Nations Cup). In the second stage the top three teams advanced to the third round, among them Nations Cup champions New Zealand. Two groups of three teams contested the third round, or final group stage, and the winners of each group entered a two-leg final. The winners of this final advanced to an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

South America

As in recent qualification series CONMEBOL qualification consisted of a single group of all entrants. Unlike previous qualifying tournaments where the fixtures were pre-determined, the fixtures were determined by a draw, which was held as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw, on 25 July 2015.[16]

The top 4 teams from the 10-team group advanced to the World Cup finals, while the fifth placed team entered an inter-confederation play-off for a World Cup spot.

Intercontinental play-offs

Like the previous 2014 tournament, the pairings for the two play-offs were determined by an open draw on 25 July 2015, as part of the aforementioned preliminary 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. ^ "History of the FIFA World Cup preliminary competition (by year)" (PDF). fifa.com. FIFA. November 2009. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013.
  2. ^ "FIFA's 209 member associations" (PDF). fifa.com. FIFA. July 2012.
  3. ^ "Fifa makes major policy shift". BBC News. 30 November 2001.
  4. ^ "Current allocation of FIFA World Cup confederation slots maintained" (Press release). FIFA. 30 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Africa calls for FIFA to increase World Cup places". Ahram Online. Reuters. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  6. ^ "New Fifa chief backs 48-team World Cup". heraldlive. 7 October 2016. It’s an idea, just as the World Cup with 40 teams is already on the table with groups of four or five teams.
  7. ^ "World Cup could expand to 48 teams, Fifa's Gianni Infantino suggests". The Guardian. 3 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Fifa approves Infantino's plan to expand World Cup to 48 teams from 2026". The Guardian. 10 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Bureau of the Council recommends slot allocation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup". FIFA. 30 March 2017. Archived from the original on 9 April 2017.
  10. ^ "ExCo approves expanded AFC Asian Cup finals". AFC. 16 April 2014.
  11. ^ "World Cup draw looms large in Asia". FIFA.com. 13 April 2015. Completing the tournament's qualifying contenders will be the next 16 highest ranked teams, with the remaining 12 sides battling it out in play-off matches to claim the last eight spots.
  12. ^ "Uefa retains 2010 World Cup qualifying format for 2014". bbc.co.uk. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  13. ^ "FIFA Congress drives football forward, first female secretary general appointed". FIFA.com. 13 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Kosovo to play in Group I in European Qualifiers". uefa.org. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). 9 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Kosovo and Gibraltar assigned to 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying groups". FIFA.com. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). 9 June 2016.
  16. ^ "A unanimous decision: A draw will determine the classifications for the World Cup and CONMEBOL Tournaments". CONMEBOL.com. 23 January 2015.

External links