23 teams have secured their place in the 2018 World Cup which will be held in Russia, among them two nations who will make their debuts: Panama and Iceland. This leaves 9 spots up for grab.
For European teams, there are 4 spots left, which will be determined via the playoff. Slovakia got the short end of the stick by ranking last among the second-place teams in the qualifying groups. The 8 nations which will be paired up in the qualifying playoffs are Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Northern Ireland, Greece and Ireland. This group includes 4-time World champions and two other sides that have lifted the Euro trophy. Northern Ireland haven’t been in the World Cup since 1986.
There are three spots left for the African sides, following Egypt and Nigeria clinching theirs. In the current and final stage of the qualifiers, there are 5 groups, with the group winner advancing to the World Cup. In Group A, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo can still advance, although Tunisia just need a draw in their final match. In Group C, it comes down to Morocco and the Ivory Coast. Morocco lead by one point, but play in Abidjan as the qualifying finale, needing a draw to advance. In Group D, Senegal have the lead over Burkina Faso, and need a draw in their final match (hosting South Africa) to advance to the World Cup.
The two remaining spots will be determined in cross continent playoff. Honduras, finishing 4th in the North American qualifiers, will play Australia twice, with the Aussies coming out of the Asian qualifiers victorious against Syria in the 3rd place playoff. After a dramatic finish in South America, it’ll be Peru (5th in the group stage) against the winners of the Oceania qualifiers, New Zealand. Peru haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982. New Zealand made their World Cup debut in 1982, and have made it back only once: 2010.