- The draw for UEFA Zone World Cup qualifying takes place on 7 December
- 55 teams join the race for 13 places
- Facts and figures about the quest for World Cup berths
Excitement is mounting ahead of the UEFA preliminary draw for the FIFA World Cup 2022™, which will be hosted virtually from Zurich on 7 December at 18:00 CET.
Ahead of the draw, FIFA.com looks back at some interesting facts and figures from qualifying on the Old Continent.
Seven European teams joined football world governing body FIFA in its founding year: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. England and Italy (both 1905) and reigning world champions France (1908) followed a little later.
A total of 807 goals were scored in 278 matches during European World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018 (an average of 2.9 goals per game). This was a slightly higher figure than four years earlier (2.79 goals).
The Netherlands hold the record for the most World Cup qualifying goals scored by a European team. The Oranje have also won more World Cup qualifiers than any other European country, with 82 victories from 125 matches.
European qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup set a new record with 54 participating teams, a record that will now be broken as 55 set out on the road to Qatar. Russia are the 'extra' side in question, having qualified automatically for the 2018 edition as hosts.
Italy have never lost a World Cup qualifier in front of a home crowd (46 wins, nine defeats). Overall, Gli Azzurri have only lost nine of their last 109 World Cup qualifying matches.
Belgium and Germany both scored 43 goals in ten matches on the road to Russia 2018 (an average of 4.3 goals per game).
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals than any other player in the history of European qualifying (30 goals in 28 matches), finding the target 15 times in qualification for Russia 2018 alone.
Almost half of the 55 teams have never qualified for the World Cup finals before.
Robert Lewandowski broke the record for the highest-scoring player in a single European World Cup qualifying campaign with his 16 goals for Poland in qualifying for Russia 2018.
Germany were the only team to win ten out of ten matches in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifying tournament. No country was able to match this feat in 2014.
Montenegro have an identical number of wins (10), draws (10) and defeats (10) from their last 30 World Cup qualifiers.
Hungary were the first team to score ten goals in a FIFA World Cup qualifier, beating Greece 11-1 on 25 March 1938.
Luxembourg, Portugal and the Republic of Ireland are the only three teams to have participated in all 20 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns to date. The road to Qatar 2022 will be their 21st.
Four teams made it through 2018 World Cup qualifying unbeaten – Belgium, England, Germany and Spain. Seven teams completed the 2014 campaign without suffering a defeat.
Liechtenstein’s 4-0 win over Luxembourg in qualifying for Germany 2006 on 13 October 2004 was the team’s first away win, their first FIFA World Cup qualifying victory and their biggest win of all time.
England and Spain boasted the best defensive records in qualifying for Russia 2018, with both conceding just three goals in their ten matches.
Gibraltar and Kosovo made their World Cup qualifying debut in their bid to reach Russia 2018. There are no European debutants on the road to Qatar 2022.
San Marino secured their first-ever point in World Cup qualifying thanks to a 0-0 draw with Turkey in March 1993. It was their fifth match in the competition. They then took just one more point from their next 61 qualifiers.
Spain have not lost a match in their last six World Cup qualifying campaigns. Their last defeat came on 31 March 1993, when they went down 1-0 to Denmark, leaving them unbeaten in their last 63 qualification games.