2021’s World Cup qualifiers get underway this week
Teams in Europe and the Concacaf region kick off their campaigns
Facts and figures on the hunt for World Cup places
There were many challenges to overcome when organising qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Yet the battle for FIFA World Cup™ spots has already begun in Asia and South America, while this week marks the start of qualifying for the confederations in Europe (UEFA) and North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF).
FIFA.com takes a look at some figures associated with qualifying for the world’s greatest football tournament.
thousand fans, or 162,764 to be exact, packed into the Maracana Stadium in 1977 to watch a World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Colombia – a record attendance.
matches were played in qualifying for Russia 2018 overall – another record.
goals were scored in 278 matches during UEFA's preliminary campaign for Russia 2018 (an average of 2.9 goals per game). This was slightly higher than four years earlier (2.79 goals).
World Cup qualifiers have been contested by Mexico, more than any other Concacaf team. El Tri have also played at 16 previous World Cup finals, more than any other national side in the region.
European qualifying for the 2018 World Cup featured a record 54 teams, a mark that will be surpassed by one on the road to Qatar. Russia are the extra side, having qualified as hosts for the 2018 World Cup.
teams in Africa are divided into ten groups in the race for a ticket to the World Cup. The ten group winners will progress to the third round of qualifying, where they will be paired off for five two-legged play-offs. The five winners of these ties will qualify for Qatar 2022.
In the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) zone, more than half of the second round of qualification – in which 40 teams are split into eight groups – has already been played. The eight group winners and the four best runners-up will move on to the third round, where they will be drawn into two groups of six teams. The first and second-placed sides in both groups will secure a spot at the World Cup, while the two third-placed teams will determine their fate in the intercontinental play-off round.
goals in a single match is a record for World Cup qualification. That was the tally Australia amassed in 2001 against American Samoa, who were unable even to net a consolation goal during the game. It is the highest margin of victory ever recorded in an international match, while Archie Thompson's individual tally of 13 is also a record.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals in European qualifying than any other player (30 goals in 38 games). CR7 found the target 15 times on the road to Russia 2018 alone.
Brazil have 21 World Cup finals appearances under their belt, making them the only team never to have missed a World Cup. Four-time world champions Germany have competed at 17 consecutive World Cups.
CONCACAF teams have played in at least one World Cup. Panama became the 11th side in 2018, joining Costa Rica (5), El Salvador (2), Haiti (1), Honduras (3), Jamaica (1), Canada (1), Cuba (1), Mexico (16), USA (10) and Trinidad and Tobago (1).
OFC qualification has not yet begun. It will involve the region’s 11 national teams: Fiji, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, American Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu. The best team in the region’s qualifying competition will progress to the intercontinental play-off round.
Hungary were the first team to score ten goals in a World Cup qualifier, defeating Greece 11-1 on 25 March 1938.