First World Cup spots up for grabs in Europe
The penultimate round of UEFA qualifying for Qatar 2022 gets underway
The ten groups are playing on 8/9 and 11/12 October
Two wins will make Denmark the first team to claim one of the ten direct qualifying spots
With the final round of European qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 ™ barely a month away, it is time for the penultimate round of qualifiers to be contested.
Having been split into ten groups, UEFA’s teams are battling it out for a ticket to the World Cup via one of the ten direct qualifying spots or a place in the play-offs. FIFA.com presents a preview of the European games happening in October, with plenty of exciting matches and footballing highlights on offer for fans.
A total of 13 UEFA member associations will travel to Qatar 2022. The qualifying format enables ten countries to book their spots at the World Cup directly by finishing first in their respective groups.
The runners-up from each group will head into next March’s play-offs to try and secure one of the three remaining places, where they will be joined by the two best teams in the Nations League who finished outside the top two in their European qualifying group. These 12 teams will be split into three groups to contest semi-finals and finals and complete UEFA’s World Cup line-up.
Good omens for three teams
In Group A, one player in particular made headlines during the last round of matches. Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace against the Republic of Ireland made him the highest-scoring male international of all time with 111 goals to his name.
He now has a chance to extend this lead even further in the match against Luxembourg and could help Portugal (5 games, 13 points) to secure one of the first two World Cup spots if they win. Otherwise it is still all to play for in this group; with the exception of Azerbaijan (5 games, 1 point), Serbia (5 games, 11 points) and Luxembourg (4 matches, 6 points) could still technically finish anywhere, while the Republic of Ireland (5 games, 2 points) also have a chance of claiming second place.
Belgium could secure first or second place in Group E even though they are playing in the UEFA Nations League rather than World Cup qualifiers during this international window. Roberto Martinez’s side will be able to celebrate a top-two finish if the Czech Republic beat Wales. Meanwhile, the only team that can qualify for Qatar 2022 outright in this penultimate round of matches are Denmark. Two Group F wins over Moldova on 9 October and Austria three days later will be enough for the Danes to cement top spot.
A fascinating showdown
Almost anyone could still qualify from the remaining seven groups, which means the group winners will only be decided during the last round of games in November. Historically strong sides such as reigning world champions France, European champions Italy, Spain, Croatia and Germany must all wait until the final matchday to learn their fate.
Yet while Germany and Croatia can help determine the course of their qualifying campaigns this week, France, Italy and Spain will have to hope their rivals slip up as their attention turns to the Nations League.
The match between Turkey (6 games, 11 points) and Norway (6 games, 13 points) in Group G promises to be particularly exciting. All eyes will be on Turkey in their first game under former Germany U-21 coach Stefan Kuntz as they seek to qualify for their first World Cup since 2002.
England (6 games, 16 points) and Hungary (6 games, 10 points) face each other in Group I on 12 October. These two sides have met on four previous occasions during World Cup qualifying or finals, with Hungary recording just one win at the 1962 World Cup in Chile while England triumphed in the other three matches.
From a purely statistical perspective, the Group E encounter between Czech Republic (31st in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking) and Wales (ranked 19th) on 8 October looks finely poised. The Czechs have won three, lost four and drawn two against the Welsh in nine previous World Cup qualifiers.
In Group J, Romania and Armenia meet each other as they bid to reel in Germany – and the head-to-head record between these two sides favours the Romanians (three wins, one draw, one defeat).