World Cup 2022: Joy for Ghana and Uruguay as Italy depart


The qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup are almost in the history books now as several more nations from across the globe sealed their places in November’s tournament in Qatar.

There was plenty at stake across all continents so it is time to dive straight in and see how the action unfolded on what is possibly international football’s greatest week, time after time.


Group A on the final stages in Asia had little left to be decided with Iran and South Korea having already booked their spot in the previous set of fixtures.

Instead it was all about the battle for third place and the play-off that comes with it. Iraq gave themselves a lifeline with a 1-0 victory over direct rivals the United Arab Emirates to leave the visitor’s hopes hanging in the balance.

However Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side recovered to claim a huge 1-0 victory over South Korea in the final game while Iraq could only draw with Syria to seal their fate.

In Group B, Japan ensured they would be back for a seventh consecutive World Cup appearance after defeating Australia 2-0 in Sydney. This also meant that Saudi Arabia qualified without having to kick a ball.

The Saudis rubbed salt into the Aussie wounds by winning 1-0 in Jeddah in the final group game.

Australia will now have to settle for the play-offs. They will face the UAE in a single game shootout in Doha on June 7th with the winner facing Peru for a chance to reach the finals.


Africa had probably the most exciting games on paper with a host of big nations set to do battle. This also shows how the continent will benefit when the tournament expands in 2026. So many talented African footballers will miss out once more in Qatar.

Which brings us to Egypt and Mohamed Salah. The repeat of the AFCON final with Senegal was as tight as you might have expected with the Pharaohs winning 1-0 in Cairo before the African champions responded with a 1-0 victory of their own in Dakar.

Salah went on to miss in the penalty shootout with Sadio Mane once more scoring the winning kick to ensure it was double delight for the Lions of Teranga.

There was further late drama between Algeria and Cameroon. Once again both games finished 1-0 to either side therefore extra-time would be required. Ahmed Touba thought he had won it for Algeria only for Lyon’s Karl Toko Ekambi to score a crucial away goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to send Cameroon through.

There were shocking scenes in Abuja as supporters stormed the pitch following Ghana’s away goal victory over bitter rivals Nigeria. Thomas Partey grabbed the all-important goal before William Troost-Ekong equalised with a penalty. But it was not to be for the Nigerians, who fail to qualify for the first time since 2006.

Morocco were the only side to really cut loose over the past week as they swept past DR Congo 5-2 on aggregate. It was honours even in Kinshasa for the first leg before the Atlas Lions stormed to victory in Casablanca, with Achraf Hakimi among the goalscorers.

Tunisia made it a North African double as they held their nerve to edge past Mali and deny Les Aiges a debut appearance. Moussa Sissako’s own goal was all that could separate the two sides over 180 minutes.


CONCACAF is the only federation yet to conclude at the time of writing but Canada rubber stamped a first appearance since 1986 with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica in Toronto to spark joyous scenes.

Mexico and the USA look set the join Les Rouges barring some incredibly unlikely results on the final day.

Costa Rica look likely to take the play-off spot and they will face New Zealand as Los Ticos look to qualify for a third straight tournament.


Ecuador will be back at the World Cup despite only taking one point from their final two games. La Tri have enjoyed a good campaign and can now look forward to returning to the world stage for the first time since 2014.

They will be joined by Uruguay after Giorgian de Arrascaeta’s goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Peru to ensure a positive end to a difficult campaign.

This meant that the Peruvians were in control of fifth place going into the final game but Colombia and Chile were ready and waiting to take advantage of any slip ups.

Unfortunately for Chile it was the end of an era as they fell 2-0 at home to Uruguay while Colombia defeated Venezuela 1-0 to do their part.

It would be Peru’s day however as goals from Gianluca Lapadula and Yoshimar Yotun sealed a play-off spot against either the UAE or Australia in June.


New Zealand will once more represent Oceania in the playoffs after coming through a mini tournament in Qatar.

Vanuatu and the Cook Islands had to cancel games due to Covid which meant Tahiti and the Soloman Islands progressed to the semi-finals.

New Zealand coasted through their group and were joined in the final four by Papua New Guinea.

A Liberato Cacace goal saw the All Whites edge past Tahiti in the semi-final while the Soloman Islands saw off Papua New Guinea by three goals to two.

There would be no fairytale in the final however as Chris Wood helped Danny Hay’s side to a 5-0 victory and set up a likely play-off with Costa Rica in June.


A brace from Gareth Bale inspired Wales to a 2-1 victory over Austria to leave Robert Page’s side just one game away from a first World Cup appearance since 1958.

They will host the winners of the Scotland and Ukraine match which will have to be rearranged for a later date.

Elsewhere Poland made the most of receiving a bye straight through to the final by defeating Sweden in Warsaw to make it back to back qualifications.

Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski scored to see off the Swedes, who edged out the Czech Republic in extra-time in Solna.

Arguably the biggest shock of the window saw North Macedonia stun European champions Italy 1-0 in Palermo to ensure the Italians missed a second consecutive World Cup.

The four times winner will have gone 20 years without a knockout match by the time the next tournament rolls around in 2026.

The reward for North Macedonia was a trip to Porto after Portugal defeated Turkey 3-1 in the semi-final.

The fairytale run would not have the ultimate conclusion however as Bruno Fernandes grabbed a brace to send the hosts through and ensure Cristiano Ronaldo will have the chance to play in a fifth World Cup.

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