SINGAPORE - With the 2018 Russia World Cup Finals less than a year away, the long qualifying campaigns are beginning to draw to a close. Which countries have already booked a spot in the Finals? Which major footballing nation is in danger of missing out? The Straits Times takes a look at the scenarios amid the qualifiers from each continent.
CONFEDERATION OF AFRICAN FOOTBALL (CAF)
Fifty-three teams competing for five places
LIKELY TO QUALIFY: Nigeria, Ivory Coast
ELIMINATED: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo.
IN DANGER: Ghana - With just two points from three matches, Ghana are losing grip on a place at the World Cup. Previous draws with Congo and Uganda, and a 0-2 loss to Egypt - all upcoming opponents - threaten the Black Stars' possibility of a third consecutive appearance at the Finals.
ASIAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION (AFC)
Forty-six teams competing for four places plus one play-off spot against Concacaf
QUALIFIED: Iran, Japan
LIKELY TO QUALIFY: South Korea, Australia
LIKELY TO FACE OFF FOR PLAY-OFF SPOT: Syria, Saudi Arabia
ELIMINATED: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, North Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Laos, Lebanon, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikstan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Yemen.
UNION OF EUROPEAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATIONS (Uefa)
Fifty-four teams competing for 13 places. Nine group leaders advance, top eight second-placed teams enter play-offs for four places.
QUALIFIED: Russia (automatic qualification as hosts)
LIKELY TO QUALIFY: France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England
LIKELY TO ADVANCE (PLAY-OFF): Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Northern Ireland, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Republic of Ireland.
ELIMINATED: Luxembourg, Faroe Islands, Andorra, Latvia, San Marino, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malta, Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, Finland, Kosovo.
IN DANGER: The Netherlands - Following Sept 2's 0-3 loss to France, the second runners-up at the 2014 World Cup were six points behind Group A leaders France (16), and three points behind second-placed Sweden (13). However, a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria on Monday (Sept 4) saw them close on the gap to Sweden to just three points. It is set for a final showdown in Amsterdam between the Dutch and Swedes on Oct 10 for a place in the play-offs. But first, the Netherlands must give themselves a fighting chance by defeating Belarus on Oct 7.
CONFEDERATION OF NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL (Concacaf)
Thirty-five teams competing for three places, plus one play-off spot against AFC.
LIKELY TO QUALIFY: Costa Rica
ELIMINATED: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent/Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands.
IN DANGER: United States - A 0-2 rout by Costa Rica on Sept 2 left The Stars and Stripes on eight points, placed third. Should they slip up in their three remaining matches, Honduras (eight points) and Panama (seven points) will be ready to pounce.
OCEANIA FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION (OCF)
Eleven teams competing for a play-off spot against Conmebol
LIKELY TO ADVANCE: New Zealand
ELIMINATED: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu
SOUTH AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION (Conmebol)
Ten teams competing for four places, plus one play-off spot against OCF
LIKELY TO QUALIFY: Colombia, Uruguay, Chile
ELIMINATED: Bolivia, Venezuela
IN DANGER: Argentina - Lionel Messi and Co are struggling in the qualifiers, behind Chile on goal difference (both on 23 points) for the fourth and final direct-entry spot into the 2018 Finals. With both Peru and Paraguay just two points behind, the 2014 World Cup runners-up can ill afford to make any slip-ups in their remaining three matches.