With the World Cup 2018 qualification stages getting to a close, Argentine fans remain in wonders while some other countries have already started packing their luggage for Russia next year. Has any African country qualified yet? Here are the countries already qualified for the World Cup 2018.
Being selected at the World Cup 2018 hosts, Russia immediately booked the place. Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will be the fourth Russia team to play at a World Cup – they first appeared at USA ’94 – though the Soviet Union had finished fourth in 1966.
Their key player will be a veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev who has won more than 100 caps. His experience could be vital. The 31-year-old, who has spent his entire career at CSKA Moscow, is likely to captain the hosts.
The last World Cup holders, Germany, have continued defending their land. Winning all nine games so far to qualify for the finals in Russia, Germany is standing still.
England is top of the group with 23 points, 6 points from Scotland (2nd), with just one game left. Harry Kane confirmed their ticket booking after scoring a glorious goal against Slovenia at Wembley.
Belgium became the first European side to join hosts Russia.
Premier League fans will be familiar with a Belgium squad. It includes players such as Batshuayi, Fellaini, Courtois, Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
7. South Korea
No Asian team has a better World Cup pedigree than South Korea, nicknamed the “Taegeuk Warriors”. Key players like Ki Sung-Yeung (Swansea), Son Heung-min (Tottenham) will bring a big influence. Their draw against Uzbekistan secured their ninth World Cup in a row in which they have featured.
6. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s only victories at a World Cup came in their first appearance in 1994. This time they have booked their ticket to Russia again under Bert van Marwijk, a former Borussia Dortmund, and Netherland manager.
They may head to Russia as relative minnows, but Iran could cause a few upsets in the group stage. Carlos Queiroz’s side has kept 12 successive clean sheets in qualifying.
This is the fifth time Iran has qualified for a World Cup. They seem well-organized and evidently extremely difficult to break down under the guidance of former Manchester United assistant manager Queiroz.
Having qualified for every World Cup since 1998, Japan was once unrivaled as Asia’s top team.
With the likes of former AC Milan playmaker Keisuke Honda, Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, and Leicester forward Shinji Okazaki as the key, Japan’s style of play is easy in the eye.
==> NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA, and CARIBBEAN
Mexico secured their spot in Russia with a 1-0 win over Panama. They have reached the knockout stage in each of the past six World Cups. This time, Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) and Hirving Lozano will be among their key players.
2. New Zealand
Group winners New Zealand qualified after their victory over Solomon Islands. They are supposed to face the fifth-place CONMBOL team (South America).
==> SOUTH AMERICA
Brazil became the first side to qualify, booking their place in Russia back in March. Always ranked among the favorites, the five-time winners look back to their world-beating best under new coach Tite.
Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, Brazil were beaten 7-1 at the semi-final stage by Germany last time out.