The World Cup qualifiers in numbers

  • To whom did Hernan Crespo lose his proud record?

  • Which countries have reached the most successive World Cups?

  • Unrewarded goals and a whopping goal difference

335 thousand is the rough population that makes Iceland easily the smallest nation to reach a World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago, which had a 1.3 million population in 2006, had previously held this distinction.

98 was Saudi Arabia’s position on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking when they kicked off their triumphant qualification campaign. Chile were fourth just four months ago, but failed to make the 32-team field.

90 was Switzerland’s win percentage in Group B, yet they only finished as its runners-up. Never had a European team registered a win percentage as high but not qualified directly for the World Cup. Portugal’s 2-0 win in their final outing ended Switzerland’s 27-game unbeaten run in World Cup preliminaries.

41 points is what Brazil managed – the second-highest in a South American qualifying campaign. Juan Sebastian Veron, Ariel Ortega, Hernan Crespo and Gabriel Batistuta helped Argentina reach Korea/Japan 2002 with 43 points. After Tite assumed the reins of the stuttering Seleção, they became the first South American side to win nine successive World Cup preliminaries.

39 was the sensational goal difference Germany managed (43 goals for; four against) to set an all-time record in UEFA qualifying. Joachim Low’s men won all ten of their matches to become the only team from any confederation to reach Russia with a perfect record.

32 years had passed since the Netherlands failed to qualify for back-to-back tournaments until they followed up missing out on UEFA EURO 2016 by finishing third in their Russia 2018 qualification group.

28 years: that is the World Cup absence Egypt will end in Russia. Since last appearing at the global finals in 1990, the Pharaohs have curiously won four CAF Africa Cup of Nations crowns.

21 goals is what makes Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez the joint-leading marksmen in South American qualifying history. At the start of the 2018 preliminaries, Messi and Suarez had 14 and 16 respectively, behind Ivan Zamorano (17), Marcelo Salas (18) and record-holder Hernan Crespo (19).

17 goals is what USA registered in the Hexagonal – more than any other team – yet they finished fifth and missed out on qualifying for an eighth consecutive World Cup.

16 goals, scored in just ten appearances, is what made Poland’s Robert Lewandowski the leading marksman, across all confederations (level with Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Sahlawi and UAE's Ahmed Khalil), in Russia 2018 qualifying. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who was one goal shy, was Lewandowski's nearest challenger in Europe. Both broke the previous record tally in a UEFA qualifying campaign held by Yugoslavia’s Predrag Mijatovic (14).

12 consecutive World Cup qualifying clean sheets is what Iran became the first team from any confederation to record. Team Melli’s run eventually ended, after 18 hours and 41 minutes, and when they had already secured a ticket to Russia, in their final outing against Syria.

9 straight World Cups is what Korea Republic will appear in next year – after participating in just one, in 1954, before the run started. Only Brazil (21), Germany (17), Argentina (12) and Spain (11) have made it to more in succession, with Italy hoping to win their play-off and extend their run to 15.