Nine go to WC by virtue of having won their Groups. The best eight of the nine Group 2nd place finishers (sorry, Slovakia) get one last chance, will play two-legged ties against one another to get into WC.
UEFA gets 14 teams slots in World Cup next year. Russia gets one as WC host nation. FIFA National Team rankings are included parenthetically.
Nine qualified for World Cup:
Eight that play one more qualifying round
Switzerland (11) vs. Northern Ireland (23)
Italy (17) vs. Sweden (25)
Croatia (18) vs. Greece (47)
Denmark (19) vs. Ireland (52)
Those first four will be fails, if not quite epic ones, if they don’t get through these ties and into World Cup.
Who failed epically
Who should’ve at least survived to the next qual. round
Czech Rep. (20)
Sexy upset picks that are out
What the fruit happened?
Netherlands (5) – They were the only team to win six games in the Group Stage and not advance. They had a little bad luck being drawn into the Group as underrated France. They lost out to Sweden for 2nd on goal differential tiebreaker.
Romania (8) – They weren’t even in a very strong group on paper, yet finished 4th. Their woes were on offense. They tied for the second-most draws in all Groups. (And they had to contend with Noob’s semi-sexy Poland dark horse pick!)
Wales (10) – Another that wasn’t thought to even be in a strong group. They had five draws, more than any other side in the Groups. They struggled on offense. They only lost once, yet couldn’t get above Serbia or even Ireland.
Serbia (43) – They averaged a very solid two goals per game. They benefitted from Wales not being able to get over the hump in matches and Austria (15) apparently forgetting to play a goalie.
Poland (30) – They were a holy terror on offense, scoring nearly -three- goals per match. They’re every bit as good as Romania (8) and Denmark (24) at this point really.
Iceland (23) – No one in their Group – including them – was scoring much. Iceland had the most grit, won games close. There was no traditional powerhouse in their Group. (Sorry, Croatia (14).)
Ireland (52) – The ONLY team ranked behind more than half the UEFA teams coming into this event! They gave up just six goals in the ten games. They were gritty and perhaps also lucky, being one of only two teams to win just five games and advance. Four draws could’ve been their undoing.
Greece (44) – Same formula: they were other team to win just five games and move on. They, too, only gave up six goals total. Grit and luck, with four ties.