Johannesburg - While the usual suspects have already booked their places in Russia, much attention has been focused on who has missed out.
On the African continent, three of the teams which participated in the previous Fifa World Cup in Brazil will not be in Russia next year: Ghana, Cameroon and Algeria.
Three spots are still up for grabs on the continent as only two African countries have confirmed their participation. The final round of fixtures next month will decide which teams will fill these vacant spots.
For the first time in more than three decades, the US failed to qualify to join the World Cup event.
And 2010 finalists the Netherlands also missed out on a second successive major tournament after finishing behind France and Sweden. This comes on the back of the Dutch team’s failure to qualify for the 2016 Uefa European Championships.
Two of the countries that participated in this year’s World Cup curtain raiser – the Confederations Cup, held in Russia from June 17 to July 2 – have also failed to make it to the finals. After lifting the Africa Cup of Nations trophy earlier this year, The Indomitable Lions, which represented CAF at the June event, join South America’s champions Chile, which also finished outside the qualifying spots.
New Zealand and Australia will have to go via the play-offs to see if they will make it to Russia or not.
Who can still qualify:
With 23 places already taken, there are only nine spots left to fight for.
Tunisia, currently on 13 points in Group A, are in pole position to clinch their spot. All they need to do is draw their last game with Libya.
Second-placed Democratic Republic of Congo will need a miracle to make it as they trail behind the North Africans by three points. They will need to beat Guinea, hope Tunisia lose and also have to make up a two-goal deficit to improve their goal difference.
Group C will entail Ivory Coast battling it out with Morocco for the top spot.
Qualification is within both countries’ reach as they will cancel each other out.
The Atlas Lions, which overtook the Elephants to top the group in the last round of fixtures, need just a draw away in Ivory Coast to book their place. A victory for the hosts will book them a ticket to Russia and ensure another World Cup participation.
Group D could also be decided in the last fixtures if South Africa beat Senegal in their replayed match before the final round.
But Senegal need just a draw in their final two fixtures against South Africa, and could clinch it before the final round.
South Africa is not out of contention yet as they need to beat Senegal twice to book their place. However, anything less than back-to-back victories would give Senegal the advantage.
Burkina Faso and Cape Verde are, in effect, out of the race because of their inferior goal difference.
With six points each – two points behind Senegal – the winner of their match in Ouagadougou would finish on nine points, but will fall short when it comes to goal difference.
Six additional places will be determined by play-offs in the next round in November.
Eight European countries – Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Northern Ireland, Greece and Republic of Ireland – will compete in home and away play-offs to decide which four countries will go to Russia.
This week’s draw has pitted four-time winners Italy against Sweden, while the Republic of Ireland will take on Denmark.
Northern Ireland will take on Switzerland and Croatia will tackle Greece in the other two-legged Europe zone play-offs, to be played next month.
The last two spots will be between Australia and Honduras. The teams will twice go head-to-head, while New Zealand and Peru will also fight for one World Cup place.