State of play in World Cup qualifying for Qatar

LONDON (AP) — Even when the World Cup draw takes place subsequent week, three slots will unusually nonetheless be vacant.

However the subsequent week or so will see one other 14 groups qualify for the event and enter the April 1 attract Qatar.

Because it stands, solely 15 of the 32 finalists have been decided for the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 event. They’re: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Iran Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, South Korea and Qatar as host.

Here’s what is at stake in qualifying:


Three qualifying berths are up for grabs within the playoffs beginning Thursday, with most intrigue surrounding which of European champion Italy or Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal miss out. Or perhaps even each.

Just one nation can advance from every of the three four-team brackets. Italy and Portugal have been drawn in the identical bracket together with North Macedonia and Turkey. Italy hosts North Macedonia and Portugal is at dwelling to Turkey within the semifinals, doubtlessly organising a straight shootout on Tuesday between two of the continent’s heavyweights for a spot in Qatar.

For the 37-year-old Ronaldo, it marks probably his final shot at taking part in at a World Cup. For Italy, failing to achieve the worldwide showpiece — for what can be the second time in a row — would represent an enormous failure, and a exceptional comedown simply eight months after successful Euro 2020.

Russia’s battle with Ukraine is impacting the opposite two brackets. Russia was banned from competing within the playoffs, so Poland was awarded a bye into Tuesday’s closing, the place the workforce will host both Sweden or the Czech Republic. Ukraine had been drawn to play Scotland however that match has been postponed till June. The opposite two groups in that bracket — Wales and Austria — will meet in Cardiff, with the winner having to attend as much as three months earlier than participating within the playoff closing.


Third-place Ecuador wants one win from its closing two matches — at Paraguay and at dwelling to Argentina — to make certain of qualifying. It may afford to lose each matches, relying on different outcomes, and nonetheless attain Qatar. Ecuador is three factors forward of fourth place.

Uruguay, Peru and Chile are tussling to complete fourth to take the final direct qualification spot, or fifth to enter an intercontinental playoff in June in opposition to the fifth-place workforce in Asian qualifying. The Uruguayans may safe no less than fourth place on Thursday by beating Peru at dwelling if Chile fails to win at Brazil. Peru would leap forward of Uruguay into fourth by successful in Montevideo.

Chile’s finest hope of snatching qualification is by beating Brazil and Uruguay. Seventh-place Colombia can solely qualify if it beats Bolivia and Venezuela and is helped by different outcomes.

There may be nonetheless the unresolved matter of Brazil vs. Argentina. Each groups have already certified however have their suspended encounter from Sept. 5 as requested by FIFA.


The beginning of Africa’s World Cup playoffs on Friday sees Mohamed Salah’s Egypt face Sadio Mane’s Senegal within the first leg in Cairo. It’s a rematch of the African Cup of Nations closing final month that noticed Senegal win on penalties.

It’s considered one of 5 home-and-away contests figuring out which groups go to the World Cup.

Mali has by no means certified for a World Cup and has to face five-time event participant Tunisia to achieve Qatar. Algeria and Cameroon are each making an attempt to keep away from lacking out on a second straight World Cup. Congo, coached by the skilled Argentine Hector Cuper, takes on Morocco making an attempt to achieve the World Cup for the primary time since its solely look in 1974, when it performed as Zaire. Ghana hosts Nigeria within the first leg of their West African derby. The second legs are on Tuesday.


Canada can clinch a spot on the World Cup for the primary time since 1986 if it wins at Costa Rica on Thursday initially of a triple-header. Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies stays sidelined with signs of myocarditis following a bout of COVID-19. The 21-year-old winger has not performed in a match since Dec. 17.

Canada leads North and Central America and the Caribbean with 25 factors and the U.S. is 4 factors behind in second place, forward of Mexico on purpose distinction. Panama is 4 factors additional again in fourth, with a one-point edge on Costa Rica. El Salvador is seven factors behind in sixth place. Jamaica and Honduras have been eradicated earlier than the ultimate three qualifiers.

The U.S., making an attempt to achieve the World Cup after failing to qualify in 2018, performs Mexico on Thursday at Mexico Metropolis’s Estadio Azteca, the place the Individuals have 12 losses and 4 attracts in qualifying matches. The Individuals then host Panama on Sunday at Orlando, Florida, and shut March 30 at Costa Rica. The U.S. has misplaced its final 9 qualifiers at Costa Rica, together with a 4-0 rout in 2016 that led to the U.S. Soccer Federation firing coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

The U.S. would clinch a spot if it beats Panama and Costa Rica fails to win all three of its remaining video games. Coach Gregg Berhalter is lacking midfielders Weston McKennie (two damaged bones in left foot) and Brenden Aaronson (knee damage), defenders Sergiño Dest (strained left thigh) and Chris Richards (proper ankle), and goalkeeper Matt Turner (foot/ankle).

Midfielder Andrés Guardado will miss Mexico’s qualifiers, together with ahead Rogelio Funes Mori and defender Julio César Domínguez. Guardado, Mexico’s captain, injured a thigh taking part in for Betis in opposition to Atlético Madrid on March 6. Funes Mori has an injured proper leg and has not performed for Monterrey since March 5. Coach Tata Martino didn’t choose Tigres defender Luis Rodríguez and Celta Vigo midfielder Orbelín Pineda, who haven’t been taking part in repeatedly for his or her golf equipment.


With Iran and South Korea certified from Group A, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Iraq are scrambling for third place and a shot on the playoff in opposition to a South American aspect. They’ll play the third-place workforce from Group B which no workforce has straight certified from but.

Saudi Arabia has a one-point lead over Japan and would make certain of qualifying by beating China on Thursday earlier than internet hosting Australia on Tuesday. Australia, which is three factors from second place, is at dwelling to Japan on Thursday. Japan then hosts already-eliminated last-place Vietnam on Tuesday.

In Group A, the UAE may shut in taking third by beating Iraq on Thursday earlier than internet hosting South Korea. Lebanon, which is three factors behind the UAE, hosts Syria after which performs away at Iran.


Coronavirus journey restrictions meant Oceania solely began qualifying final week in Qatar and the mini-tournament has been hit by the withdrawal of Vanuatu, leaving Group A with solely three groups. The highest two from Teams A and B advance to semifinals on Sunday with the winner of the ultimate subsequent Wednesday advancing to play CONCACAF’s fourth-place workforce in an intercontinental playoff in June. New Zealand certified in 2010 as Oceania’s final World Cup finalist.

___ AP Sports activities Writers Rob Harris, Steve Douglas, Ronald Blum, Gerald Imray and Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report.


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