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Which Team will Debut in Russia 2018?


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Discussion Starter #1
With the close of 2016, every confederation is roughly at least one-third of their way through qualifying and we are starting to see a clearer picture of what teams are in good shape to qualify and which teams are already out of it. The question I ask is do you think there will be any teams to make their debut at the World Cup in Russia? Since the expansion to 32 teams in 1998 every edition of the World Cup has had at least one

1998 - Croatia, Japan, South Africa, Jamaica
2002 - Senegal, China, Slovenia, Ecuador
2006 - Ghana, Ivory Coast, Angola, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine
2010 - Slovakia (as independent nation)
2014 - Bosnia-Herzegovina

So who are the most likely candidates in 2018? I will ignore OFC because they have no chance in the intercontinental playoff and the winner will likely be New Zealand anyway

AFC
Of the teams remaining the ones which have never qualified for a previous World Cup are: Uzbekistan, Syria, Qatar and Thailand. Qatar and Thailand are pretty much out already while Syria are getting respectable results but unlikely to finish in the top three at least.
The most realistic candidate is Uzbekistan who are becoming the "nearly men" every four years. In 2006 they lost in the AFC playoff on away goals and in 2014 they lost on penalty kicks. Right now they are third place in their group, two points behind Iran, one point behind South Korea and a comfortable four points above Syria, so a top three finish should be secure (only top two is automatic qualification). Their upcoming fixtures aren't too bad but they close the cycle with trips to Iran/China and then hosting South Korea. Even if they finish 3rd, they will likely have to progress in the playoff against a stronger team on paper (AUS/JPN/KSA) and even if they progress through that a playoff against the 4th team in CONCACAF

CAF
Group A - Guinea and Libya lost their opening two matches and have slim chances of top spot
Group B - Zambia got a respectable point at Cameroon but it seems Nigeria are running away with it
Group C - Gabon have a double header with Ivory Coast in September which will determine their true chances, Mali in the past should have done better with the generations they have had but its unlikely 2018 will be their year
Group D - Burkina Faso nearly qualified for 2014 and at the moment they are top of their group, but its a competitive one with Senegal and South Africa on their heels. At the bottom its Cape Verde who are a growing team but after losing their first two matches unlikely to make 2018
Group E - Uganda give themselves a chance after earning a point in Ghana, they play Egypt twice in September so we will see how realistic their chances are. Congo lost their opening two matches and likely done

CONCACAF
Out of the six teams in the hex, only Panama have never made a World Cup and they missed out on 2014 in heartbreaking fashion to Mexico. Panama are off to a promising start, winning in Honduras and getting a point at home to Mexico. In CONCACAF the top three qualify automatically while the fourth place team faces 5th place in Asia. Panama have interesting fixtures in March, they visit Trinidad (the weakest team in the hex) and then host the US. If they can get six points from those two matches their chances improve drastically

CONMEBOL
Not in 2018, Venezuela rock bottom after some turmoil on and off the pitch, they have regressed massively since their success in 2014 qualifying, also hurting teams like them is there is one less spot for CONMEBOL in 2018 qualifying

UEFA
Azerbaijan: Started the campaign brightly but coming off a hammering in Northern Ireland. With Germany in the group, second place is best they can hope for. Even if they do manage to finish second place they will try to avoid being one with the least amount of points and being unseeded will mean they will likely play a traditional European WC qualifier such as Netherlands/Italy/Portugal/Switzerland

Montenegro: Montenegro have started brightly, the most impressive result was winning in Denmark however they shot themselves in the foot against Armenia blowing a two goal lead late to lose. Some positive news for them is three of their first four matches were away from home and they have picked up points from those games. They will have a home heavy schedule in 2017. In March they host group leaders Poland, if they can get something from that not only is 2nd place more realistic, a fight for first isn't too far away. Four of their next five are home matches too

Iceland: The Euro quarterfinalists made the playoff stage in 2014 before losing to Croatia have had a mixed start to their WC campaign. They have 7 points from 4 matches, picking up a valuable draw in Ukraine and easily beating Turkey while they were quite fortunate to beat Finland and are coming off an easy defeat in Croatia. They have proven they will be tough to beat at home but their away from is shaky. The good news for them is they got two of the tougher away trips out of the way already and still host the top two teams in the group Croatia and Ukraine. Very much in the picture for the top two spots
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Uzbekistan look good for at least third in their group but they will have their chances for 2nd place if they can somehow get something in Tehran. Panama hurt their chances of automatic qualification this month with only 1 point from T&T (away) and USA (home). They remain in third but as I mentioned in the CONCACAF thread they still go to MEX, CRC, USA and have dropped points at home already. Montenegro also suffered a loss at home to Poland, hard to see them winning the group but 2nd place is still in reach. Iceland's fate will probably be determined how they do against Croatia at home in June, if they fail to win then I also see no higher than 2nd for them
 

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2014 - Bosnia-Herzegovina (as independent nation)

I would add that.
 
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San Marino, Gibraltar, Tonga, American Samoa, Montserratt --- that will spark the ratings and light up the tournament lol :p :D :p :D
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Syria are surprisingly still very much alive heading into the final round, however they need to win in Iran which will be difficult, though Iran have nothing to play for and they are quite friendly lets just say. Uzbekistan lost late in China, meaning to have to beat Korea to qualify. Qatar were officially eliminated today and become the first team ever to host a World Cup without previously qualifying
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Syria will be in the AFC two-leg playoff against Australia, ironically their home game will be closer to Australia than Syria :lala:

In Africa there are still four likely debutants; Uganda lost today in Egypt which was expected but if they can win their final two games + Egypt lose in Ghana, they will qualify. Gabon got a win in Ivory Coast despite playing with 10 men for the entire 2nd half, however their chances are slim, they will probably need a win in Morocco and some help elsewhere. Group D is the most likely to provide a debutant, Burkina Faso took two points in two games from Senegal and top the group with Cape Verde (another potential debutant; beat South Africa away today). Zambia took six points from Algeria and are only three points behind Nigeria, where they play next

In CONCACAF, Panama are keeping pace, should win today against T&T they will hope Honduras/USA draw. Realistically, USA will finish 3rd with Panama having the better fixtures than Honduras to finish 4th

In UEFA its down to Montenegro and Iceland; Montenegro get a deserved win over Romania to keep them joint 2nd with Denmark, who they host next MD, but they also go to Poland on the final MD so the fixtures are not ideal. Iceland after their shock loss to Finland recover with a win over Ukraine, joint top with Croatia. Their match at Turkey on the next MD will determine their fate, they need a win in all likelihood as Ukraine/Croatia face the minnows next MD (draw won't be good enough)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Syria got a 1:1 draw with Australia in the first leg of the Asian playoff, probably a deserved result but their penalty was laughable, Iranian referee as well. Probably the worst call I've seen. The Aussies with the away goal edge however
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Montenegro all but out after losing to Denmark at home; they not only need to beat Poland on the final MD but they must also hope Denmark lose at home to Romania. Even in this scenario they will very likely be the worst runner-up anyway. So in terms of Europe its down to Iceland in terms of debutants and they must get a result in Turkey tomorrow to have a realistic shot
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Congrats to Panama, came from behind to beat Costa Rica and results went their way, most importantly the US losing in Trinidad & Tobago.

Iceland and Panama are the official debutants for 2018 continuing the streak since 1998
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Also, this Panama team must be one of the oldest teams going to a World Cup ever, they have some youngsters but a lot of 30+ players, and their most key players too. So this was their last chance to do it and they did
 

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i heard the first Panama goal was a bit shady (many Americans thinking the game was fixed)

and tbh what they did in the end was pure travesty (ball went out around 90' mark, Panama sub warming up kicked it to the stands as hard as he could and apparently nobody on the stadium could find another ball for the next 3 minutes...it was 93:30 when they kicked off again and the ref soon blew the final whistle)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Nobody is going to do favors for the US, especially in this political climate. The Panama first goal didn't cross the line

But as somebody mentioned, to not qualify from CONCACAF is a joke...Panama did it with 2 wins from 10 ffs. Basically in CONCACAF if you win your home games you make it. USA lost 2 home games.
 
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