On Saturday, the eyes of the footballing world will be on the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg as 141 nations await their destiny in the Preliminary Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. As the big day edges closer, FIFA.com looks at some eye-catching statistics from the qualifying competition's history as well as a few records likely to crash en route to Russia 2018.
million fans clicked through the turnstiles during the 2014 preliminary campaign, producing an average attendance of 23,000. Leading the way in this respect were Mexico and England, whose home fixtures attracted around 82,000 and 80,000 spectators per match respectively.
thousand and 764 was the incredible record attendance recorded at the Maracana in 1977 for a FIFA World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Colombia.
goals have been scored in the 82 years of FIFA World Cup qualifying, an average of 2.91 per game.
players, 310 referees and 650 assistants took part in the 2010 preliminaries, which kicked off more than eight years ago in the build-up to the finals in South Africa.
people, including a 300-strong band of volunteers, will be involved in the staging of Saturday's Preliminary Draw.
matches are scheduled for the Russia 2018 preliminary competition, taking the all-time number of FIFA World Cup qualifiers well beyond the 7,000 mark. At the end of the last preliminary competition, the total stood at 6,452, with a record tally of 853 matches having been contested on the road to South Africa.
teams, another record high, will take part in the 2018 preliminaries, topping the 203 who participated four years ago. The only association not to enrol is Russia who automatically qualify as hosts.
FIFA World Cup qualifiers have been contested by Mexico, making El Tri the most experienced of all the preliminaries’ participants.
years and one month have passed since Sweden and Estonia contested the very first FIFA World Cup qualifier in Stockholm in June 1933, a game won 6-2 by the hosts.
goals in 51 preliminary appearances established Iran legend Ali Daei as the most prolific goalscorer in the history of FIFA World Cup qualifying. The other leading marksmen by confederation are Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine, 26), Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala, 30), Hernan Crespo (Argentina, 19), Vaughan Coveny (New Zealand, 19) and Didier Drogba (Cote d'Ivoire), Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon) and Moumouni Dagano (Burkina Faso, all 18).
unanswered goals against American Samoa in April 2001 gave Australia the biggest win ever seen in a FIFA World Cup preliminary match.
qualifying meetings between Mexico and USA have established this fiercely-contested North American derby as the FIFA World Cup preliminary competition’s most-played fixture.
consecutive qualifying competitions, Russia 2018 being the latest, have involved Luxembourg, Portugal and Republic of Ireland, the only nations to have competed in all 19 to date.
seconds was the time at which San Marino's Davide Gualtieri scored the fastest goal seen in FIFA World Cup qualifying – a shock opener against England in 1993.
nations - Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Korea Republic, Spain and USA – have qualified for each of the last seven FIFA World Cups.
years and eight months is how long the 2018 FIFA World Cup preliminary competition is scheduled to last. The qualifiers began on 12 March 2015 and are due to conclude in November 2017.
defeats in 84 qualifiers have ensured current world Germany’s reputation as the preliminary competition’s most successful nation. The Germans go into the 2018 campaign averaging 2.5 points and 2.96 goals per game.