ZURICH: Finally, Europe will shortly be joining the World Cup qualifying competition almost a year after the routes to Qatar in 2022 were mapped out for most of the rest of the world.

Europe’s preliminary draw will be staged on December 7 in Zurich but all those involved should be warned that the format includes the controversial extra qualification path from the Nations League.

The format will feature a group stage comprising five groups of six teams and five groups of five teams. All teams within a group will play each other twice in a home-and-away format between March and November 2021.

The 10 group winners will qualify directly for Qatar with the 10 runners-up advancing to the playoffs.

The play-offs will also include the two best group winners from the UEFA Nations League 2020-2021 overall ranking that did not qualify directly for the World Cup 2022 and did not enter the play-offs as runners-up.

The 12 teams will be split into three play-off paths, which will feature single-leg knockout matches in March 2022 to determine the last three European nations to book a place in Qatar.

Pot allocation

For the sake of the preliminary draw, the 55 participating teams will be allocated to six pots – five containing ten teams and one containing five teams – based on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking of 26 November 2020.

The 10 highest-ranked teams will be allocated to Pot 1, the next ten highest to Pot 2 and so on until the last five remaining teams have been allocated to Pot 6.

The teams drawn will be allocated to a group in alphabetical order, from Group A to Group J (i.e. the first team drawn will be allocated to Group A, the second team to Group B and so forth). When a draw constraint applies or is anticipated to apply, the team drawn will be allocated to the first available group in alphabetical order as indicated by the draw constraint programme.

As Pot 6 will only contain five teams, these teams will be drawn into the sixth position in groups F to J.

The full draw procedures, including details on constraints, are available here.

To date, 146 out of 900 FIFA World Cup 2022 preliminary-competition matches have been played and 191 teams remain in the race for one of the 31 berths that are still up for grabs. Hosts Qatar have qualified automatically and will kick off the tournament on Monday, 21 November 2022 at 13:00 local time (11:00 CET) at Al Bayt Stadium.

Further details on the FIFA World Cup 2022 preliminary competition are available on FIFA.com.