European Qualifiers for World Cup: who can join Belgium?

Belgium are the first UEFA nation to join hosts Russia but who needs what to join them at next summer's finals? We explain the permutations.

Spain secured a top-two finish with a big win in Liechtenstein
Spain secured a top-two finish with a big win in Liechtenstein ©AFP/Getty Images

Belgium have become the first UEFA nation to join hosts Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup but who needs what to join them at next summer's finals from the remaining European Qualifiers? With the penultimate games in October, we explain the permutations.

Road to Russia: schedule

  • Pay-off draw (Zurich): 17 October
  • Play-off first leg: 9–11 November
  • Play-off second leg: 12–14 November
  • Final tourmant draw (Moscow): 1 December
  • Final tournament (Russia): 14 June–15 July

Which European teams have qualified?

Russia (hosts), Belgium

Who can still qualify automatically?

Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany (holders)*, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Netherlands, Northern Ireland**, Poland, Portugal*, Scotland, Serbia**, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain*, Sweden, Switzerland*, Turkey, Ukraine, Wales

*Have at least clinched a play-off
**Will finish in top two of group

Who can still make the play-offs?

Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece

Who is out of contention?

Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Faroe Islands, Finland, FYR Macedonia, Georgia, Gibraltar, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Norway, Romania, San Marino

Who has qualified from outside Europe?

Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Saudi Arabia

Group by group permutations ...

THURSDAY 5 OCTOBER

Group C
18:00CET: Azerbaijan (10) v Czech Republic (9)
20:45CET: San Marino (0) v Norway (7), Northern Ireland (19) v Germany (24)

  • Germany, with eight wins from eight,  are assured a play-off. Northern Ireland are also guaranteed to finish in the top two but are not yet guaranteed a play-off. The sides meet in Belfast next time out, with world champions Germany requiring a point to qualify for Russia.

Group E
18:00CET: Armenia (6) v Poland (19)
20:45CET: Romania (9) v Kazakhstan (2), Montenegro (16) v Denmark (16)

  • Poland need a point to guarantee a top-two finish. They will clinch the group if they win and Denmark draw in Montenegro.

Group F
20:45CET: Scotland (14) v Slovakia (15), England (20) v Slovenia (14), Malta (0) v Lithuania (5)

  • England qualify if they win, or if they draw and Slovakia do not win. Regardless they would guarantee a top-two finish with a draw, or even if they lose should Scotland and Slovakia draw.
  • Slovakia will secure second place if they beat Scotland and Slovenia lose to England.

FRIDAY 6 OCTOBER

Group D
18:00CET: Georgia (5) v Wales (14)
20:45CET: Republic of Ireland (13) v Moldova (2), Austria (9) v Serbia (18)

  • Serbia will qualify if they win, or if they draw and both Wales and Ireland fail to win, or if Wales lose and Ireland fail to win.
  • Wales will secure a top-two spot if they win and the Republic of Ireland do not. Austria must defeat Serbia and hope Ireland and Wales fail to win to stay in contention for second place.

Group G
20:45CET: Liechtenstein (0) v Israel (9), Italy (19) v FYR Macedonia (7), Spain (22) v Albania (13)

  • Spain, assured of a top-two finish, will qualify if they better Italy's result. Italy will be guaranteed at least second place if they draw.

Group I
20:45CET: Kosovo (1) v Ukraine (14), Turkey (14) v Iceland (16), Croatia (16) v Finland (7)

  • Turkey and Ukraine will be eliminated if they lose and Croatia win. That scenario would guarantee Croatia and Iceland finishing in the top two.

SATURDAY 7 OCTOBER

Group A
18:00CET: Sweden (16) v Luxembourg (5)
20:45CET: Belarus (5) v Netherlands (13), Bulgaria (12) v France (17)

  • France will clinch the group if they win and Sweden lose. France would guarantee a top-two finish if they win, while a draw could be enough provided the Netherlands fail to beat Belarus.
  • Sweden will secure a top-two finish if Bulgaria fail to beat France and Sweden pick up more points than the Netherlands manage against Belarus.
  • The Netherlands will be out if they fail to at least match Sweden's result.
  • Bulgaria will stay in the hunt with a win. If they fail to triumph and Sweden pick up a point against Luxembourg, they will be out.

Group B
18:00CET: Faroe Islands (8) v Latvia (3)
20:45CET: Andorra (4) v Portugal (21), Switzerland (24) v Hungary (10)

  • Switzerland (yet to drop a point) and Portugal are certain to finish in the top two and at worst will be in the play-offs.
  • With three points separating the pair with two games to go, Portugal must at least match Switzerland's result to keep hopes alive of top spot. Portugal, who have a far superior goal difference, host Switzerland to end the group on 10 October.

Group H
18:00CET: Gibraltar (0) v Estonia (8), Bosnia and Herzegovina (14) v Belgium (22)
20:45CET: Cyprus (10) v Greece (13)

  • Belgium have clinched a finals place with two games to spare.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina will seal second spot if they win and Greece lose.
  • Cyprus must win and hope Bosnia and Herzegovina drop points, or draw and hope Bosnia and Herzegovina lose.

How teams are split
(from competition regulations, article 20.6)

a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches
b) goal difference in all group matches
c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings shall be determined as follows:
d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned
e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned
f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned
g) the goals scored away from home count double between the teams concerned (if the tie is only between two teams)
h) fair play points system in which the number of yellow and red cards in all group matches is considered according to the following deduction – first yellow card: minus 1 point – second yellow card/indirect red card: minus 3 points – direct red card: minus 4 points – yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points
i) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.