World Cup 2022 European Qualifiers: Schedule, group stage, play-off format, finals

The road to Qatar for European nations is underway; watch games live on Sky Sports and follow via our dedicated live blogs, plus watch in-game clips and free match highlights on Sky Sports' digital platforms

The road to the Qatar 2022 World Cup starts this week
Image: A total of 13 slots in the final tournament are available for UEFA teams

The road to Qatar 2022 for European nations is up and running with UEFA's 55 member associations embarking on their qualifying campaign to reach the finals next year.

England, one of the top seeds, will be pleased with the group they have been handed, with Poland and Hungary the highest ranked of their opponents, while Wales will also have to get past Belgium and Czech Republic to qualify for the 2022 showpiece.

Scotland avoided many of the top sides in Europe, with Denmark and Austria the sides ranked highest of their opponents.

But how many teams qualify per group? Sky Sports provides you with a comprehensive look at how the European qualifiers work.

World Cup 2022 Euro Qualifiers on Sky Sports

Watch Sunday's 2022 World Cup Qualifiers live on Sky Sports from 2pm; also follow via our dedicated live blog, plus watch in-game clips and free match highlights on Sky Sports' digital platforms.

Follow Albania vs England in our dedicated blog on Sunday; watch match highlights 15 minutes after full-time.

How many European nations qualify?

France head coach Didier Deschamps and his team hold aloft the World Cup
Image: France head coach Didier Deschamps and his team hold aloft the World Cup

A total of 13 slots in the final tournament are available for UEFA teams. The 55 teams have been split into five groups of five and five groups of six.

The winners of the 10 groups will qualify automatically for the finals, which for the first time will be played in November and December of 2022 to avoid the punishing summer heat in the Middle East.

What are the groups?

preview image 6:57
As England prepare to face San Marino and Albania in World Cup qualifying, Rob Dorsett provides the latest on Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Jesse Lingard, Ollie Watkins, Jude Bellingham and the goalkeeper situation

Group A: Portugal, Serbia, Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan

Also See:

Group B: Spain, Sweden, Greece, Georgia, Kosovo

Group C: Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania

Group D: France, Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan

Group E: Belgium, Wales, Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia

Group F: Denmark, Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands, Moldova

Group G: Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Montenegro, Latvia, Gibraltar

Group H: Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta

Group I: England, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Andorra, San Marino

Group J: Germany, Romania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein

When will the qualifiers be played?

preview image 0:56
Gareth Bale admitted this could be the current Wales group's last chance at World Cup qualification

The qualifiers will be played between March and November 2021, with play-offs scheduled for March 2022.

Matchday 1: March 24-25 2021
Matchday 2: March 27-28 2021
Matchday 3: March 30-31 2021
Matchday 4: September 1-2 2021
Matchday 5: September 4-5 2021
Matchday 6: September 7-8 2021
Matchday 7: October 8-9 2021
Matchday 8: October 11-12 2021
Matchday 9: November 11-13 2021
Matchday 10: November 14-16 2021

What's the fixture schedule?

What happens if you finish second in your group?

A further three places will be fought out between the 10 group runners-up and the two highest-ranked teams from the Nations League who have not already qualified or finished in a runners-up spot.

These 12 teams will be divided into three play-off paths, each featuring four countries, to determine the final three European berths. The format will consist of two knockout rounds from which the three additional teams qualify.

UEFA Nations League group winners

Division Group Winner Rank
A France 1
A Belgium 2
A Italy 3
A Spain 4
B Wales 17
B Austria 18
B Czech Republic 19
B Hungary 20
C Slovenia 33
C Montenegro 34
C Albania 35
C Armenia 36
D Gibraltar 49
D Faroe Islands 50

Nations League overall ranking - Top 22

TBD France
TBD Belgium
TBD Italy
TBD Spain
5 Portugal
6 Netherlands
7 Denmark
8 Germany
9 England
10 Poland
11 Switzerland
12 Croatia
13 Ukraine
14 Sweden
15 Bosnia and Herzegovina
16 Iceland
17 Wales
18 Austria
19 Czech Republic
20 Hungary
21 Finland
22 Norway

When will the play-offs take place?

0:33
Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall says reaching the World Cup is the new target after qualifying for the Euros

It will be rounds of single-match play-offs (semi-finals and finals, with the home teams to be drawn), and the three path winners will qualify for the World Cup.

The semi-finals will be played on March 24-25, 2022 and will be hosted by the six best-ranked runners-up of the qualifying group stage.

The finals will take place on March 28-29, 2022 and the host will be determined by a draw.

What happens next?

The draw for the 2022 World Cup finals takes place in April 2022.

The 13 European nations will join the 19 nations to have qualified from the other five FIFA confederations and be separated into four pots based on their FIFA world rankings. UEFA can have a maximum of two teams in the same group.

World Cup dates

  • Group stages: November 21, 2022 - December 2, 2022
  • Round of 16: December 3-6, 2022
  • Quarter-finals: December 9-10, 2022
  • Semi-finals: December 13-14, 2022
  • Third place match: December 17, 2022
  • Final: December 18, 2022
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