The World Cup Finalists

by - November 16, 2017

The latest international break was all about the final play off matches to see who would be the last qualifiers for next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia and now we have the full list of 32 countries who will be taking part in football’s biggest event.

World cup 2018 trophy and official ball

There are 14 European participants. Russia were already on the list as hosts, whilst 9 countries qualified as group winners - Belgium, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain. They are joined by the play-off winners from this last week - Croatia, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.

Iceland have not only qualified for the first time in their history, but they are the only country with a population of less than 1 million to ever qualify for any World Cup. They are clearly a very talented side after reaching the quarter finals in the Euros just 2 years ago, including a famous victory over England.

Meanwhile, defending champions Germany will go into the tournament as favourites after winning all their 10 qualifying group matches during which they only conceded 4 goals.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay will be taking part after finishing in the top 4 places in the South American group stage, whilst Peru became the last qualifier after defeating New Zealand in their 2 legged decider and will be making their first appearance since 1982.

Brazil started their qualifiers poorly but after replacing head coach Dunga with Tite they remained unbeaten and comfortably won the group by 10 points. Chile were eliminated after only managing to finish 6th in the group and are the highest ranked nation who will not be in Russia.

Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama are representing the North and Central America and the Caribbean region. Panama are the other first time qualifiers to a World Cup tournament after defeating fellow qualifiers Costa Rica in their final group match while USA embarrassingly lost to bottom placed Trinidad & Tobago to finish a disappointing campaign for the Americans.

Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia won the African qualifying groups, knocking out Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa and the current African Nations Cup holders Cameroon in the process.

The Asian qualifiers are Iran, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia who qualified by finishing in the top 2 places in the final groups, whilst Australia beat Honduras in a play off after only finishing third.

This will be the Australians’ fourth consecutive World Cup, which included only being knocked out in the last 16 round in 2006 to eventual winners Italy.

Meanwhile, four-time winners Italy will be the biggest loss for the tournament after they did not qualify for the first time since 1958, losing to Sweden in their play-off. The Swedes has reached the play offs ahead of The Netherlands who finished third in the last World Cup. This will only be the second Finals to not include the always much fancied Italians.

World cup draw pots announced by FIFA

The draw for the groups will take place on Friday 1 December while the tournament itself starts on Thursday 14 June when the host nation will play their opening match. The final will be at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday 15 July.

Written by Jon Ellis, Chelsea FC home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on twitter: @ClitheroeBlue

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