World Cup Qualifications Europe
Europe has the highest number of World Cup berths, with 13 places available to the teams in the qualifying matches. There are 55 European National teams competing in the qualifications, each ranked with coefficient (based on performances at international competitions). The rankings will be considered when the teams are seeded into five groups of six and five groups of five.
The groups play a home and away robin-round (which means that all teams play against each other). At the end of the group stages, the team that won the group automatically qualifies for the competition proper, whilst the runners up proceed to a playoff.
In the group stage, teams are given 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points when they lose a match, at the end of the qualifying group stage, if there is a tie break, then the team with the higher goal difference will win. If the goal difference is equal, then the team that scored more goals will be determined winner.
If there is a tie break and the teams cannot be distinguished by goal difference or scored goals, then the following tie breaks will be used:
- The greater number of points won in the fixtures between the tied teams
- The goal difference in the fixtures between the tied teams
- The greater number of goals scored in the fixtures between the tied teams
- The away goals in the fixtures between the tied teams
If the teams are still tied after all the tie breakers are examined, then the teams have a playoff (assuming that the playoff fits in the schedule, if not then the winner will be determined by the committee).
The ten group winners secure their places in the World Cup competition proper, and there are three more places that can be won in the playoffs.
The ten teams are joined by the highest ranking group winners from the previous UEFA Nations League, and the twelve teams are seeded into three groups, which play a one match knockout semi-final and final.
The three winners from the three separate knockout rounds join the ten group winners to participate in the World Cup.
World Cup European Qualifying Fixtures
The fixtures for the European qualification for the World Cup start in March preceding the year of the main event. The matches are played out periodically, with each team playing two matches in the allocated weeks for the qualifying matches. There are four weeks that are played during the regular domestic football league season, these are the international breaks. There are four international breaks during the regular season, these are played out in the second week of September, the third week of October, the third week of November and the fourth week in March.
During the regular season, some clubs try to pressure the national football teams to not play their top players, which can affect the European World Cup qualifications, as some players try to use the break to recover their strength for the league. However, the opposite can be seen, with some players using the international break as a way of reclaiming form, and they will find motivation playing with their fellow patriates.
This makes the fixtures all the more interesting, as they can bring out the best in poorly performing top stars but also they can be the stage for the underdogs, who revel in the opportunity to play against the best football teams in the world, and an upset could put them in the spotlight.
European Teams to Look Out For
Coming into the World Cup qualification rounds on the back of a successful UEFA European Cup, the Italian national team will look to secure qualification to the 2022 World Cup. They finished a close second in their group to underdogs Switzerland. Despite some of their core squad approaching or into their thirties, in Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Ciro Imobile, Jorginho and Marco Verratti, Italy are a team to be watched.
Belgium have had a strong squad for the past few years now, with players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Yannick Carrasco and Thorgan Hazard (who has taken his brother Eden's position after a year of injuries and underperforming in Real Madrid). Belgium qualified for the World Cup without too much resistance, they did not lose one of their group matches, and currently rank number one in the coefficients. They have never won a World Cup, but came third last time around, and will surely be looking to clinch their first.
France are the defending champions of the World Cup, having won it in 2018, but they had a forgettable run in the UEFA European Cup in 2020, where they were knocked out by underdogs Switzerland in the round of 16 on penalty kicks. They boast one of the most valuable teams, with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, N’golo Kante and Karim Benzemma, who has recently been called up for the national squad (after he was found guilty of blackmailing a teammate and was removed from the squad).
They finished fourth place in the previous World Cup and missed out on a UEFA European Cup when they lost on penalties to Italy in the final. The sentiment from the fans was that “Football will come home” and the fans believed that finally their time had come. The English team is still a young team, with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden, Alexander Arnold-Trent and Mason Mount all under 25 years old. There are also players such as Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling, making England the most valuable national team in the world. They will enter the World Cup as strong favourites after coming so far in their two previous international competitions.
The Spanish team dominated the European and World football competitions from 2008-2012 when they won one World Cup and two European Cups. The team has changed a lot since then, with many players retired or too old to be considered for national selection. However, the Spanish team still has some top quality players in Sergio Busquets, Rodri, Koke, Saul Niguez, Ayzmeric Laporte and Cesar Azpilicueta. They topped their group and have secured their berth in the World Cup.
Portugal looked set to win their group in the qualification group stage, but after a disappointing last two games, they were beaten to the top by Serbia. This means they will have to proceed to the playoffs. With a strong youth oriented team with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernado Silva, Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias, they are captained by the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo, who will look to add the final piece of silverware that has eluded him throughout his career.
Germany can feel hard done by, as they are ranked 11th on the Coefficients. They were in one of the groups of six teams, and made a statement in only losing one match, scoring 36 goals to the 4 that they conceded. They had an unflattering run in the previous World Cup, where they lost in the group stages, finishing last in a group that consisted of Sweden, Mexico and South Korea. With a change in management, the team is now coached by Hans-Dieter Flick, who had great success with Bayern Munich. The team is full of younger and older top players, including: Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry.