• A total of 871 matches were played in the Russia 2018 qualifiers
  • Four nations made their debut in the competition
  • Italy were the only previous world champions to fail to make it through

It has been a long road to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the longest in the history of world finals qualifying competitions in fact. For some it has been a mere stroll in the park; for others an arduous journey full of obstacles. Some 208 teams started out, but only 31 made it to the end, joining hosts Russia in next year’s world finals.

With the dust having now settled, FIFA.com takes a look at some of the qualifying competition’s quirkier statistics.

Matches and records
871 The total number of matches played in the Russia 2018 qualifiers, a record. The first took place in Timor-Leste on 12 March 2015 and the last in Peru on 15 November 2017.

63 The number of World Cup qualifying matches Spain have now gone without defeat, a record La Roja can add to when the Qatar 2022 qualifiers get under way. Next on the list is Nigeria with 36.

22 The number of matches played by Australia on the road to Russia 2018, equalling the record set by Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago in the qualifiers for Korea/Japan 2002.

Teams
4 The number of teams who made their World Cup qualifying debuts: Bhutan, Gibraltar, Kosovo and South Sudan.

7 The number of previous World Cup winners who made it through the qualifiers: Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Uruguay, England and Argentina. The only one to miss out were four-time world champions Italy, who will be absent for the first time since Sweden 1958, following their defeat to the Swedes in the European play-offs.

21  The number of World Cup finals Brazil will have contested when they step out at Russia 2018. The first team to book their place, on 28 March 2017, the Brazilians are also the only nation never to have missed a single world finals. Holders Germany are next on the list with 17 consecutive appearances.

20 The number of teams who lined up at Brazil 2014 and will do so again at Russia 2018. Curiously, Nigeria are the only African side among them.

36 The number of years since Peru were last at the World Cup, at Spain 1982. The other teams to return after long absences are Egypt, whose last appearance came at Italy 1990, and Morocco, who were last on the big stage at France 1998.

Goals and goalscorers
2469 goals were scored in the qualifying competition as a whole. Quito scored the first, for Timor-Leste, in their 4-1 defeat of Mongolia in Dili on 12 March 2015. Christian Ramos scored the last, for Peru, in their 2-0 win over New Zealand in Lima on 15 November 2017.

* The biggest win was Qatar’s 15-0 defeat of Bhutan in the second round of the Asian qualifiers.

* Joint leading goalscorers of the qualifiers, with 16 goals apiece:

  • Mohamed Al Sahlawi (Saudi Arabia)
  • Ahmed Khalil (United Arab Emirates)
  • Robert Lewandowski (Poland), who also scored three hat-tricks

* Highest goalscorers in a single match, with five goals:

  • Mohamed Al Sahlawi (Saudi Arabia), against Timor-Leste
  • Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala), against St. Vincent and the Grenadines

* Goalscorers

  • Youngest: Ahmed Al Sarori (Yemen), 17 years and 95 days
  • Oldest: Pablo Escobar (Bolivia), 38 years and 91 days

* Players

  • Youngest: Anthony Likiliki (Tonga), 15 years and 257 days
  • Oldest: Dady Aristide (Turks and Caicos Islands), 44 years and 293 days