By Anna Goorechev || Contributing Writer
For most international soccer fans, the three years in between each World Cup tournament can be agonizing. Luckily, in June this tedious cycle will finally come to an end as the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia.
In the meantime, national teams from around the world have been battling on the field since March 2015 in order to qualify for the 2018 tournament. Culminating this fall, teams will finally be able to see if they’re one of the lucky 32 who are able to punch their tickets for Russia this summer.
This past week in particular has been a fury of international competition with over 100 matches taking place all across the world. Most notably, France defeated the Netherlands 4-0 with a star-studded squad featuring goals from Antoine Griezmann, a double from Thomas Lemar, and this summer’s hottest signing, Paris Saint Germain’s Kylian Mbappe.
England also made strides towards Russia this week by beating both Malta and Slovakia. However, England still has to perform well against Slovenia and Lithuania in early October in order to secure their ticket to Russia.
Although most of the 32 available spots for Russia are still up for grabs, this past week confirmed that eight teams are officially participating in the World Cup in June. From the European region, both Belgium and Russia are officially included in the tournament. While Russia automatically qualifies as a reward for hosting the tournament, Belgium, led by stars Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and many more, earned their spot after a 2-1 victory against Greece on September 3rd.
The teams representing Asia this summer are Iran, Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Syria and Australia will be competing in October to gain Asia’s final spot to Russia.
On the South American side, Brazil is the first team to officially claim a spot in the World Cup. However, at least three more spots are still available for South American teams. In close competition for these spots are Luis Suarez’s Uruguay, James’ Columbia, Lionel Messi’s Argentina, and underdog Peru.
The teams representing Africa are yet to be determined, however some favorites to claim their five available spots appear to be Egypt, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, and Nigeria.
North America, Central America, and the Caribbean have claim to three spots for the World Cup this summer. Mexico, led by West Ham’s Javier Hernandez, has been the first to confirm qualification after beating Panama 1-0 on September 1st.
The USA on the other hand has had a difficult road so far in attempting to qualify. The US team throughout qualification has lacked consistency, losing multiple games in 2016. This past week the US failed to earn the necessary points to increase their chances to qualify as they lost 2-0 on September 1st to a Keylor Navas led Costa Rica side and then narrowly tied 1-1 against Honduras after a late Bobby Wood equaliser on September 5th, barely keeping intact the United States’ chances to qualify for Russia 2018.
Although the US has a relatively young team, the Americans will depend on up and coming stars such as 18 year old sensation Christian Pulisic in order to beat both Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in early October in hopes of confirming their spot to Russia in June.
First-year Anna Goorevich is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.