Teams fight to secure a spot in the World Cup

Luke Bourgeois, Staff Writer

North American World Cup qualifiers return this winter with all three guaranteed spots and one playoff spot left up for grabs. The United States looks to secure world cup participation after failing to qualify for 2018’s world cup in Russia. However, competition for North America’s three guaranteed spots is heating up with six games remaining. Canada currently leads the group and are favorites to qualify for their first world cup since 1986. The US and Mexico are tied on points in the second and third qualifying spots respectively, but they are only one point clear of 4th placed Panama and the intercontinental play-in spot. 

Across the pond, European play-in tournaments start March 24. The twelve remaining teams have been drawn into three different groups (four teams each)  to play a knockout style tournament to gain qualification. Group A’s semi-final round sees Wales, Scotland, Ukraine, and Austria playing for a world cup spot, while group B contains Russia, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. The most high profile group of them all is group C with Italy, Portugal, North Macedonia and Turkey. Only one of the teams in these groups will receive the coveted world cup slot because Europe is not granted any intercontinental play-in spots. With Portugal and Italy drawn in the same group it will mean that either reigning European champions Italy or six time ballon d’or winner, Christiano Rondaldo, will miss out on a trip to Qatar. 


Elsewhere the qualification looks set in stone going into the world cup. In South America, both Brazil and Argentina have qualified for the world cup and Ecuador and Uruguay look likely for the third and fourth world cup qualifying position. Peru is currently playing in South America’s play-in spot. Chile, Venezuela, and Bolivia are still mathematically in convention for spots 3-5 but an unlikely chain of events would need to occur to allow one of these teams to make it through. In Asia, qualification has been set in stone for Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Japan while Australia and the UAE have both wrapped up their campaigns for the intercontinental play-ins. The African qualification tournament has yet to kick off but the ten teams selected to play have been selected and those matches will take place at an unannounced time in March.