European World Cup play-offs: All you need to know - FCNaija

World Cup 2018 By: Ambrose Udeme | 08/11/2017

The European Qualifiers play-offs for the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday and will run through next Tuesday with teams still vying for spots in next summer tournament. The group phase of the European Qualifiers concluded last month, with the nine teams who topped their sections earning places alongside hosts Russia at next summer's FIFA World Cup.

Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Croatia, Greece, Sweden, Italy, Denmark and Republic of Ireland were the eight group runners-up with the best records against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups (Slovakia were the ninth team that missed out).

Who has already qualified?

From UEFA the nine qualifying group winners have booked their places alongside hosts Russia while 13 of the 18 non-European slots are filled.

Belgium, England, France, Germany (holders), Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia (hosts), Serbia, Spain

How did the teams reach the playoffs?

The nine European groups in FIFA World Cup qualifying came to a conclusion in October, with only eight of the runners-up advancing to November's play-offs.

All nine group winners qualified automatically. The eight runners-up with the best records against the sides first, third, fourth and fifth in their groups have gone into the play-offs for UEFA's remaining four berths (the exclusion of results against sixth-placed teams was retained to alleviate any possible imbalance between the qualifying groups caused by the late introductions of Gibraltar and Kosovo).

With matches against the bottom side in the six-team groups discounted, the runners-up were ranked by the following criteria, in this order, as per FIFA competition regulations, article 20 paragraph 6, criteria a), b), c), then h) and i):

1 Highest number of points

2 Best goal difference

3 Highest number of goals scored

4 Fair play points (first yellow card -1pts; second yellow card/indirect red card -3pts; direct red card -4pts; yellow card, plus direct red card -5pts)

5 Drawing of lots

Finals draw (State Kremlin Palace, Moscow): 1 December – the four seeding pots will be set by the October 2017 FIFA World Ranking, with hosts Russia taking position 1 in Group A and holders Germany, European champions Portugal, Belgium, Poland, France and Spain among those in Pot 1. No more than two teams from UEFA, or one from any of the other single confederations, can be in a single group.

Play-off fixtures

Northern Ireland v Switzerland (Thursday & Sunday)

Croatia v Greece (Thursday & Sunday)

Sweden v Italy (Friday & Monday)

Denmark v Republic of Ireland (Saturday & Tuesday)

All kick-offs 20:45 except Switzerland v Northern Ireland at 18:00CET on Sunday

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