Bengaluru, June 14: The FIFA World Cup 2018 is all set to enthral the audiences and the biggest football extravaganza, which is being held in Russia from June 14-July 15, will begin with a bang after a glittering opening ceremony on Thursday (June 14).
In this edition of the FIFA World Cup, 32 countries have made the cut to the final stages and all of them have been pooled into eight groups of four each. The top two from each group qualify for the knockouts (Round of 16) until one winner emerges at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15.
Germany and Brazil head into the World Cup as the favourites but will they be able to ward off other talented squads like Argentina, Spain and Belgium?
In Group A, hosts Russia will take on Asian giants Saudi Arabia in the World Cup opener, also at Luzhniki, on June 14.
Ahead of the World Cup opener, myKhel.com breaks down how the teams qualify for the World Cup final stages.
The FIFA has six affiliated continental confederations i.e. Asia (AFC); Africa (CAF); North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF); Oceania (OFC); South America (Conmebol); and Europe (UEFA). All 211 football playing nations are a part of one on these six confederations.
All the teams, except the host nation, have to qualify for the final stages. The teams which have the lowest rankings start clashing with each other for the qualifiers first and the higher ranked-teams pitch in at last. The qualifiers start as early as three years before the start of the World Cup.
What about top teams?
Each confederation has its own qualification structure e.g. South America, for example, does not have a tiered structure. The 10 Conmebol members, from Latin America, play one home and one away matches against every other team. The top four teams in the points table at the end of the qualifying rounds automatically qualify for the World Cup. Asia, which has 47 teams, has a three-tier system keeping in mind the lower-ranked teams do not end get knocked out by big teams early on.
How many teams qualify for WC?
32 countries compete for the biggest footballing glory in Russia. 14 teams from Europe, 5 teams each from Asia, Africa and South America; and three teams will represent CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football).
How are the teams divided into groups?
The teams are first divided into four pots of eight teams each and the top-ranked sides go in pot 1, and so on. The eight groups, which comprise four teams each, are populated by randomly drawn teams. Each group should ideally get one team from each pot. Geographical clashes are avoided (for example, two Asian teams cannot be in the same group). Since this is not possible for Europe, each group can have a maximum of two European teams.
Why did Indian football team fail to qualify?
India is one of the lowest-ranked teams in the world and when the qualification process for the FIFA World Cup 2018 began in January 2015, they started their campaign in the first round of the Asian confederation. The Men In Blue defeated Nepal 2-0 over two legs in the first stage. However, India lost seven of their eight matches to finish at the bottom, in their five-team second round group comprising Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Guam, and eventually crashed out.