The continental shift: How the World Cup qualifiers played out | Sunday Observer

The continental shift: How the World Cup qualifiers played out

The list of 32 teams that will be participating in the2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has been finalised.

Seven previous World Cup winners have made it through the qualifiers.

With Peru taking the final spot, all the spots for 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia have been filled. While Panama and Iceland created history by qualifying for their first-ever World Cup, football power Italy had a heartbreak by failing to secure a spot for the first time in 60 years.

North America Qualified countries: 3

Notable misses: United States

One for the scriptwriters. The two favourites Mexico and Costa Rica had already qualified, the third — USA — were still pencilled in despite being stretched to the final matchday. Then Mexico and Costa Rica lost their games against Honduras and Panama, leaving USA needing a draw against the worst team of the group Trinidad & Tobago. They lost and missed out on a World Cup spot for the first time since 1986. Meanwhile Panama, a team with only a handful of players with European experience, qualified for their first World Cup.

South America Qualified countries: 5

Notable misses: Chile

Filled with fiery rivalries and great players, South America remains arguably the toughest qualifying region. And this campaign was no different. While Brazil qualified comfortably, Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina secured direct spots on the final matchday, with an under-fire Lionel Messi bringing the goods to send his team to Russia. Peru qualified for the first time since 1982 through the last play-off. Chile — ninth-ranked team in the world and back-to-back Copa America winners — became the biggest casualty.

Africa Qualified countries: 5

Notable misses: Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana

Four of the five African finalists from 2014 won’t be playing next year, with Nigeria being the only holdover. Though West Africa has dominated the contingent at the World Cup in recent years, the qualification of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia signalled an apparent shift; it is the first time since 1986 that North Africa has a larger representation than any other region. While Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt remained in a tangle secured their berths with a game to spare, Morocco and Tunisia made the cut in their final fixtures.

Europe Qualified countries: 14

Notable misses: Netherlands, Italy

All but one usual suspects secured passage with little disruption. Italy, champions in 2006, missed out for the first time since 1958 (and vacated the already-booked hotel rooms in Russia to Denmark) — calls against the federation and the youth structure. The Azzurri fans however can find refuge in an almost similar shade of blue as Iceland — a country with a population of just 335,000 — became the smallest country to qualify for a World Cup. Netherlands meanwhile continued their total freefall, failing to qualify for the second straight major finals.

Asia Qualified countries: 5

Notable misses: China

Asia has five teams at the World Cup for the first time ever. For Australia — who qualified through Oceania in 2006 — the ticket didn’t come easy. With 22 matches and 250,000kms over two years, the nation now holds the record for the longest qualifying campaign.

The continent had a World Cup to forget in 2014, losing nine of their 12 games and drawing three. Even though industrial China and promising Thailand fell by the wayside, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia rallied through to justify the 4.5 allotted slots.

– 20 Number of teams who lined up at Brazil 2014 and will do so again at Russia 2018. Curiously, Nigeria are the only African side among them.

– 7 Number of previous World Cup winners who made it through the qualifiers: Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Uruguay, England and Argentina. The only one to miss out were four-time world champions Italy,

– 871 Number of matches played in the qualifiers, a record. The first took place in Timor-Leste on March 12, 2015, and the last in Peru on November 15, 2017.

- Indian Express