Football Features

World Cup qualifying state of play: Which international giants might miss Qatar 2022?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:00, 18 November 2021

We’re now just about one year away from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

While the tournament is being held in the winter of 2022 as opposed to the summer, qualification is mostly still coming to an end in 2021. And as always, there’s drama abound late in the day.

We’ve had a look at what’s going on around the world and come up with the state of play for the qualification for the 2022 World Cup. Who stands where? Who misses out? Who could miss out? Read on and find out!

Who has already qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup?


Qualified on: 2 December, 2010
World Cup finals appearances: 1

Qatar obviously qualified for their first-ever World Cup when they were announced as hosts over a decade ago.


Qualified on: 11 October, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 20 (18 consecutive)

Despite the incredible home defeat to North Macedonia, Germany have romped through qualification winning nine of their 10 games, scoring 36 times and conceding just four to top UEFA’s Group J.


Qualified on: 12 October, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 6 (2 consecutive)

Denmark have nine wins from 10 games in UEFA Group F, scoring 30 and conceding three to send them to their second straight World Cup.


Qualified on: 11 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 22 (22 consecutive)

The only country to appear at every single World Cup, and the record five-times winners, Brazil will probably top the CONMEBOL standings and head to Qatar seeking their first title win for 20 years.


Qualified on: 13 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 16 (7 consecutive)

The World Champions will be in Qatar to defend their crown having won UEFA’s Group D with an underwhelming but unbeaten showing.


Qualified on: 13 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 14 (3 consecutive)

Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils have run roughshod over UEFA’s Group E, winning six of their seven games.


Qualified on: 14 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 6 (3 consecutive)

The dark horses that will never just stay in the stable are back for another race. Croatia qualified in dramatic fashion thanks to an 81st minute own goal in a winners-take-all showdown with Russia.


Qualified on: 14 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 16 (12 consecutive)

Spain have (along with Brazil and Germany) played at every World Cup since 1978 and that tradition will continue as the 2010 winners, despite injuries, overcame a potent Sweden side to qualify on the last day.


Qualified on: 14 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 13 (4 consecutive)

Serbia kept pace with Portugal all through qualification in UEFA’s Group A then quite incredibly went to Lisbon and beat them in a winners-take-all showdown on the last day thanks to a 90th minute winner from Aleksandr Mitrovic.


Qualified on: 15 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 16 (7 consecutive)

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions have been beaten semi-finalists and finalists at the last two tournaments. Are they ready to go one better in Qatar? They’ll be there, confirming their spot with a 0-10 romp in San Marino.


Qualified on: 15 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 12 (5 consecutive)

Switzerland kept pace with Italy all the way through UEFA’s Group C, drawing both clashes against the Azzurri. And then on the final day they blitzed Bulgaria 4-0 as Italy were held by Northern Ireland, clinching top spot.


Qualified on: 16 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 11 (1 consecutive)

After missing out on 2018, the Netherlands secured top spot in UEFA’s Group G on the last with a nervy 0-2 win against Norway, with Memphis Depay going joint-top of the goalscorers chart with 12.


Qualified on: 16 November, 2021
World Cup finals appearances: 18 (13 consecutive)

Argentina picked up the point they needed against Brazil to head to their 13th straight World Cup. They will likely finish second in South American qualifying as Leo Messi & co. look to finally end their 36-year wait for another World Cup win.

Who might miss the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

Obviously any country not yet qualified could miss out on the tournament, but who are the major nations that could miss out?


There’s a long way to go, with Asian qualification running until March 2022, but as things stand Saudi Arabia’s runaway form means that one of Japan or Australia are in third and right now it’s the Socceroos who will be heading to a play-off for a play-off with massive uncertainty over their presence at the World Cup.

Costa Rica

Over in North America the “big three” of Mexico, Canada and the USA are all in qualification positions atop the group, while Panama sit fourth where they would head for an inter-continental play-off. 2014 quarter-finalists Costa Rica, meanwhile, are fifth with just 9 points. They play until March, so Costa Rica could yet save themselves, but it looks bad as the top four are all at least five points clear.


Serbia broke Portuguese hearts in Lisbon, and that means that the Euro 2016 winners are headed for a UEFA play-off. And while you’d back Portugal to get through that, you’d also have backed them to top a group containing Serbia as their biggest threat! Yet, here we are.


The European Champions may not make it to the World Cup. This seems absurd given how strong the first half of 2021 was for them, culminating in that Euro 2020 triumph. But the Azzurri have won just two of their last nine matches inside 90 minutes; that’s a problem that came back to haunt them at Windsor Park as they couldn’t get the win they needed to avoid the dreaded play-offs. Could they miss a second straight World Cup? It’s possible!


After two defeats in their final two qualifiers, Sweden surrendered the lead of Group B to Spain and so, entered the realm of the play-offs. Will we see a repeat of 2013 when Sweden and Portugal faced off in an epic showdown?

Chile and Uruguay

These two South American sides cannot be separated from each other. They both sit on 16 points, and neither of them are in a qualification spot right now. They’re not even in position for a play-off, lagging one point behind Peru. Brazil and Argentina have locked down two of the spots and Ecuador seem good for third, which means that these two have to scrap with Colombia and Peru for that final qualification spot.

Given Uruguay and Chile’s form and their massively ageing star players, we may have to endure a World Cup without both of these South American powerhouses. Uruguay at least have the young talent to rebound in 2026 (provided they change manager, of course) but once Chile’s golden generation ride off into the sunset, the future looks bleak beyond that. Ben Brereton Diaz can’t save them forever!

Who will miss the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

Which major nations have already dropped the ball and will miss out on going to Qatar?

South Africa

Haters of the Vuvuzela rejoice! South Africa will not be going to Qatar in 2022. Bafana Bafana suffered heartbreak in Cape Coast as a dubious André Ayew penalty saw Ghana sneak by the 2010 World Cup hosts on goals scored.

Ivory Coast

The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winners headed to Douala needing only a draw to secure passage to the third round of African qualifying but they lost 1-0 to a Charles Toko Ekambi strike and are out of the tournament.


The Irish are unfortunately not going to make the trip to Qatar having finished third in their group with nine points and with a Nations League performance so abysmal that it cannot save them.


Another side that we won’t see this winter at the World Cup is Bosnia. With a poor record of just one win in seven games, they have been officially eliminated from UEFA Group D.


It feels intensely wrong that the 2022 World Cup won’t have goal machine Erling Haaland involved, but that’s the sad reality of the world. Haaland missed Norway’s last four qualifiers across two international breaks with two different injuries, and Norway won just one of those games, dropping too many points to even make a play-off spot.

2022 FIFA World Cup qualification state of play:

AFC (Asia)

Asian qualification is a four round affair that is currently in round three. In this round the teams are split into two groups of six where the top two in each group qualify for the World Cup. The fourth round sees the two third-place sides play each other in a single match to determine who advances to an inter-continental play-off.

Already qualified:

  • Qatar

Currently in qualification spots for World Cup:

Group A:

  1. Iran (16 points)
  2. South Korea (14 points)
  3. United Arab Emirates [playoff spot] (6 points)

Group B:

  1. Saudi Arabia (16 points)
  2. Japan (12 points)
  3. Australia [playoff spot] (11 points)

CAF (Africa)

African qualification is a three round affair currently in the second round where the teams are put into 10 groups with each of the group winners heading through to the third round. In that final round they will be split into five separate matches where they will play home and away legs and the five winners will head to Qatar.

Already qualified:


Currently in qualification spots for the next round:

  • Algeria
  • Cameroon
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Egypt
  • Ghana
  • Mali
  • Morocco
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Tunisia

CONCACAF (North America)

North American qualification is a three round affair that is currently in the third round. In this stage the top 8 teams are drawn into a single group playing each other home and away. The top three clubs qualify for the World Cup and the fourth place side heads to an inter-continental play-off.

Already qualified:


Currently in qualification spots for the World Cup:

  1. Canada (16 points)
  2. United States of America (15 points)
  3. Mexico (14 points)
  4. Panama [playoff spot] (14 points)

CONMEBOL (South America)

South American World Cup qualification is the most gruelling endurance test the game has to offer. The 10 teams of CONMEBOL all play each other home and away with the top four sides heading to the World Cup and the fifth place side going to an inter-continental play-off.

Already qualified:

  • Brazil
  • Argentina

Currently in qualification spots for the World Cup:

  1. Brazil (35 points)
  2. Argentina (29 points)
  3. Ecuador (23 points)
  4. Colombia (17 points)
  5. Peru [playoff spot] (17 points)

OFC (Oceania)

Oceanic qualification is a two round affair. In round one the 11 sides are drawn into two groups where they play single-round matches against each opponent with the top two sides advancing to the second round.

In the second round the four remaining sides play home-and-away matches in a semi-final and then final, with the winning side advancing to an inter-continental play-off. Oceania have yet to start their qualification.

UEFA (Europe)

European qualification is a two round affair currently coming to the end of its first round. In that first round 10 groups of either five or six teams face-off in a home-and-away match with the 10 group winners advancing to the World Cup.

The second round sees the 10 runners up, joined by the two best Nations League group winners, based on the Nations League overall ranking, that finished outside the top two of their qualifying group. These 12 sides get drawn into three groups of four, with each group playing through two rounds of single-leg play-off, both a semi-final and final. The three winners will advance to the World Cup.

Already qualified:

  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Spain
  • Serbia
  • England
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands

Currently in qualification spots for the next round (italics = seeded):

  • Portugal
  • Scotland
  • Italy
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Wales
  • Turkey
  • Poland
  • North Macedonia
  • Ukraine
  • Austria
  • Czech Republic


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