Who's in and who's out of World Cup 2018

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 07:57:10 AM. After 18 months of qualifiers in every corner of the globe, the list of teams is nearly complete for next year's World Cup finals in Russia. Check who's in and who's out.

Germany's Mario Goetze (C) celebrates his goal against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final. Photo: Germany beat Argentina in extra-time to win the 2014 World Cup — can they earn a fifth title in Russia? (Reuters: Kai Pfaffenbach)

We're nearly there — after 18 months of qualifiers in every corner of the globe, the list of teams is nearly complete for next year's World Cup finals in Russia.

Everyone's path is different — some qualify directly, others have to go through the dreaded play-offs.

There will be representatives from Europe, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and possibly a team from Oceania, depending on the remaining results.

While you're waiting for the Socceroos' date with destiny against Honduras tonight, it's a perfect time to check out the 29 sides who have made the grade for next year's tournament.

The hosts

Russia qualify automatically as hosts. Coach Stanislav Merchesov and his men will no doubt benefit from some serious home support, but the Russians are ranked only 65 in the world, and things could get ugly if they fail to reach the knockout stages.

The giants

Who's in:

Argentina's Lionel Messi scores against Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier on October 10, 2017. Photo: Argentina was in danger of missing out on the World Cup finals, until a Lionel Messi hat-trick sealed the deal. (REUTERS: Henry Romero)

There will be plenty of star power at World Cup 2018, led by defending champions Germany, Lionel Messi's Argentina, Neymar's Brazil and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal side.

Taking out European champions Portugal, who has never won the Cup, there are 11 titles between the other three (if you include West Germany in 1954, 1974, and 1990 as well as Germany in 2014).

We nearly had a World Cup without the Albiceleste, with Argentina down against Ecuador in a final qualifier before Messi dragged his team over the line with a hat-trick.

It does show, however, that not much is guaranteed anymore at World Cup level, particularly if you look below at who has missed out from Europe.

Most of the old names are back, however, with European powers like France, Spain and England, South America's Uruguay and Colombia and Asia's Japan and South Korea all making it to Russia without the need for play-offs.

Barring injury, the big teams should feature some of the best strikers in the world — with England's Harry Kane, Uruguay's Luis Suarez, France's Antoine Griezmann and Spain's Alvaro Morata all set to deliver on the world stage.

Who's out:

Two soccer players from Italian club Azzurri look anguished. Photo: Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (L) had his international career end in heartbreak as Italy lost to Sweden in a play-off. (AP: Luca Bruno)

By far and away the biggest side to miss out on a ticket to Russia is Italy, who couldn't score in 180 minutes of football against Sweden in their play-off, failing to qualify for the first time since Pele was in his pomp for Brazil back in 1958.

It could well mark the end of an era, with a generation of players like the great Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon set to bow out from international football.

Another big name to miss out from Europe is the Netherlands — World Cup finalists in 1974, 1978 and 2010 without winning the trophy — who went out backwards to finish third in their group and miss out on Russia.

The regulars

Who's in:

Belgium's Eden Hazard on the ball against Wales at Euro 2016. Photo: Belgium has the talent to go far at the World Cup, with the likes of Eden Hazard (2R). (REUTERS: Carl Recine)

The European contingent has regulars such as Belgium, who are perennially named as "dark horses" for every major tournament, but despite having world class players like midfielders Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, striker Romelu Lukaku and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the Red Devils are yet to make a real impact on a World Cup.

Croatia had to go through the qualifiers against Greece, but Real Madrid star Luka Modric gives them a chance to beat anyone on their day.

Then there are Poland, Serbia — who lost to Australia the last time they qualified in 2010 — and Switzerland.

Mexico has made the round of 16 at every World Cup since 1994, and Costa Rica, otherwise known as Los Ticos, has now qualified for a fifth time.

Saudi Arabia and Iran — who are both well known to Australian football fans — made it out of Asian qualification.

From Africa, traditionally strong nations like Nigeria, Morocco and Senegal — whose World Cup highlight was beating defending champions France on the way to the quarter-finals in 2002 — will be lining up in Russia.

Tunisia had not made it since 1998, but they are back for a fifth finals, while Egypt, who became the first African nation to play in the finals back in 1934, scored an injury-time winner against Congo to make it for the first time since 1990.

Who's out:

United States' Matt Besler squats on the pitch after losing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago. Photo: The United States were knocked out of World Cup qualification with a stunning 2-1 loss away to Trinidad and Tobago. (AP: Rebecca Blackwell)

The United States have been a part of the furniture at World Cup finals since 1990. But an embarrassing loss to Trinidad and Tobago means the US will be left watching on TV next year.

Also out are Chile, who made the finals in 1998, 2010 and 2014 — meaning Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez will have some downtime after the Premier League season ends.

Two regular qualifiers from Africa have missed out, with Ivory Coast and Ghana failing to get past Morocco and Egypt respectively.

The fairytales

Who's in:

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo watches as Iceland players celebrate a 1-1 draw at Euro 2016. Photo: Iceland made waves at Euro 2016 — can they repeat the effort at the World Cup? (Reuters: Kai Pfaffenbach) External Link: Iceland - Viking clap

The clear leader is the men from Iceland who provided some of the most vivid memories from the European Championship finals in 2016.

The Icelanders stunned the world when they beat England 2-1 in the round of 16, before bowing out to France in the quarter-finals. Their fans made the Viking clap famous, and regardless of whether the team can repeat their heroics in Russia, expect to see a lot more of this.

The other surprise story of the World Cup will be Panama, a central American nation of just 4 million people, who created history by grabbing the last automatic spot from CONCACAF ahead of the United States.

Who's left

Australia's Tomi Juric jumps over Honduras' Henry Figueroa in the World Cup play-off in Honduras. Photo: There will be no quarter given when the Socceroos face Honduras with a World Cup place on the line. (AP: Moises Castillo)

There are only three remaining spots available for the World Cup, and these play-offs will decide who books their tickets to Russia.

Australia v Honduras

Obviously the local focus is firmly on the Socceroos, who are aiming to clinch qualification for a fourth straight World Cup.

A goal-less draw against Honduras in San Pedro Sula gives Australia a strong chance of getting through — as long as they don't concede a dreaded away goal at Sydney's Olympic stadium.

Can Tim Cahill write another incredible chapter in his career, will Mat Ryan be the hero between the sticks?

We'll have to wait to find out.

Denmark 5-1 Republic of Ireland (5-1 on aggregate):

Denmark has made it to their fifth World Cup, thrashing Ireland 5-1 in Dublin to reach their fifth World Cup tournament.

Playmaker Christian Eriksen scored a hat-trick, sending a warning signal to anyone drawn to play the Danes in Russia that they will need to shut him down, or pay the price.

The Irish missed out on qualifying — they have not appeared in the finals since 2002.

Peru v New Zealand:

Peru is ranked 10 in the world, but having to qualify out of South America is an extremely tough assignment — it has to go through the play-offs.

But the All Whites proved in the 2010 finals they were capable of holding their own, drawing with Paraguay, Slovakia and Italy.

The sides drew 0-0 in New Zealand, now it's all down to the second leg in Lima.

Once these three ties are complete, the field will be set with 32 teams ready to go in Russia next June.

KEY: AFC - Asia; CAF - Africa; CONCACAF - North and Central America; CONMEBOL - South America; UEFA - Europe

External Link: Going to the World Cup

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