Focus switches to World Cup qualifying

European Qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on 4 September: we have the full guide to what the contenders can expect on the road to Russia.

Mihály Korhut (Hungary) & Nani  (Portugal)

UEFA EURO 2016 mat still be a fresh memory but Portugal plus all the other teams that competed oin France do not hacve lost before they begin their bids to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Fixtures in three of the nine European Qualifiers groups kick off on Sunday 4 September, with Slovakia facing England after the two sides drew 0-0 at UEFA EURO 2016. As for holders Germany, they start their World Cup title defence away to Norway the same day, hoping to become the first team to retain the trophy since Brazil in 1962.

Games continue over the next two days, including a EURO finals rematch between Croatia and Turkey on 5 September, when Kosovo will be making their competitive debut in Finland. Those two sides are the only nations in Group I that did not play in France as Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine and Turkey are also involved.

The following night, European champions Portugal visit Switzerland (who were a penalty shoot-out away from a quarter-final against Ronaldo and Co), Gibraltar make their World Cup bow at home to Greece, while the Netherlands – having missed out on EURO – aim to launch their fightback in Sweden.

The fixtures continue until October 2017 in the nine groups, with EURO sequels including Portugal playing Hungary and Spain meeting Italy. UEFA.com has all you need to know, with 13 places on offer alongside hosts Russia and 18 non-European qualifiers in the finals.

Full fixtures

  • The groups

Philipp Lahm (Germany) Germany lifted the World Cup in 2014©AFP/Getty ImagesGroup A: Netherlands, France*, Sweden*, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg
Group B: Portugal*, Switzerland*, Hungary*, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra
Group C: Germany* (holders), Czech Republic*, Northern Ireland*, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino
Group D: Wales*, Austria*, Serbia, Republic of Ireland*, Moldova, Georgia
Group E: Romania*, Denmark, Poland*, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan
Group F: England*, Slovakia*, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta
Group G: Spain*, Italy*, Albania*, Israel, FYR Macedonia, Liechtenstein
Group H: Belgium*, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, Gibraltar
Group I: Croatia*, Iceland*, Ukraine*, Turkey*, Finland, Kosovo

*competed at UEFA EURO 2016; Russia qualify for finals as hosts

  • Opening fixtures (KO times CEST)

4 September
Group C: San Marino v Azerbaijan (18:00), Czech Republic v Northern Ireland (20:45), Norway v Germany (20:45)
Group E: Denmark v Armenia (18:00), Kazakhstan v Poland (18:00), Romania v Montenegro (20:45)
Group F: Lithuania v Slovenia (18:00), Slovakia v England (18:00), Malta v Scotland (20:45)

5 September
Group D: Georgia v Austria (18:00), Serbia v Republic of Ireland (20:45), Wales v Moldova (20:45)
Group G: Albania v FYR Macedonia (20:45), Israel v Italy (20:45), Spain v Liechtenstein (20:45)
Group I: Croatia v Turkey (20:45), Ukraine v Iceland (20:45), Finland v Kosovo (20:45)

6 September
Group A: Belarus v France (20:45), Bulgaria v Luxembourg (20:45), Sweden v Netherlands (20:45)
Group B: Andorra v Latvia (20:45), Faroe Islands v Hungary (20:45), Switzerland v Portugal (20:45)
Group H: Bosnia and Herzegovina v Estonia (20:45), Cyprus v Belgium (20:45), Gibraltar v Greece (20:45)

• The nine group winners advance directly to the final tournament.
• The eight runners-up with the best record against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups proceed to play-offs to decide the remaining four European berths.

  • Road to Russia
Russia hope for World Cup legacy
Russia hope for World Cup legacy

Matchday 1: 4–6 September 2016
Matchday 2: 6–8 October 2016
Matchday 3: 9–11 October 2016
Matchday 4: 11–13 November 2016
Matchday 5: 24–26 March 2017
Matchday 6: 9–11 June 2017
Matchday 7: 31 August–2 September 2017
Matchday 8: 3–5 September 2017
Matchday 9: 5–7 October 2017
Matchday 10: 8–10 October 2017
Play-off first leg: 9–11 November 2017
Play-off second leg: 12–14 November 2017
Final tournament (Russia): 14 June–15 July 2018

  • Continental allocations

Africa (CAF): 5
Asia (AFC): 4 or 5
Europe (UEFA): 14 including hosts Russia
North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF): 3 or 4
Oceania (OFC): 0 or 1
South America (CONMEBOL): 4 or 5

Intercontinental play-offs (6–14 November 2017): Fourth place CONCACAF v Fifth place AFC, First place OFC v Fifth place CONMEBOL