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The Roar


World Cup qualifying: 12 teams locked in, Euro playoff seedings, dates and how it works

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17th November, 2021

The Netherlands have booked their place at next year’s FIFA World Cup after a dramatic conclusion to European qualifying left several big guns facing the playoffs.

Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay scored late goals in a 2-=0 defeat of Norway to secure top spot in their group and return to the tournament after missing out in 2018.

They had been eight minutes from securing early qualification on Sunday before giving up two goals to draw in Montenegro but Wednesday’s victory in an empty stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions was enough to win Group G.

Bergwijn broke the stalemate in a cagey match in the 84th minute, running onto a pass by Arnaut Danjuma and smashing a powerful shot past Orjan Nyland.

In stoppage time, Bergwijn surged forward and laid off a pass for Depay to seal the victory with a shot from a tight angle.

The Netherlands finished with 23 points from 10 games, two more than Turkey, who won 2-1 away to Montenegro to secure a play-off spot.

Norway ended third in the group with 18 points.


In Cardiff, Wales held Belgium to a 1-1 draw to guarantee themselves runners-up spot behind the world’s top-ranked nation in Group E.

Kieffer Moore cancelled out Kevin de Bruyne’s early opener to earn the Welsh the point they required to stay in front of the Czech Republic, who beat Estonia 2-0.

Despite having already assured themselves of a place in the playoffs next March courtesy of their Nations League results, finishing second in the group means Wales could enjoy a more favourable play-off semi-final draw.

Belgium, who won the group with 20 points, appeared content to maintain their long unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers which now stretches to 28 games.

Wales are trying to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958.

Meanwhile, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe were on target again in a sharp second-half performance as already qualified France completed their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 away win against Finland.

The French attack stuttered until Benzema came on as a second-half substitute and Mbappe set him up for the opener.

Mbappe then scored France’s second as the world champions finished Group D with 18 points from eight games.


Finland, who were hoping to secure a play-off spot, ended up third, behind Ukraine who beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 away to take second place.

The 12 countries in the playoffs will play next March in three four-team brackets, with the seeded teams getting a home game in the bracket semi-finals.

There are some big names having to go through the playoffs including European champions Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

There were some crucial top-of-the-table deciders in the final round of fixtures, with Serbia scoring a 90th-minute winner to pip Portugal to first place, and both Spain and Croatia netting late on to edge their respective closest challengers Sweden and Russia.


In a thrilling conclusion to qualifying, Switzerland also took full advantage of Italy’s draw against Northern Ireland to take Group C.

This is the state of play

The following nations have secured their place at the 2022 World Cup: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Qatar (hosts).

Who is in the Euro play-offs, when are they and how do they work?

Three more European nations will join the 10 already qualified, with playoffs involving 10 runners-up and two Nations League teams in the play-offs.

Scotland’s superb closing victory over Denmark ensured they will be one of the six seeded sides granted a home draw for the play-offs, which take place next March, while Wales’s draw against the world’s number one ranked side Belgium to secure a home draw of their own.

Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Russia join Scotland and Wales as the seeded play-off nations.

The unseeded nations are Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria and Czech Republic.

The play-offs will begin with six single-leg semi-final matches played between 24 and 25 March 2022.


The six semi-finals are split into three paths, leading to three play-off finals – also decided by a single match – which will take place between 28 and 29 March.

Rest of the world

Brazil have become the first South American nation to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, doing so with six qualifiers to play following a 1-0 win over Colombia.

Brazil coach Tite’s side have dropped just two points from 12 games and are nine points clear of second-placed Argentina.

Meanwhile, Ecuador are four points clear of Chile, Colombia and Uruguay in the race to guarantee qualification with a top-four finish.

The United States, Mexico and Canada occupy the top three automatic qualification places in the race to decide which North American, Central American and the Caribbean nations will be present in Qatar, though Panama are within striking distance at two points behind Canada.

In Asia, where qualifying will resume in January, 16 points from a possible 18 ensure Saudi Arabia top a difficult Group B – which also includes Japan, in second, and third-placed Australia.

Over in Group A the top two have a significant margin with Iran, who have also dropped just two points, leading South Korea. Meanwhile, Qatar automatically qualify as hosts.

In Africa, five qualification places will be decided by five two-legged play-off matches due to take place in March.


Mohamed Salah’s Egypt will be one of the sides involved, as will Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

(With AAP)