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FIFA World Cup 2018: Who's qualified, who still can

October 12, 2017 09:24 IST

Twenty-three of the 32 finalists have now been decided; the remainder will be settled in November with four European play-offs, two intercontinental play-offs and the final round of African qualifiers, where three groups are still open.

Lionel Messi and Argentina teammates

IMAGE: Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano (14) and other teammates celebrate after Argentina beat Ecuador to seal a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Photograph: Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The possibility of a World Cup without Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi turned out to be a false alarm, yet next year's tournament will still have a major absentee after the United States' extraordinary failure to qualify on Tuesday.

Panama, meanwhile, showed it is perfectly possible for small nations to qualify without expanding the finals to 48 teams, which is planned for the 2026 edition, as they joined Iceland in reaching the tournament for the first time.

South American champions Chile, like African counterparts Cameroon, missed out on a ticket to Russia -- and, bizarrely, their elimination was the result of a successful protest made to FIFA about opponents fielding an ineligible player.

Twenty-three of the 32 finalists have now been decided while the remainder will be settled in November with four European play-offs, two intercontinental playoffs and the final round of African qualifiers, where three groups are still open.

Brazil, who will be making their 21st World Cup appearance, remain the only ever-present side at the finals and had qualified long before Tuesday's drama.

Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates celebrate victory over Switzerland and qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Ronaldo and Messi, who have won FIFA's World Player of the Year award between them since 2008, went into the final group matches uncertain of whether they would take part next year.

Those fears were allayed as Messi's hat-trick led Argentina to a 3-1 win at high altitude in Ecuador to ensure their place and Portugal made it with a 2-0 win over Switzerland.

The United States, one of FIFA's most important members in commercial terms, were not so lucky as a shock 2-1 defeat in Trinidad and Tobago, combined with wins for Panama and Honduras, ended their run of seven successive finals appearances.

The Netherlands, semi-finalists in 2014 and runners-up in 2010, will also miss out while four-times champions Italy, who last failed to qualify in 1958, face a two-leg playoff in November.

The impact of the U.S's absence will be felt at broadcasters Fox, who take over coverage of the World Cup from ESPN starting with the 2018 tournament and a host of sponsors, such as Nike, who had been hoping for plenty of World Cup exposure.

Here are the countries assured of places in the 32-team field for next year's World Cup finals in Russia after Tuesday's qualifiers:

EUROPE

Russia (Qualified as hosts)

France

Portugal

Germany

Serbia

Poland

England

Spain

Belgium

Iceland

SOUTH AMERICA

Brazil

Uruguay

Argentina

Colombia

AFRICA

Nigeria

Egypt

CENTRAL, NORTH AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN

Mexico

Costa Rica

Panama

ASIA

Iran

Japan

South Korea

Saudi Arabia

PLAY-OFFS

EUROPE

Switzerland

Italy

Denmark

Croatia

Sweden

Northern Ireland

Greece

Ireland

Draw is on October 17 with the four best-ranked teams seeded. The first legs will be played from November 9-11 and the second legs from Nov. 12-14.

The winner of each tie qualifies for the tournament

INTERCONTINENTAL

New Zealand v Peru

Australia v Honduras

The ties will be played over two legs from November 6 to 14 with the aggregate winners qualifying for the tournament.

AGENCIES