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2022 World Cup qualifying: all you need to know

How it works, match dates, group stage, play-off format, finals.

World champions France are top of their qualifying group
World champions France are top of their qualifying group AFP via Getty Images

What is it?

The process by which UEFA's 55 member associations will be whittled down to 13 teams for the 2022 final tournament in Qatar. Matches will span just over a year, from March 2021 to March 2022.

Official FIFA regulations

How does it work?

There are two stages to qualifying:

Group stage

Teams will be split into ten groups of five or six (the four teams who reached the 2021 UEFA Nations League finals – Belgium, France, Italy, Spain – will be in the smaller groups). The ten group winners qualify for the World Cup.

Play-offs

The ten group runners-up are joined by the two best group winners of the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League overall ranking that have neither qualified directly for the final tournament as European Qualifiers group winners, nor entered the play-offs already as European Qualifiers group runners-up. The 12 teams will be drawn into three play-off paths for one-off semi-finals and a final. The three path winners qualify for the World Cup.

Play-off regulations

What are the groups?

The groups were determined by a draw in Zurich on 7 December 2020.

Group A: Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan

Group B: Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia, Kosovo

Group C: Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania

Group D: France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan

Group E: Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia

Group F: Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands, Moldova

Group G: Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, Gibraltar

Group H: Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta

Group I: England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, San Marino

Group J: Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein

All the fixtures

When do the matches and finals take place?

Matchday 1: 24–25 March 2021
Matchday 2: 27–28 March 2021
Matchday 3: 30–31 March 2021
Matchday 4: 1–2 September 2021
Matchday 5: 4–5 September 2021
Matchday 6: 7–8 September 2021
Matchday 7: 8–9 October 2021
Matchday 8: 11–12 October 2021
Matchday 9: 11–13 November 2021
Matchday 10: 14–16 November 2021
Play-offs: 24 & 29 March 2022

When is the 2022 World Cup?

The 22nd finals in Qatar will be the first World Cup not held in May, June, or July; the tournament is instead scheduled for a reduced timeframe between 21 November to 18 December. The draw will be in April 2022.