The race for places at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has entered the final straight, with nine teams having already booked their tickets along with the host nation, who have qualified by right.
Asia was the first continent to complete its qualifying competition, with Japan, Australia, Korea Republic and Iran all winning through. In South America, meanwhile, Argentina were the first to cross the line, and up in the CONCACAF Zone, USA and Costa Rica have followed suit.
Over in Europe, the only two sides to have checked into next year’s world finals so far are Italy and the Netherlands, the runners-up in South Africa four years ago. Between 11 and 15 October they will be joined at Brazil 2014 by the remaining seven European group winners.
Meanwhile, the eight best runners-up in the UEFA Zone will have one last chance to advance via the play-offs, to be played on 15-19 November, with the winners of the four ties all making the trip to the biggest football show on Earth. The draw for them will take place at the Home of FIFA at 14:00 CET on 21 October, and you can follow it LIVE on FIFA.com.
The eight teams in question will be divided into two groups based on the next FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, to be published on 17 October, with the four best-ranked teams being seeded for the draw. The ties will be played over two legs, home and away.
*A nervous wait *In the interests of fairness and given that Group I has one fewer team than Groups A to H, matches against the bottom-placed sides in the first eight groups will not be taken into consideration in calculating which runners-up will go forward to the play-offs.
Fans across the continent will be biting their fingernails in the next few days as they wait to see if their teams can make it to Brazil directly or book a play-off slot. There are sure to be plenty of twists and turns along the way and as you have come to expect, FIFA.com will be keeping you right up to date with them in what promises to be a thrilling few days.