World Cup 2018: Your guide to the teams that have qualified so far for the finals in Russia
=> 23 nations have secured their place at the World Cup finals in Russia so far
=> Russia qualified automatically as host nation of next summer’s tournament
=> England, Germany, France and Spain among European big guns qualified
=> Iceland and Panama will be at the World Cup finals for the first time in history
=> Argentina joined Brazil at the tournament after final matchday drama
The qualification process for next summer’s World Cup is almost complete and this latest international week has helped add some more names to the Russia 2018 guest list.
The main group phase for the European qualifying has been completed, with the four playoff ties to come next month.
South America wrapped up on Tuesday evening, while Africa concludes with the final fixtures next month. Asia and North America are poised to send their candidates forward into the Intercontinental Play-off.
Here’s your complete guide to each of the nations that will definitely be on the plane to Russia next year.
How did they qualify? Host nation Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Fourth place 1966
You can hardly have a World Cup without inviting the host nation, can you? Russia were spared the travails of the European qualifying groups and have been playing friendlies to keep themselves in match shape.
We already know that they will get the ball rolling at the newly rebuilt Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14 in the first of the Group A fixtures.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group H Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Fourth place 1986
As easy as it gets for the Belgians, who booked their place last month and have bossed qualifying group H.
Roberto Martinez’s side is ranked among the favorites to win the whole thing and they’ve rampaged through their group scoring tons of goals in the process.
Eden Hazard will be central to Belgium’s hopes of progressing far at the World Cup
How did they qualify? Winners of Group F Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Winners 1966
It’s hardly been the most inspiring qualification campaign, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are in the finals safe and sound. They secured their place with a 1-0 win over Slovenia last week though, on current form, few will be tipping them to replicate their famous triumph of 1966.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane will be central to England’s hopes of doing something out in Russia
How did they qualify? Winners of Group A Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Winners 1998
It was simple enough for France, who finished top of Group A, four points clear of challengers Sweden and Holland.
Didier Deschamps’ side beat Belarus 2-1 on Tuesday night to confirm their automatic qualification slot. They will be looking to improve on their performance at Euro 2016 when they reached the final but lost to Portugal.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group C Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Winners 1954, 1974, 1990, 2014
A perfect 10 wins out of 10 in qualifying for the defending champions, who racked up 43 goals and finished an impressive 11 points ahead of second-placed Northern Ireland.
Packed with players who know how it feels to be successful on the highest stage and with formidable strength-in-depth, the Germans will probably be favorites to win it again.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group I Last appearance: Never qualified Best performance: N/A
The Icelandic footballing fairytale continues. They stunned England en route to reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and now they’ll be back to have a crack at the World Cup.
Iceland secured their spot with a 2-0 victory over Kosovo on Monday night, topping a tricky group ahead of Croatia, Ukraine, and Turkey.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group E Last appearance: 2006 Best performance: Third place 1974, 1982
A 4-2 home win over Montenegro ended Poland’s decade-long wait for a World Cup return and they owe a lot to striker Robert Lewandowski and his 16 goals in qualifying.
That enabled them to keep their necks ahead of Denmark in the group and given their geographical proximity, we can expect thousands of Pole to be making the trip.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group B Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Third place 1966
Managed to overcome Switzerland in the final game in Group B at home to secure automatic qualification.
Finished level on points but a vastly superior goal difference – they scored 12 more than the second-placed side – meant they earned a place in Russia.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group D Last appearance: 2010 Best performance: Third place 1930 and 1962 Just edged out the Republic of Ireland to top a tight Group D that also featured challenges from Wales and Austria. It went down to the final round of fixtures, with Aleksandar Prijovic scoring the winner against Georgia to take them to Russia.
How did they qualify? Winners of Group G Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Winners 2010
A straightforward qualifying campaign for the 2010 champions despite the unnerving presence of Italy in their group.
In the end, a dominant 3-0 win over the Italians in Madrid last month proved decisive and Spain is another of the European nations to complete all 10 games unbeaten.
WHAT NEXT IN EUROPE?
The eight runners-up with the best records in qualifying now advance to the play-off. The draw will be made at FIFA headquarters in Zurich next Tuesday and, depending on their FIFA Rankings, four will be seeded and four not seeded.
The first legs of the playoffs will be played between November 9 and 11, with the second legs between November 12 and 14.
The teams that have reached the playoffs are Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.
How did they qualify? Winners of the South American group Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Winners 1950, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
As their rivals labored beneath them, Brazil made light work of the often arduous 18-game South American round robin.
The five-time winners of the World Cup have performed precisely as you’d expect from a team of such pedigree and they’ll definitely be among the favorites.
How did they qualify? Runners-up in the South American group Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Winners 1930, 1950
Two goals from Luis Suarez in a 4-2 home win over Bolivia made sure of Uruguay’s place at a third successive World Cup, though they finished some 10 points behind group winners Brazil.
Nonetheless, with a side packed with talented players, Oscar Tabarez’s team could be dark horses at the tournament in Russia.
How did they qualify? Third place in South American group Last qualified: 2014 Best performance: Winners 1978, 1986
My goodness, they had us all worried, but Argentina scraped over the line and into next summer’s World Cup thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick in a 3-1 away win over Ecuador.
That result lifted the finalists from last time from sixth – missing out entirely – to third in what was a chaotic scramble for the four automatic spots.
How did they qualify? Fourth place in South American group Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Quarter-finals 2014
James Rodriguez scored a crucial goal to earn Colombia a 1-1 draw away to Peru and snatch the fourth automatic spot, pushing their opponents into the playoffs.
In the end, Colombia won just seven of 18 qualifying games and lost five but managed to squeeze through.
WHAT NEXT IN SOUTH AMERICA?
Peru, who finished fifth in the CONMEBOL group, advance to an Inter-Confederation play-off against New Zealand, winners of the Oceania section. The first leg is on November 6 and the return on November 14.
How did they qualify? Runners-up in the North American group Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Quarter-finals 2014
A dramatic equalizer in the fifth minute of injury time against Honduras last week took Costa Rica through to Russia.
They haven’t quite been able to keep pace with leaders Mexico, but have got the job done, the highlight being a 4-0 drubbing of the United States.
How did they qualify? Winners in the North American group Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Quarter-finals 1970, 1986
It’s been a straightforward final phase to qualifying for the Mexicans, who set the tone with a 2-1 win over the United States in Columbus and kicked on from there.
They have been a presence at the last six World Cups and Russia 2018 will be no exception.
How did they qualify? Third place in North American group Last appearance: Never qualified Best performance: N/A
History was made in Panama as a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in their final qualifier on Tuesday, coupled with a surprise defeat for the United States in Trinidad and Tobago, took them to a first-ever World Cup.
They finished level on points with Honduras, but advance by virtue of their superior goal difference.
Panama celebrate their historic first appearance at a World Cup finals after beating Costa Rica
Panama celebrate their historic first appearance at a World Cup finals after beating Costa Rica
WHAT NEXT IN NORTH AMERICA?
Fourth-placed side Honduras will now play Australia for a place in the World Cup in next month’s Inter-Confederation play-off.
The first leg will be played in Honduras on November 6 and the return in Sydney on November 14.
How did they qualify? Winners of qualifying group The Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Group stage 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014
Narrow wins in their home fixtures and goalless draws on the road seem to be the story of Iran’s final phase of qualifying – which they completed unbeaten in 10 games.
It was hardly spectacular stuff but the mission was accomplished and they’ll try and reach the knockout stage for the first time in Russia.
How did they qualify? Runners-up in qualifying Group B Last appearance: 2006 Best performance: Round of 16 1994
It was a close run thing for the second spot behind Japan in Group B, with Saudi Arabia edging out Australia by just two on the goal difference.
They make it to a finals for the first time since Germany 2006 and that despite losing three of their 10 matches.
How did they qualify? Winners of qualifying Group B Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Round of 16 2002 and 2010
A 2-0 home win over Australia booked their place at Russia 2018 and made it six tournaments on the bounce for Japan.
They took top spot despite a couple of defeats but could well be the strongest of the Asian contenders at the tournament.
How did they qualify? Runners-up in qualifying Group A Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Fourth place 2002
A record of four wins from five at home helped to offset three defeats on the road as South Korea edged surprise package Syria to claim the second spot.
A reliable presence at finals, South Korea are heading to their ninth tournament in succession.
WHAT NEXT IN ASIA?
Australia has advanced to the Inter-Confederation play-off against Honduras, the fourth-best North American country, after defeating Syria 3-2 on aggregate in the Asian playoff.
The first leg will be played on November 6 and the return on November 14.
How did they qualify? Winners of qualifying group E Last appearance: 1990 Best performance: First round 1934, 1990
There were jubilant scenes across Egypt after a 95th-minute penalty beat Congo on Sunday and delivered them to a first World Cup finals since Italia ’90.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scored five goals in the final phase of qualifying as they topped a group that contained Uganda, Ghana, and Congo.
How did they qualify? Winners of qualifying group B Last appearance: 2014 Best performance: Round of 16 1994, 1998, 2014
Four wins from five games delivered Nigeria to the finals at the top of Group B as they finished ahead of Zambia, Cameroon, and Algeria.
With the likes of Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi and John Obi Mikel, there will be plenty of Premier League interest in Nigeria’s fortunes next summer.
WHAT NEXT IN AFRICA?
The final round of fixtures takes place next month with three qualification spots still up for grabs.
In Group A, Tunisia is in pole position as they sit three points ahead of DR Congo and conclude with a home fixture against eliminated Libya.
The match between Ivory Coast and Morocco on November 11 will decide who qualifies from Group C.
Senegal has a two-point lead over Burkina Faso and Cape Verde in Group D. Senegal must yet play South Africa twice after their first meeting was ordered replayed.