After the playoff matches on Wednesday, 29 teams have now booked their spot at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar this November. Three spots are still up for grabs, but there will be a list of superstars from the sport who will not be present at the quadrennial event later this year – Mohamed Salah with Egypt, Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Sweden, and the Italian team that won the European Championships last year, to name a few.
But the teams and players that have made it have done so on merit.
Scroll.in takes a look at the 29 teams that have qualified so far, and how they made it to the finals in Qatar.
A total of 13 spots at the World Cup are reserved for European teams, among 55 countries.
All teams are shuffled into 10 groups, with the winner of each earning automatic qualification to the World Cup. The ten winners were Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Croatia, England and Germany.
The remaining three teams are decided when the 10 group runners up, and best two Nations League group winners that didn’t finish in the first two (Austria and Czech Republic) are slotted into three groups. Each group is conducted as a knockout – essentially, a semi-final and final. The winner of the final makes the cut.
Poland and Portugal have confirmed their berths through this route. However, due to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s semi-final against Scotland has been postponed till June. The winner of that match plays Wales for a spot in the World Cup.
Qualified teams: Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Croatia, England, Germany, Poland, Portugal.
South America (CONMEBOL)
Four teams are guaranteed qualification to the World Cup from the 10 teams of South America, and a fifth team proceeds to an intercontinental playoff.
The CONMEBOL format is straight-forward. All teams are added into a single group, and each plays the other twice in a home and away format.
Traditional superpowers Brazil and Argentina finished top of the group - both undefeated - with 45 and 39 points respectively. Along with them are third placed Uruguay and surprise package Ecuador - who were the second-lowest ranked team in South America, 64, when the qualifiers started in October 2020.
Peru finished in fifth place, who proceed to the intercontinental playoffs. They will have to beat the winner of the two teams that make it to the AFC’s Fourth Round of qualification - United Arab Emirates and Australia.
The playoffs will take place in June.
Qualified teams: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador.
This is the first continent to have successfully completed their entire qualification process. Only five spots are available for the 54 African teams competing for World Cup qualification.
In the first round, 28 teams play home-away knockout matches to progress to round two, where 40 teams are shuffled into 10 groups. The winner of each moves to the third round. Each team there plays one knockout tie against one other in a home and away format, the winner on aggregate goes to Qatar.
Qualified teams: Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon.
The AFC qualification process is a joint World Cup and continental AFC Asian Cup qualifier, which is why Qatar - who qualified for the World Cup as hosts - competed.
In addition to Australia, 46 teams compete for the four World Cup berths, with an additional intercontinental playoff spot available.
Lower ranked teams compete in the first round in single home-away knockout tie to proceed to the second round where 40 teams are placed in eight groups of five. The winner directly goes to round three along with the best five runners-up (generally it’s four, but since Qatar topped their group and will not play Round 2, an additional team was included).
The third round is between 12 teams, placed in two groups of six. The top two confirm their berth at Qatar, while the third-placed teams - Australia and UAE - compete in a fourth round knockout. The winner then plays Peru in the intercontinental playoff.
Qualified teams: Qatar (hosts), Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, Iran.
North America (CONCACAF)
A total of three teams can gain direct entry to the World Cup from the 34 that start the qualifiers.
The first round is essentially for lower ranked teams to compete in a group stage, where the winner goes to the second round - a single-tie knockout between six teams. The winners then play the eight-team third round.
The eight teams compete home and away in a single round robin structure, with the top three earning spots at the World Cup and the fourth team progressing to an intercontinental tie against the Oceania group winners.
Canada topped the group to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Mexico finished second and the United States came in third to claim the three direct entries to Qatar 2022. Costa Rica finished fourth and will take on the winner of the Oceania confederation’s qualifiers at the intercontinental playoffs.
Qualified teams: Canada, Mexico, United States.
Due to the pandemic, the entire qualification process, that started earlier in March, for this confederation took place in Qatar. Later on Wednesday, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands will compete for a chance to make it to the intercontenental playoffs, where they will play Costa Rica for a World Cup spot.