In March 2015, the 2018 World Cup qualifiers began and 209 nations played their first games with the hopes of representing their country’ colors in the biggest stage.
As of Oct. 3, there are 251 days until the kick off of the month-long tournament, where we will see 32 teams compete for glory.
Next month, the world will know who will be part of the tournament. So far across the five confederations there have been 767 matches, 2,177 goals and only eight teams have secured their spots.
The October qualifier date will seal the fate of many teams by either giving them the chance to participate in the World Cup or mathematically eliminating them. I’ve chosen matches where the stakes are high and one mistake could mean your national team will be at home watching Russia 2018 from their couches.
United States vs. Panama
The USMNT is in trouble. After losing and tying in their two last World Cup qualifier games, respectively, their chances to qualify have decreased to 69 percent according to ESPN Soccer Power Index. It’s do or die for the United States: if they win their chances will jump to 81 percent, if they tie the chances will go down to 44 percent and if they lose the chances will drop to 28 percent.
If Panama wins, they qualify for the World Cup automatically. It won’t be an easy match. Will the venue affect the United States as they said about Red Bull Arena against Costa Rica? Hopefully not.
Syria vs. Australia
Syria and Australia are battling for the fifth spot in Asia to go on to a playoff game against the fourth place team from CONCACAF. Everyone knows the story of Syria, a country torn from a bloody civil war, who has had to play their qualifiers away from home. Soccer may be the only happiness the country has nowadays. Syria got here in dramatic fashion, scoring a second goal in the dying seconds of their game against Iran.
Costa Rica vs. Honduras
These two teams, along with the United States, are looking for the automatic bid to the World Cup to avoid the intercontinental playoff game against the Syria/Australia winner. Costa Rica currently is second and if the United States loses or ties, they will qualify.
Honduras is fifth behind the United States. If Honduras wins, they will take the fourth place from the United States and go to the intercontinental playoff game.
Uruguay vs. Venezuela
Qualifiers in South America are fun. Everyone competes against each other, because it’s the conference with the least members. Right now the difference between the second-place team, Uruguay, and the fifth-place team, Argentina, is three points. If Uruguay wins against an already-eliminated Venezuela, they will qualify for the World Cup.
Argentina vs. Peru
The last time Argentina didn’t qualify for the World Cup was for Mexico in 1970. And who left them out of the tournament? Peru. Argentina, who is still trying to find their playing style, might not make it to the World Cup. Imagine a World Cup without Lionel Messi and company. If they win they have a chance of staying in competition.
Portugal vs. Andorra
The way qualifiers work in Europe is as follows: there are nine groups and the winner of each group advances to the World Cup. The runner-up then plays another playoff match with another European team. Portugal played Sweden in 2014 and although they won comfortably, they would rather not worry about it. If they win, they will secure their place as the No. 1 team in their group and likely qualify.
This is a critical and stressful time for fans, coaches and players of different countries. Get ready, because we are about to witness some of the greatest games before the World Cup.
Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.