2018 is only a year away. Sooner than you know it, we will be in the midst of yet another World Cup. Things are heating up as we get closer to 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, and CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers is bringing all the heat. Let’s take a look at how the qualifications are going down in South America.
CONMEBOL is the organization that handles South American qualification, as well as other South American international competitions.
Over the course of twelve matches from October of 2015 to now, Brazil has risen to the front of the pack with 27 points and eight wins. Venezuela and Bolivia are at the bottom of the current standings, both suffering nine defeats in only twelve games.
All of the matches between October of 2015 and October of 2017 are part of Round 1. (Other regions with more countries competing have up to three rounds to weed out the competition. Since CONMEBOL has only ten countries, each country has the full two years of qualification time to rise to a qualifying position.) The results of this round determine which CONMEBOL countries will be able to participate in the 2018 World Cup. The latest completed matches in the ongoing competition took place back in November of 2016, and there will be upcoming ones later on this month.
On March 23rd, five CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying matches will take place, including Colombia vs. Bolivia, Paraguay vs. Ecuador, and Uruguay vs. Brazil, Venezuela vs. Peru, and Argentina vs. Chile. On March 28th, five more matches will take place. The competition will not resume until August. The final matches of Round 1 will occur in September and October.
The top four CONMEBOL clubs at the end of Round 1 will be guaranteed a spot in the 2018 World Cup. The fifth team must fight for a spot by means of a playoff match against the winning top club from the Oceania Football Confederation.
The entire world of football is divided into regions of Africa, Asia, North and Central America and the Caribbean, Europe, Oceania, and South America. Each region has a football organization that governs its international affairs, and each region is allotted a specified number of guaranteed spots in the World Cup, and select regions also have one playoff spot. The teams that gain a playoff spot will compete in a two-match home and away series against the team that earned the playoff spot in another region.
The number of guaranteed spots given to each region is not allotted in a numerically even fashion. For example, the region of Africa, governed by the Confederation of African Football, has a total of fifty-three nations competing for World Cup berth, but the region only has five World Cup positions without a playoff option. CONMEBOL, on the other hand, is a relatively small organization composed of only ten countries. Nevertheless, a total of four guaranteed World Cup spots have been allotted to CONMEBOL with one possible addition should a fifth South American team win the two game playoff series against the top team from Oceania. Although the Oceania Football Confederation is made up of eleven countries, the region has not been allotted any guaranteed World Cup spots. The only spot available to Oceania is a playoff opportunity that will go to the team with the most points at the end of October 2017.
World Cup Qualification is perhaps the only time when the FIFA World Rankings of each country matter. The number of allocated World Cup spots given to each region depends on the overall strength of the regional confederations teams, as determined by each country’s ranking. That is why Europe, with only one more competing country than Africa, has a total of nine more guaranteed spots in the 2018 World Cup.
The fact that CONMEBOL has 4.5 spots in the world cup (the .5 is how FIFA numerically represents the available playoff spot) says much as to the strength, according to FIFA rankings, of the countries the Confederation consists of. CONMEBOL will most likely send a total of five teams to the World Cup, the very same number that Africa, consisting of fifty-three total nations, over five times that of CONMEBOL’s ten, will be guaranteed to send.
As the CONMEBOL competition intensifies over the next seven months, fans around the world are certainly in for a treat every international break.