What dates are European World Cup 2022 qualification matches taking place?
Matchday 1, 2 & 3: March 2021.
Matchday 4, 5 & 6: September 2021.
Matchday 7 & 8: October 2021.
Matchday 9 & 10: November 2021.
Play-off semi-finals & finals: March 2022.
European World Cup 2022 Qualification: What is the format?
13 European teams will qualify for FIFA World Cup 2022.
All 55 nations take part in qualifying and have been drawn into ten groups, A-J.
The ten group winners will qualify automatically for FIFA World Cup 2022.
The ten group runners-up will advance to the play-offs.
In the play-offs, they’ll be joined by the two best Nations League group winners that didn’t finish first or second in their qualification group.
The 12 teams in the play-offs are drawn into three paths, A,B & C, which all feature a single-elimination semi-finals and a final.
Thus, just three spots are available via the play-offs, adding to the importance of being a group winner.
Group A: Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg & Azerbaijan
Portugal haven’t failed to qualify for a World Cup this century and that is a record they’ll be confident of maintaining.
In 2016, they won their first-ever major trophy, by winning the European Championships, before claiming the inaugural UEFA Nations League trophy three years later.
Overall, Fernando Santos’ side have only just four of their last 53 competitive matches, a run that dates back to 2014.
Thus, they’re likely to cruise to top spot.
Serbia and the Republic of Ireland could be left fighting for second.
Both missed out on qualifying for Euro 2020 by virtue of penalty shootout defeats in the Autumn.
Ireland lost in their play-off semi-final in Slovakia with Scotland the side defeating Serbia.
Thus, both will be desperate to reach Qatar 2022.
Dragan Stojković is Serbia’s new Head Coach, tasked with taking them to a third World Cup Finals since independence 15 years ago.
The Republic of Ireland haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 2002 and their manager, Stephen Kenny, is still looking for his first win in charge after eight matches without one in 2020.
Luxembourg will be confident of beating Azerbaijan to fourth place after taking four points off them in the Nations League earlier this season.
Prediction: Group winner – Portugal. Group runner-up – Serbia.
Group B: Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia & Kosovo
Will Spain continue their imperious form in European qualifiers?
La Roja haven’t failed to qualify for a major tournament since Euro 1992, last missing out on a World Cup in 1974.
That’s because they’ve won 54 of their last 60 qualification matches, last losing one on home soil to Greece in 2003.
Luis Enrique’s squad will also be full of confidence after reaching the UEFA Nations League Finals by topping Group A4 in November.
In fact, last time out, they hammered Germany 6-0 in Seville.
Thus, the rest will be, at best, fighting over second spot with Sweden the favourites to take it.
The Blues and Yellow have qualified for all six Euros this century as well as three World Cups in that time.
Euro 2004 winners Greece would like to think they’ll be their stiffest competition in the race for a top two spot.
However, they’ve tumbled down the world rankings in recent years, failing to qualify for any of the last three major tournaments.
Georgia and Kosovo are unlikely to finish in the top two but both will provide tough opposition for the bigger nations in this group.
Kosovo finished third in their Euro 2020 qualifying group, most notably beating Czech Republic 2-1 at home.
Georgia meanwhile have only lost six of their last 22 competitive matches, one of those defeats being the Euro play-off final against North Macedonia.
Prediction: Group winner- Spain. Group runner-up- Sweden.
Group C: Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria & Lithuania
Having missed out on Russia 2018, Italy will be desperate to avoid some déjà vu.
That was the first time since 1958 that the four-time world champions had missed out on a World Cup Finals.
However, since, Gli Azzurri have rebuilt under Roberto Mancini.
They won ten out of ten in Euro 2020 qualifying and reached the UEFA Nations League Finals last Autumn.
In fact, the Italians are currently enjoying an unbeaten run of 18 competitive games.
Thus, they’re of course big favourites to top Group C.
Switzerland though have a very respectable recent record in qualification campaigns.
Since, 2004, the Swiss have appeared at eight major tournaments, only missing out on Euro 2012.
Vladimir Petković’s has been Head Coach since 2014 and, in that time, they’ve only lost competitive matches to Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Sweden, Slovenia and England.
Northern Ireland will be dreaming of gatecrashing the top two.
The Green and White Army made it to Euro 2016; their first major tournament appearance since Mexico ’86.
Since, they’ve suffered double play-off heartbreak, to Switzerland in 2017 and Slovakia back in November.
Nevertheless, it would be a major surprise if Ian Baraclough’s side even got into the play-offs in this campaign.
Bulgaria and Lithuania are likely to offer little.
The former have won just one of their last 18 competitive outings; for the latter it’s just two victories in 27.
Prediction: Group winner- Italy. Group runner-up- Switzerland.
Group D: France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia & Herzegovina & Kazakhstan
The world champions kick off the defence of their title by welcoming Ukraine to Paris on matchday one.
France lifted their second World Cup in Moscow in 2018 and will be one of the favourites in Qatar too.
Of course, Didier Deschamps’ side have to qualify first but, given their form, they’ll be confident of doing so.
Les Bleus reached the UEFA Nations League Finals in November so will have two opportunities to lift more silverware in 2021.
This means France have won 28 of their last 37 competitive matches, only losing three of those.
France’s first opponents, Ukraine, are likely to be their biggest threat to top spot.
Andriy Shevchenko’s side qualified for Euro 2020 in style, topping their group, including a famous 2-1 win over Portugal in Kyiv.
However, the Yellow and Blue have failed to qualify for any of the last three World Cup Finals, something they’ll be looking to rectify in this campaign.
Finland meanwhile are more excited than anyone for the delayed European Championships to come around.
It’ll be their first major tournament appearance after qualifying for one at the 33rd attempt.
The Helsinki Olympic Stadium could be a tough place to go; they’ve only lost two of their last 13 competitive matches on home soil.
Bosnia & Herzegovina meanwhile are looking to repeat their achievements of 2014 by qualifying for a World Cup.
The Dragons may be fearing finishing second though having lost in the play-offs for World Cup 2010 as well as Euro 2012, 2016 and 2020.
Europe’s most Easterly nation, Kazakhstan, have only ever won 21 of 116 competitive matches so Nur-Sultan may only be a tough place to go geographically speaking.
Prediction: Group winner- France. Group runner-up- Ukraine.
Group E: Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus & Estonia
Group E plays host to the world’s number one ranked team: Belgium.
The Red Devils won bronze at the last World Cup in Russia, their best-ever finish at the tournament.
Overall, they’ve won 33 of their last 37 competitive matches, losing only three times in this period.
But now though, Roberto Martínez’s team are desperate to win their country’s first-ever major trophy.
They’ll have two opportunities to do so in 2021 with the Euros followed by the UEFA Nations League Finals.
Having won 34 of their last 40 qualifiers, they should breeze through this group.
That would leave Wales and Czech Republic fighting it out for second.
Wales haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 1958 but have now reached the last two European Championships, getting all the way to the semi-finals in 2016, defeating Belgium en route.
The Dragons will be full of confidence after winning promotion to UEFA Nations League A in the Autumn, topping Group B4 with 16 points from a possible 18.
Czech Republic did likewise, topping Group B2.
The Czechs have never failed to qualify for a European Championships since independence in 1994 but have only played at one World Cup in this time.
Jaroslav Šilhavý will be desperate to change that.
Belarus and Estonia also met in Euro 2020 qualifying with the away side winning 2-1 Tallinn before a goalless draw in Minsk.
It would be a major surprise if either took points off anyone else in this campaign.
Prediction: Group winner- Belgium. Group runner-up- Wales.
Group F: Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands & Moldova
After making history in 2020, can Scotland make a little more in this campaign?
In November last year, Scotland beat Serbia on penalties in the Euro 2020 play-off final.
Thus, this summer’s tournament will be the Tartan Army’s first since appearing in France at World Cup 1998.
Now, Steve Clark’s side are looking to repeat these heroics in World Cup qualifying.
As the third seeds in this group, they’ll have to topple at least one of the group’s two favourites.
Denmark are the top seeds having qualified for nine of the last 13 major tournaments.
The Red and Whites reached the round of 16 in Russia and qualified for Euro 2020 top of their group.
Kasper Hjulmand took over as Head Coach in September, amassing ten points from six Nations League games including a 1-0 win at Wembley.
Austria meanwhile were promoted to League A in November, finishing top of their group above Norway, Romania and Northern Ireland.
However, despite qualifying for three of the last five Euros, Austria’s last World Cup appearance was 23 years ago.
Israel, Faroe Islands and Moldova have never qualified for a major tournament as a UEFA member and that is unlikely to change.
Prediction: Group winner- Denmark. Group runner-up- Scotland.
Group G: Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia & Gibraltar
With most groups, chances are the top seeds will finish top and the second seeds will finish second.
However, one of the more open sections could be Group G.
Netherlands failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 so will not be taking anything for granted.
Under Ronald Koeman, Oranje reached the UEFA Nations League Final and safely qualified for Euro 2020.
However, since Koeman left to be Barcelona manager, their form has been mixed.
In 2020, under Frank de Boer, they only won three of their six Nations League matches, finishing second behind Italy in Group A1.
Thus, they are of course favourites to top Group G, but it’s no guarantee.
Both Turkey and Norway will fancy their chances of reaching Qatar.
Turkey haven’t qualified for a World Cup since finishing third in 2002 but have reached three Euros since then, including the tournament coming up this summer.
Şenol Güneş’ side qualified for Euro 2020 second in Group H, beating France 2-0 in Konya before drawing 1-1 in Paris.
However, last year, they were relegated to UEFA Nations League C, winning just one of their six matches.
Thus, Norway could be the greater threat to top spot.
The Lions haven’t qualified for any tournament since 2000 and were beaten by Serbia in the Euro 2020 play-offs.
However, new Head Coach Ståle Solbakken takes over a very talented group of players.
Can new captain Martin Ødegaard and goal machine Erling Braut Håland fire them to Qatar?
Montenegro, Latvia and Gibraltar will not threaten the qualification positions.
Prediction: Group winner- Netherlands. Group runner-up- Norway.
Group H: Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus & Malta
Of all ten groups, this is by far the most open with four teams, realistically, in with a shout of finishing in the top two.
2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia are the favourites to top the group and reach a sixth World Cup out of seven as an independent nation.
Since getting beaten by France at the Luzhniki, Croatia have qualified for Euro 2020, topping a tough group.
However, in the Autumn, Zlatko Dalić’s side won just one of their six Nations League games, only avoiding relegation by virtue of having a better goal difference than Sweden.
Thus, could they be vulnerable to being pipped to first place?
Russia’s World Cup adventure on home soil in 2018 was ended by Croatia thanks to a penalty shootout in Sochi.
Since, Stanislav Cherchesov’s men have also reached Euro 2020 before struggling in the Nations League.
They won their first two matches but ended up second in Group B2 with just eight points.
Slovakia are the third side in this group who have this summer’s European Championships to look forward to after beating Northern Ireland in the play-off final in November.
Štefan Tarkovič’s side are the second seeds but, having only won three of their last 11 competitive matches, that form will have to improve if they’re to finish second or indeed higher.
Slovenia haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 2010 but, with Jan Oblak and Josip Iličić in their ranks, could be dangerous opponents for anyone.
Cyprus and Malta will do well to take points against anyone aside from each other.
Prediction: Group winner- Croatia. Group runner-up- Russia.
Group I: England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra & San Marino
England have qualified for the last six World Cups in a row and, given recent success, will be confident that this sequence won’t end.
The Three Lions reached the semi-finals of both the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Nations League before easily qualifying for Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate’s side did disappoint in the Nations League last Autumn, finishing third in Group A2, but are heavy favourites to top this group and make it to Qatar.
Poland though are one of the tougher second seeds that could have come out of the hat.
The Eagles have qualified for the last four European Championships as well as the 2018 World Cup.
Paulo Sousa is their new Head Coach following Jerzy Brzęczek’s sacking in January.
With the likes of Wojciech Szczęsny and captain Robert Lewandowski in their squad, Poland provide tough opposition for anyone.
But don’t write of Hungary for a top two spot.
They qualified for Euro 2020 back in the Autumn, beating Bulgaria and then Iceland in the play-offs.
Dominik Szoboszlai with a dramatic stoppage-time winner in the latter.
Hungary have now qualified for back to back Euros having not appeared at a major tournament since 1986 before that.
Marco Rossi’s side have also enjoyed back to back Nations League promotions so will feel they can compete with any side.
Albania could take points off the top three but Andorra and San Marino are likely to be very much whipping boys.
The latter have never won any of their 152 competitive internationals, drawing just five.
Prediction: Group winner- England. Group runner-up- Poland.
Group J: Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia & Liechtenstein
Will Germany ease through another qualification campaign.
Die Mannschaft have won four World Cups, three European Championships and a FIFA Confederations Cup, last failing to reach a major tournament in 1968.
In fact, under Joachim Löw, their record in qualifiers is 59 wins from 70 matches, losing just six.
However, after poor performances at the last World Cup and their two Nations League campaigns, it was announced that Löw will leave his position after Euro 2020.
Thus, despite the fact he’ll be in charge for matchday one, two and three, by the time they visit St. Gallen in September, a new Head Coach will be in place.
Despite this uncertainty, Germany should cruise to top spot in Group J.
Thus, Romania and Iceland will, in all likelihood, by fighting it out for second.
The two met in the Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals with Iceland winning 2-1 in Reykjavík before they went on to lose the final in Hungary.
Iceland qualified for their first Euros in 2016 and first World Cup two years later but won’t be at the European Championship in the summer.
Euro 2008 and 2016 are the only two major finals Romania have reached in the last 20 years, last qualifying for a World Cup in 1998.
Group J does actually contain a second side who’ve qualified for Euro 2020 and that’s North Macedonia.
Igor Angelovski’s side beat Kosovo and Georgia in the play-offs last year and this summer’s Euros will be their very first.
They could cause the big three in this group some problems but are unlikely to accrue enough points to repeat their heroics.
Armenia and Liechtenstein are likely to be whipping boys, as usual.
Prediction: Group winner- Germany. Group runner-up- Iceland.
This article was edited by Ben Gray.