The international break is here and with it comes a very important session of FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Over 100 matches will be played across five continents over the next week as we start to potentially see some nations book places to Qatar in 2022.
Here, our FIFA World Cup Qualifying guide will give a comprehensive overview of the matches, standings, scenarios, and more for this hectic week of international football. The FIFA World Cup in Qatar is 13 months away and every team playing in October will be setting its sights on reaching the final tournament.
FIFA World Cup Qualifying Guide – October 2021
Europe: Chance at Glory for UEFA’s Top Nations
For the first time ever, UEFA will have two separate competitions take place during this international window. Multiple countries will continue their bids to make the FIFA World Cup while four of the top teams in Europe will be in Italy competing for a trophy.
The second UEFA Nations League Finals will take place on Wednesday 13th October at the home of the European champions Italy who start the semi finals in Milan against Spain. The second semifinal on Thursday 14th October will be in Turin as Belgium take on France. The winners will meet on Sunday 17th October in the championship at the San Siro.
All four of the UNL finalists won’t play World Cup qualifiers until November with just two matches to go. The matches will start on Friday 8th October as big nations in Europe could use some big results to book their places earlier than expected. The group stage continues in UEFA with the ten first-place teams earning automatic berths to Qatar.
Portugal, Netherlands, Croatia, England, and Germany all have slim leads at the top of their groups with Serbia, Norway, Russia, Poland, and Armenia breathing down on all the aforementioned big European nations in their respective groups.
The other key matches to watch involve countries looking to qualify for the second-place playoffs. Hopefuls in that situation are Albania, Turkey, Scotland, Israel, Wales, Romania, and North Macedonia. The matches across Europe will be packed with drama with October’s games setting up what should be an exciting November to close out the group stage.
First Place Teams: Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Croatia, England, Germany
Second Place Teams: Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Scotland, Norway, Russia, Albania, Armenia
Matches to Watch:
WED Oct. 6: Italy vs. Spain – 2:45 pm ET – Milan
THU Oct. 7: Belgium vs. France – 2:45 pm ET – Turin
FRI Oct. 8: Turkey vs. Norway – 2:45 pm ET – Istanbul
SAT Oct. 9: Finland vs. Ukraine – 12:00 pm ET – Helsinki
SUN Oct. 10: UEFA Nations League Final – 2:45 pm ET – Milan
MON Oct. 11: North Macedonia vs. Germany – 2:45 pm ET – Skopje
TUE Oct. 12: England vs. Hungary – 2:45 pm ET – London
South America: Chasing Brazil and Argentina
South American qualifying might not get more interesting than September’s Brazil vs Argentina match getting abandoned seven minutes in. Nevertheless, the games return in the CONMEBOL region with plenty of time for the teams outside the top four to gain momentum towards a spot in Qatar.
Despite having a game in hand, Brazil and Argentina are both stable in their places in the top two and are seemingly the two teams in South America that look sure to get a place. The fight for the last two spots is where things get heated with Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Chile all reasonably having a shot based on squad talent.
No team might have a more important three matches in October than Colombia who faces a gauntlet this month in fifth place. First, they travel to Montevideo to play Uruguay on Thursday before heading back home to Barranquilla. Los Cafeteros will conclude this stretch at home against Brazil on Sunday and Ecuador next Thursday. All three matches are six-pointers for Colombia with multiple losses truly hindering its chances at qualifying for a third successive FIFA World Cup.
Standings (Top 4 qualify): 1. Brazil, 2. Argentina, 3. Uruguay, 4. Ecuador, 5. Colombia, 6. Paraguay, 7. Peru, 8. Chile, 9. Bolivia, 10. Venezuela
Matches to Watch:
THU Oct. 7: Uruguay vs. Colombia – 7:00 pm ET – Montevideo
SUN Oct. 10: Colombia vs. Brazil – 5:00 pm ET – Barranquilla
SUN Oct. 10: Argentina vs. Uruguay – 7:30 pm ET – Buenos Aires
THU Oct. 14: Colombia vs. Ecaudor – 5:00 pm ET – Barranquilla
THU Oct. 14: Brazil vs. Uruguay – 8:30 pm ET – Manaus
Asia: Contenders Face Off Across the Continent
Qualifiers in Asia began last month and are set to roll along in October. The headline from September was Japan’s shocking defeat to Oman in the opening game, putting the Samurai Blue in a catch-up position in Group B. This month, Japan can get back on track with two massive matches against the group leaders Australia and Saudi Arabia.
In Group A, favorites Iran and South Korea will play each other in Tehran in the marquee match of the group. The battle for third place is alive and well in this group with the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Iraq having the best chances of challenging for a playoff position. The UAE’s match against Iraq in Dubai is one to watch out for.
First Place Teams: Iran, Australia
Second Place Teams: South Korea, Saudi Arabia
Matches to Watch:
THU Oct. 7: South Korea vs. Syria – 7:00 am ET – Ansan
THU Oct. 7: Saudi Arabia vs. Japan – 1:00 pm ET – Jeddah
TUE Oct. 12: Iran vs. South Korea – 9:30 am ET – Tehran
TUE Oct. 12: Japan vs. Australia – 6:14 am ET – Saitama
Africa: Hopeful Nations Try to Keep Dreams Alive
The continent with the most underdog stories is Africa with the second round of qualifying set to continue through the next week. Some of the top African nations are in a good position in their groups right now but multiple Cinderella stories are developing.
The group with the best underdog story in Group J with Tanzania and Benin is scheduled to play each other twice this month for first place in the group. Neither nation has qualified for the World Cup with the ten group winners of this round drawn into five two-legged matches to determine the five African nations going to Qatar.
Other underdogs with a good shot at winning their groups include Guinea-Bissau, Libya, South Africa, and Burkina Faso. These October matches in Africa will make or break multiple teams and some top teams like Cameroon, Morocco, and Egypt are in must-win situations to keep their dreams alive.
First Place Teams: Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali, Libya, South Africa, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania
Matches to Watch:
WED Oct. 6: Morocco vs. Guinea-Bissau – 3:00 pm ET – Rabat
THU Oct. 7: Tanzania vs. Benin – 9:00 am ET – Dar es Salaam
FRI Oct. 8: Egpyt vs. Libya – 3:00 pm ET – Alexandria
SAT Oct. 9: Senegal vs. Namibia – 3:00 pm ET – Thies
SUN Oct. 10: Kenya vs. Mali – 9:00 am ET – Nairobi
MON Oct. 11: Ivory Coast vs. Malawai – 12:00 pm ET – Marrakech
TUE Oct. 12: South Africa vs. Ethiopia – 12:00 pm ET – Johannesburg
CONCACAF: North America vs. Everyone Else
The CONCACAF Octagonal is shaping up to be an intense battle between the three countries of North America and the five nations in the group from Central America and the Caribbean. September’s results showed us that Mexico, Canada, and the United States are the teams to beat in this region.
The major headline in this session is the United States’ next two home matches at brand new MLS stadiums. The USMNT will host Jamaica at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, and conclude the October break with a game against Costa Rica at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio. To get back to the World Cup, the USA will need to start winning its home matches.
Another huge game will be at Estadio Azteca with Mexico hosting Canada. The two sides played a heated match in the Gold Cup semifinals and fireworks are expected in Mexico City. Watch out as well for the games between the countries outside the top three with one or two moving away from the pack and establishing themselves as contenders to the North American teams.
Standings (Top 3 qualify): 1. Mexico, 2. Canada, 3. United States, 4. Panama, 5. Costa Rica, 6. Honduras, 7. El Salvador, 8. Jamaica
Matches to Watch:
THU Oct. 7: Mexico vs. Canada – 9:40 pm ET – Mexico City
SUN Oct. 10: Panama vs. United States – 6:00 pm ET – Panama City
WED Oct. 13 – United States vs. Costa Rica – 7:00 pm ET – Columbus
WED Oct. 13 – Honduras vs. Jamaica – 8:05 pm ET – San Pedro Sula
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