The road to Russia is growing shorter after the total of 209 different nations fought for their place at the prestigious tournament for well over two years.
The battle is far from being over as the final list of 32 participants is yet to be determined.
Twenty-three countries have thus far secured their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The hosts lead the way for the European group with Belgium, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Serbia, Poland, Spain and Portugal having already secured their place at the showpiece finals as group winners.
Brazil have long clinched their World Cup berth as winners of the South American qualifying group whereas Colombia, Uruguay and Argentina join them, together with Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama as the members of the North, Central America and Caribbean region.
Nigeria and Egypt are the two African nations that have punched their Russian tickets, with group stage still ongoing in the African continent. Three more spots are on the table for African nations with eight teams fighting to grab them.
As the only remaining FIFA confederation to complete the qualifying stage, Africa will see the remaining matches play out between 10 and 14 November. The African qualifiers will be concluded by final group placings.
Completing the list of teams already qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea.
Having successfully ended the Syrian 2018 World Cup dream with an aggregate 3-2 play-off win achieved after Tim Cahill’s extra-time header, Australia will fight for their ticket for Russia against the fourth-placed team from the North, Central America and Caribbean (Concacaf) qualifying – Honduras.
Australia can already be found at 4/9 betting odds to clinch their place at the big event next summer.
In another inter-confederation play-off the winner of the Oceania qualifying New Zealand will lock horns with the fifth-placed CONMEBOL side Peru.
Both matches will be decided the two 2018 World Cup participants over the two legs scheduled for 6 and 14 November.
The group stage of the European World Cup qualifying was concluded on Tuesday night when group leaders locked their automatic qualification and second-placed teams learned their faith ahead of the crucial play-off stage.
Eight second-placed sides got split according to the FIFA world rankings with Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Denmark marked as seeded sides. Northern Ireland, Sweden, Republic of Ireland and Greece are the unseeded participants of the draw that will take place on 17 October, a day after FIFA officially publish the updated FIFA rankings.
Four seeders will be drawn to face an unseeded nation with the ties scheduled to be played between 9 and 14 November.
The seeded team does not necessarily play at home in the second leg since the home side is also drawn, which is a detail that is likely to make the European World Cup Play-Off extremely interesting.
Any predictions ahead of the play-off draw? Who would like to see drawn against one another?
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