The picture today is still too grainy to make out, but the contours of some of the suspected 32 FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers are slowly emerging. Host Russia and first qualifier Brazil were recently joined by Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
In the Asian Football Confederation qualifiers, Syria and Australia will play a two-leg elimination for the right to play the fourth team to come out of CONCACAF for a spot in Russia next year.
In the Confederation of African Football, with two games to go, it is till wide open with a number of teams in each group able to advance into their five slots.
In CONCACAF, Costa Rica is poised to move on with Panama, the USA and Honduras still in the running for either direct qualification or a chance via the playoff against the AFC qualifier.
In CONMEBOL, Chile imploded with back to back losses (at home 0-3 to Paraguay, and away 0-1 to Bolivia). With games home against Ecuador, who still has slim hopes, and away to Brazil, who may want to exact revenge for Chile’s 2-0 win at the beginning of the qualification season, Pizzi’s team just went from sure thing to “might not make it,” overnight.
Argentina, who have been unable to score in qualifications since March 23, 2016, needed an own goal to draw at home to lowly Venezuela. Nevertheless, with Chile’s losses and Colombia’s draws, Messi’s team is still in the hunt. In the group left in contention Uruguay leads Colombia by a point, and Colombia leads Argentina and Peru by two and Chile by three. This confederation will go down to the last game.
New Zealand, Oceania Football Confederation’s playoff contender awaits the fifth placed team of CONMEBOL.
In UEFA, Spain, England, Switzerland, Germany, France, Serbia, and Croatia seem poised to qualify while Portugal (who have a last-match showdown with Switzerland October 10th), Italy, Northern Ireland, and Iceland, are breathing down their group leaders’ necks.
Using a long-long view, at this very early, pre-tournament stage, the strongest performing teams emerging from qualification competitions seem to be: Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Uruguay, with Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Portugal, France, Mexico, Belgium, and Italy, looking like with the right timing next summer they may all be in contention.
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