As the race to Russia gets closer to its final lap, more nations are set to join the already qualified teams for the FIFA competition which holds next year’s summer.
Eight nations are already guaranteed to be at the tournament; they are: Russia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
The 2018 tournament will consist of 32 teams. Russia got an automatic spot as hosts, to be joined by 31 qualifiers from around the world. With seven already qualified, there is left exactly 24 tickets to grab.
Here are seven nations from across continents who require results to go their way on or before this weekend in order to seal their spots in the group stages of the global funfair.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria are only a win away from Russia. They face the Chipolopolo of Zambia in a crucial encounter on Saturday at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo. Having won three games – and drawn one – in the qualifying series, they top the Group B on 10 points, three points ahead of Zambia. With a win this weekend, Nigeria’s ticket to Russia will come early.
With two games left, Tunisia are top of Group A on 10 points, three points ahead of second-placed Democratic Republic of Congo. Results must therefore go Tunisia’s way for them to seal their spot this weekend. Tunisia will play away to Guinea as DR Congo will be hosted by Lybia. A win for Tunisia plus anything short of a win for DR Congo will guarantee Tunisia’s place at next year’s tournament.
With three automatic spots for North, Central America and Caribbean, two spots are still up for grabs as Mexico already sealed their place in Russia. Second-placed Costa Rica are on 15 points, five points ahead of third-placed Panama. A win for Costa Rica at home against Honduras this weekend will seal their World Cup qualification.
World Cup holders no longer qualify automatically. Germany had to go through an Europe Group C qualifying series to currently be on track to progress to the finals. Having played and won all eight games, they are on 24 points, five points above Northern Ireland. The Germans need just a draw against their closest opposition on Thursday to seal their place in next year’s World Cup.
Serbia lead the Europe qualification Group D on 18 points, four points ahead of Wales in second place. With two matches left, Serbia are just a victory away from the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. They play away to Austria in a matchday 7 encounter this Friday.
They have been unbeaten in the qualifying series. Having grabbed six wins and two draws, they comfortably lead Europe’s Group F and will expect to qualify automatically. They require one win to confirm their place in Russia. England will host Slovenia on Thursday and hope their World Cup ticket comes early.
Although they top Europe’s Group E table, they depend much on the result of their closest rivals, Montenegro and Denmark, to seal their place in Russia sealed this week. With two games left, Poland are on 19 points, three ahead of Montenegro and Denmark. A win for Poland against Armenia this Friday will see them through to the finals if Montenegro draw Denmark.
Other teams that are just likely to seal their spots this weekend are Egypt, Spain and Switzerland. It’s a tough call, as the closest rivals in their group tables are strongly on their tails.
While a Spain win against Albania on Friday will depend on Italy’s [unlikely] home defeat to Macedonia will see them through, a Switzerland victory against Hungary on Saturday will require second-placed Portugal to [unlikely] draw or lose with Andorra to seal their own World Cup place early.
Table toppers, Egypt will play host to Congo on Sunday while second-placed Uganda will host Ghana the previous day. The Egyptians will guarantee their World Cup spot if they secure all three points and the Cranes fail to do same.
Meanwhile, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile are all at the top positions in the South American qualification table. With Brazil already qualified, it is a tough call to say that Uruguay – who are leading the lot – could seal their World Cup spot this weekend. But then it is football, anything is possible!
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