Category Archives: world cup

2022 World Cup Update – Playoffs

There’s three spots left in the World Cup. Who’s playing, where, and when, you ask? Well, here’s the low-down.


Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine shortly before the UEFA Second Round started, the matches involving Ukraine were postponed (and Russia was kicked out). In Path A, Wales has already defeated Austria. The Scotland vs. Ukraine matchup is currently scheduled to be made up on June 1st in Glasgow. The winner will then play Wales in Cardiff on June 5th for a spot in the World Cup.

Since the World Cup draw has already taken place, the winner of the three will kick off the Finals against the United States on November 21st.


Meanwhile, in Asia there’s two teams playing off for a spot in the playoffs. On June 7th, the United Arab Emirates and Australia will play in Qatar for AFC’s “half” spot.

Interconfederation Play-offs

Four teams will contest the remaining two spots on June 13th and 14th. Along with the AFC Fourth Round, these contests are being used a dry-run for the World Cup, and will all be played in Qatar.

First, the AFC winner will play Peru. The winner of that match will kick off the World Cup Finals against France on November 22nd.

A day later, Costa Rica will play New Zealand. Each contest is a single leg, and the winner advances directly to the World Cup, completing the field. They’ll also play Spain in on November 23rd.

2022 World Cup Update

Hey, I definitely haven’t done of these in a while. So here’s the situation.

The World Cup will happen in Qatar in November of this year. It’s pretty close! Plus, as you might guess, a certain worldwide pandemic delayed most confederation’s qualifying tournaments. Let’s review the action so far, broken down by confederation.

And don’t forget: I have the status of every member of FIFA right here, including the date they either qualified or were eliminated. Take a look!


46 countries from Asia began competing in 2019 for four spots directly in the final field of 32 and one playoff spot. Asian qualifying was some of the first qualifying to be played, with the first qualifier for the 2022 World Cup taking place on June 6, 2019 between Mongolia and Brunei. (Mongolia won 2-0.) This was part of the first round series of home-and-home legs between the bottom 12 teams in the AFC.

The winners of those ties joined the other 34 countries in the second round. These 40 teams were then drawn into eight groups of five, with each team playing the other teams in their group twice.  These matches were played starting in September 2019 and were disrupted by the pandemic. and were resumed in 2021. Qatar, as the host country, also participated since the matches doubled as qualifiers for the AFC’s cup competition. Qatar won their group, so their group’s runner up (Oman) advanced, along with 4 other second-place teams to the third round.

The third round drew the 12 remaining teams into two groups of six, playing a double-round-robin. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the World Cup, and the third place teams will playoff for a spot in the playoff. Currently, only Iran has qualified. Later on in this post I have the scenarios for the next matchday in the AFC.


The bulk of African qualifying has been competed. The first round began with the 28 lowest ranked teams competing in home-and-home legs with the winner on aggregate advancing to the second round. These matches were competed in September 2019.

The second round, originally scheduled for 2020, was moved to September 2021. The second round consisted of 10 groups of 4 playing double-round-robin matches, with the 10 group winners advancing to the third round.

CAF’s third round is particularly brutal. Africa gets five spots in the World Cup, and so the 5 home-and-home matches will determine who qualifies. These matches will take place in late March, and feature a mix of classically strong African teams and some newcomers:

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


The confederation that’s home to North and Central America, and the Caribbean, originally envisioned a crazy final round designed to keep the smaller teams interested. The pandemic scuttled those plans, so I’ll focus on the format that actually happened.

The first round took place in March and June of 2021. The 30 lowest ranked teams were drawn into 6 groups of five, and played 4 single-round-robin matches. The group winners advanced to the second round.

The second round took place in late March 2021. The six group winners were paired off and played home-and-home matches, with the winner advancing on aggregate goals. None of these were particularly close: El Salvador advance 6-0 on aggregate, Canada advanced 4-0 on aggregate, and Panama advanced 2-1 on aggregate (with a shutout in the second leg). These three joined the top five ranked teams in CONCACAF for the third round, which is still on-going. The eight teams are playing a double-round-robin with the top three teams advancing directly to the World Cup, and the fourth place team advancing to a playoff. While no one can clinch in this window, Honduras has been eliminated and Jamaica can be eliminated on Wednesday. (See below.)


South America yet again has the most elegant qualifying format. The 10 teams play a double-round-robin. The top four advance directly to the World Cup, while the fifth place team goes to a playoff.

Despite a dustup in a match where Brazilian health officials tried to arrest Argentine players five minutes after the game started, both of South America’s top teams have already qualified. (Both are also undefeated.) The 10 teams will play again in the current international window, and then wrap up in March.


Many countries in Oceania have been the most cautious about the pandemic. Therefore, OFC qualifying hasn’t actually started yet. Of the 11 full members of the OFC, two (American Samoa and Samoa) did not enter, and Tonga withdrew after the recent volcanic disaster that hit the country. This leaves eight teams, including World Cup debutantes Cook Islands. The eight teams are divided into two groups of four. They will then play a single-round-robin and the two group winners will advance to a knockout tournament.

The tournament will take place entirely in Qatar from March 17 through March 30. The winner of tournament will then advance to a playoff against the 4th place team from CONCACAF. To put it mildly, if New Zealand is not the team that comes out of the OFC it will be one of the greatest shocks in the history of international soccer.


The major part of European qualifying is complete. Eight groups of 5 or 6 teams competed in the first round from March through November of 2021. The group winners qualified directly for the World Cup. The group runners up, and two third place teams that won their UEFA Nations League groups (trust me, figuring out when anyone in Europe was eliminated was complicated) advanced to the second round.

The 12 second round teams were drawn into three “paths”, where each path is essentially a 4 team knockout tournament that will take place in March. The three path winners will advance to the World Cup. And let me tell you, there’s some doozies. Here’s the three paths:

Path A

  • Scotland vs. Ukraine
  • Wales vs. Austria

Path B

  • Russia vs. Poland
  • Sweden vs. Czechia

Path C

  • Italy vs. North Macedonia
  • Portugal vs. Turkey

So yeah, probably Italy vs. Portugal with the World Cup on the line. Should be fun!

With that, we’ve completed our tour of the confederations’ formats. Let’s take a look at what could happen in the current window.

On the next matchday:

AFC (Tuesday, February 1)

Group A
South Korea can clinch with with a win over Syria.
South Korea can clinch with an United Arab Emirates loss or draw to Iran.
Syria will be eliminated with a loss.
Syria will be eliminated with an United Arab Emirates win over or draw with Iran.
Iraq will be eliminated with an United Arab Emirates win over Iran and a loss to Lebanon.
Lebanon will be eliminated with an United Arab Emirates win over Iran and a loss to Iraq.

Group B
Saudi Arabia can clinch with a win over Japan and an Australia loss to Oman.
Oman will be eliminated with a loss to Australia.
China will be eliminated with an Australia win or draw over Oman.

CONCACAF (Wednesday, February 2)
Jamaica will be eliminated with a Panama win over Mexico.
Jamaica will be eliminated with a loss to Costa Rica.

CONMEBOL (Tuesday, February 1)
Ecuador can clinch with a win over Peru and an Uruguay loss to Venezuela.
Bolivia will be eliminated with a loss to Chile, a Peru win over Ecaudor, and an Uruguay win over Venezuela.
Paraguay will be eliminated with a loss to Brazil and an Uruguay win over or draw with Venezeula.
Venezuela will be eliminated with a loss to Uruguay.

2018 World Cup Update: A Quick Survey of 2016 Results

So I haven’t done one of these since last March, and in the interim, there’s been a fair amount of qualifying going on. I’ve updated the status page so that we’re current through last Tuesday.

As usual, let’s go confederation-by-confederation and make some quick observations, since it’s still too early to eliminate anyone.

In Group A, things are going pretty according to plan, at least in terms of the top three teams. However, the order may not be what you expect, with Uzbekistan currently in second with 9 points and South Korea in third with 7 points. Also, Iran leads that group with 10 points. They’re four games in, so there’s still six to go. I don’t really expect Syria, Qatar, or China to make any late pushes, though one can continue to marvel at just how bad China is at men’s soccer. They’ve got 1 draw (against Iran, at home) and 3 losses. I would not be shocked if they finished at the bottom of the group.

Over in Group B, it’s a similar story. Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Japan lead the group with 10, 8, and 7 points, respectively. However, the United Arab Emirates are right there with 6 points. Behind there are Iraq with 3 points and a very woeful Thailand. (Seriously, if China’s got anything going for them, it’s that they probably won’t be the first team eliminated from this round of Asian qualifying.) I expect the teams currently in the top three to finish in the top three, but it’ll take some time to figure out how it’ll shake out.

African qualifying finally got under way this month, however, after November the five groups of four won’t resume until next August due to the African Cup of Nations next summer. So honestly, there’s not much to talk about, but I’ll mention two things.

  • Egypt is in the same group as Ghana. Recall that it was Ghana that brutally (7-3 on aggregate) eliminated the Egyptians from their inspired run to the last round of African qualifying during the last World Cup cycle. They will play in Alexandria in November.
  • Qualifying geeks will remember Cape Verde from four years ago, when in their last game in the second round of qualifying, they appeared to beat Tunisia 2-0, eliminating Tunisia. However, they fielded a player who was on a four game suspension due to a red card and related actions, so the game was awarded to Tunisia. Tunisia wound losing 4-1 on aggregate to Cameroon. This time around, Cape Verde started off with a 2-0 loss to Senegal.

The CONCACAF fourth round concluded back in September, with no real surprises. The group winners were Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States. The group runners-up were Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. Notable misses were Canada and Guatemala, which wound up a point short in their groups. 

The firth round, or Hexagonal, kicks off in about a month. I’ll be in Columbus, Ohio at the time. In a stunning coincidence, the US will also play Mexico there at the same time. I’m looking forward to it.

That said, if I had to pick the qualifiers, I think Mexico, the US, and Costa Rica will qualify, with Panama in fourth. Honduras just hasn’t been the same since their 2014 World Cup run. In addition to the Mexico game, the US will go on the road to Costa Rica the following Tuesday, so that’ll be two very important games right away.

We’re just past half way through the South American qualifiers, with 10 matches played and 8 to go. And boy howdy, the table is currently a doozy. Brazil is on top with 21 points, which makes sense until you remember that they’ve had an awful run of it since the 2014 World Cup and just fired their coach after the Copa America Centenario. Uruguay is in second with 20 points, followed by Ecuador and Colombia with 17. Okay, makes sense so far, but it seems like there’s two teams missing. Well, Argentina is fifth with 16 points. Messi currently has 1 goal from the run of play. Paraguay is behind them with 15 points, and then finally the team that went into the start of qualifying as Copa America champs and then reconfirmed it this past summer, Chile, is in 7th with 14 points. They’re 1-1-2 since qualifying resumed.

The matchdays for November look pretty bonkers. On the 10th, Chile plays at Colombia, Ecuador plays at Uruguay, and Argentina will visit Brazil. Five days later, you’ll get Colombia at Argentina and Uruguay at Chile. Seriously, watch these games if you get a chance.

They’ll actually play some games in November, but nonetheless if New Zealand loses any of them it’d be a shocking upset.

Europe finally started qualifying back in September and we’re three games in. Let’s go over the groups real quick. Thanks to Gibraltar and Kosovo gaining entrance to FIFA, Europe now features 9 groups of 6. The top team qualifies directly, the top-eight runners-up are paired up and played-off for the remaining four spots from Europe.

Group A features France, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The Dutch are fresh off not qualifying for the Euros this past summer and aren’t off to great that of a start here, sitting on a loss to France, a draw with Sweden, and a victory over Belarus.

Group B features Swizerland and Portugal. I don’t anticipate any other team coming close here. Ronaldo scoring four goals against Andorra might be the most notable thing that’s happened so far. Well, other than them losing to the Swiss.

Group C features Germany and some other teams. Right now Azerbaijan is in second with 7 points, but don’t expect that to hold with Norway, the Czech Republic, and Northern Ireland in the mix. This is definitely a competition for second place, though.

Group D features Serbia, Ireland, and one of Euro 2016’s darlings, Wales. However, the Welsh are off to a pretty disappointing start, drawing with Georgia their last time out.

Group E is a group in UEFA’s qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Montenegro is currently tied with Poland on 7 points for the group. Denmark is currently sitting fourth with just 3 points.

Group F features England, who are currently in the lead, meaning that English fans still aren’t happen since they only have seven of nine possible points. (And even then…) Scotland is also there, but really the teams to look out for are Slovenia and Slovakia, which of course ignores the team actually in second right now: Lithuania.

Group G is Spain and Italy. There are four other teams, which are Albania, Israel, Macednia, and Liechtenstein, but let’s be serious, this is about which of Spain and Italy gets to qualify directly for the World Cup.

Group H features an apparently fully functional battlestation in the form of Belgium, which has 9 points. That said, the rest of the group isn’t much to look at . Greece also has 9 points, then there’s Bosnia and Estonia, and, well, Cyprus and World Cup qualifying newbies Gibraltar. Hey, you guys wanted in, right?

Group I is our final group, and it will probably be pretty spicy. Croatia and Iceland are currently in the lead, but Ukraine and Turkey are right there. This one should be pretty wide open.

That’s about it, for now. We’ll wrap things up for the year after next month’s games. Until then, back to our regularly scheduled college football programming.

What Does It Take to Advance At the World Cup?

Five points.

Since the current 32-team format was implemented for the 1998 World Cup, five points is dividing line between advancement and disappointment.

Some background: before the 1994 World Cup, two points were awarded for a win and one point for a draw. What happened? Well, the 1990 World Cup was basically the soccer equivalent of the 1968 baseball season: defenses were dominant and no one felt super inclined to score. To try to encourage more goals, the value for a win was increased to three points for 1994.

Since the tournament still had 24-teams in 1994, I decided to simply look at the data going back to 1998. Here are the results:

Adv % Did Not % Total
0 0 0% 10 100% 10
1 0 0% 18 100% 18
2 0 0% 7 100% 7
3 1 5.56% 17 94.44% 18
4 11 47.83% 12 52.17% 23
5 15 100% 0 0% 15
6 11 100% 0 0% 11
7 16 100% 0 0% 15
9 10 100% 0 0% 10

So the takeaway is obvious: get five and you’re golden. Of course, that still requires going undefeated. Four points is basically a gamble, especially since that’s also the only score that has come down to goal differential.

You might be wondering: who the heck got three points and advanced? Chile in 1998. After drawing all three of their group stage games, they got demolished by Brazil 4-1 in the first knockout stage.

And finally, I was going to do a full day-by-day schedule run-down for various time zones, but there’s already a better-designed website doing that for me. The only thing really lacking is TV info, but at least in the US you have a one-in-three chance of getting that right anyway (ESPN, ESPN2, or ABC).

2014 World Cup Update: Commentary and Selected Scenarios for 10/15

Editor’s note: this was my draft going into last night, but some stuff came up and I could not finish it. I just wanted to publish the work I did for posterity. A proper wrap-up post will come soon.

Lots of stuff is bound to go down on Tuesday. Let’s have a look.


Nothing will conclude in Africa on the 15th, with the return leg of all the matches taking place in November. That said, we can talk about the early results. (INSERT)


The US has secured the top of the table going into their match against Panama. First, let’s talk scenarios.

Team W D L GF GA Diff Pts
United States 6 1 2 12 6 +6 19
Costa Rica 4 3 2 11 6 +5 15
Honduras 4 2 3 11 10 +1 14
Mexico 2 5 2 6 7 -1 11
Panama 1 5 3 8 11 -3 8
Jamaica 0 4 5 3 11 -8 4

No matter what, Honduras can do worse than 4th place, so they have a spot in the inter-confederation playoff against New Zealand at least. Costa Rica already has a ticket to Brazil.

  • Honduras can clinch a spot in the World Cup Final with a win or draw against Jamaica.
  • Honduras can clinch with any Mexico draw or loss to Costa Rica.
  • Mexico can clinch a spot in the World Cup Final with a win over Costa Rica and a Honduras loss to Jamaica. Mexico would also need to win by at least two goals.
  • Mexico can clinch a spot in the Inter-Confederation Playoff with any win or draw.
  • Mexico can clinch a spot in the Inter-Confederation Playoff with any Panama draw or loss to the United States.
  • Panama can clinch a spot in the playoff with a win over the United States and a Mexico loss. Panama would need to beat the US by at least two goals. There are scenarios where Panama can prevail over Mexico if they finish with the same goal difference, provided Mexico does not overtake them in terms of total goals scored.


Colombia clinched on Friday. The remaining three non-eliminated teams can do no worse than the Inter-Confederation playoff against Jordan. The remaining matches that matter are Chile vs. Ecuador and Uruguay vs. Argentina.

  • Ecuador and Chile will clinch a spot in the Final with any Uruguay draw or loss to Argentina.
  • Ecuador and Chile will clinch a spot in the Final if they draw against each other.
  • Uruguay can only clinch a spot in the final if there is a loser in the Ecuador-Chile match and if they beat Argentina. In that case, it will come down to goal difference. Uruguay currently has a –1 differential, while Ecuador is at +5 and Chile is at +3.