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World Cup qualifying: Who needs what in the last round of matches?

Several countries have already qualified for Russia 2018, with Germany all-but assured of joining them. But which other teams are looking at hotels in Russia, and who will be watching at home on TV? Check out our guide.

Eight teams have already booked their place at next year's World Cup (see below) but here's how the rest of qualifying looks going in to the final round of matches.


The winner of each of the nine groups automatically books a place in Russia, while the eight runners-up with the best point tallies head into a play-off round. This will be drawn at random and will include a home and away leg. 

So far, only Belgium have a place in Russia guaranteed. Germanywho’ve enjoyed a flawless campaign – are all-but certain to join them. France, Switzerland, Poland, Spain and Croatia will too, should they win their remaining two games. England and Serbia only need one win. All fairly straight-forward; the real drama lies in the battle for play-off spots.

The Netherlands remain three points behind second-place Sweden in Group A and face the Scandinavian nation in the final round of fixtures. However, the showdown is only likely to matter should Sweden fail to beat Luxembourg, given the gulf in goal difference. Still, a home-tie in which only a cricket scoreline will do should make interesting viewing when the nations face off in Amsterdam next Tuesday night.

Portugal have guaranteed at least a runners-up spot but could still top the group with a win over Group B leaders Switzerland on October 10. That will be easier said than done, however; Switzlerand are the only other team to have won all of their games.

Wales and the Republic of Ireland look set to scrap it out over second place in Group D. The Republic of Ireland will be buoyed by the news that Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales' final two matches. They play each other in Cardiff on October 9.

Euro 2016 Portugal vs Wales Bale (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

Wales will be without the injured Gareth Bale

Montenegro host Denmark on Thursday evening in a game which should decide who finishes second in Group E. Scotland, meanwhile, will steal second place in Group F if they beat both Slovakia and Slovenia back-to-back. If this proves too much for the Scots, the Balkan nations will be fight it out amongst themselves.

Bosnia and Herzegovina need to fend off a late charge from both Greece and Cyprus; a task made trickier by Belgium’s visit on Saturday 7th October. Italy have second-place wrapped up and could still finish first should Spain uncharacteristically implode at the final hurdle.

South America

The top four teams qualify automatically and the fifth-placed side will play New Zealand in a two-legged playoff for the last spot.

While Brazil are assured of their place, traditional rivals Argentina are one of seven teams in with a shot at one of the three remaining automatic spots. Lionel Messi's side lie 5th and play Ecuador away and Peru at home in the next week while Chile, who have won the last two Copa Americas, are in even more peril. The Chileans, who number Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal among their ranks, and sit in sixth face Ecuador at home before travelling to Brazil in their final game. One win may not be enough for either side. The other nations in contention are Uruguay (2nd), Colombia (3rd), Peru (4th), Paraguay (7th) and Ecuador (8th). Only Bolivia and Venezuela cannot qualify.

Fußball WM-Qualifikation Chile vs. Paraguay | Arturo Vidal (Reuters/R. Garrido)

Arturo Vidal (front) and Alexis Sanchez (back) could miss out


The Asian confederation has four guaranteed spots. These were taken by Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

After an emotional last minute equalizer secured 3rd place in group A, Syria will play four-time qualifiers Australia in a two legged playoff on October 5 (in Krubong, Malaysia) and October 10 (in Sydney). The winner of that tie will play the equivalent qualifier from CONCACAF (see below).

North, Central America and Caribbean

Mexico are through, so two automatic berths and a playoff spot remain.

Panama are in pole position, and a win over the USA on Friday would secure their first World Cup finals appearance. If the Americans grab the three points and then beat Trinidad and Tobago, who are out of contention, on October 10 in Trinidad, they will qualify automatically. Should Costa Rica beat Honduras at home next Tuesday, they will make their second successive tournament. A draw against Panama in the final match is also likely to be enough. Honduras are the final side in the frame but a late Bobby Wood goal for the USA in the last set of matches means they are up against it. They will probably need victories over Costa Rica (a) and Mexico (h).

USA FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifikation USA vs Mexiko (USA Today Sports)

Bobby Wood kept the USA's hopes alive


The top team in each of the five groups will qualify.

Tunisia top group A and 4 points from their matches against Guinea (a) and Libya (h) will see them through. If they fail, DR Congo could take advantage if they take maximum points from games against the same two opponents.  The situation is similar in group B, where Nigeria and Zambia are separated at the top by three points. The pair play each other in Nigeria on Saturday and a draw would leave Zambia needing a Nigeria loss and a five goal swing in the final match.

Mali are winless in group C but Gabon (5 points), Morocco (6) and Ivory Coast (7) all play each other in the last two fixtures, with all three having a chance to progress. Group D is even tighter, with Burkina Faso, Cape Verde Island, Senegal and South Africa just two points apart. This one is likely to come down to the last matchday when Burkina Faso host Cape Verde Islands and South Africa travel to Senegal.

In the final group, Egypt are favorites. They lead Uganda by two points, with Ghana two points further back. Egypt play Congo, who are out, and Ghana while Uganda host Ghana and travel to Congo.


New Zealand have secured the region's only play-off place after defeating Solomon Islands in the previous qualifying round. They will face South America's fifth-placed team, in November, for an all-or nothing tie split over two legs.


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