If you read my previous article, found here, you know I said that Venezuela had a great chance to make it to their first ever World Cup ever, thanks to the return of Josef Martinez as well as many young prospects.
With World Cup qualifiers set to return, some as early as October, I figured it would be a good time to discuss teams with a chance to qualify to the World Cup for the first time ever. (This will not include Venezuela as I have already discussed them, and this will not include Qatar as they qualify automatically since they are World Cup hosts.)
Syria is practically guaranteed to advance to round three of four in Asian World Cup Qualifiers, despite having border issues with Turkey. Syria is currently top of a group that includes China, Maldives, Guam, and the Philippines, and they have won all five games they have played.
A huge part of this is 31-year old striker and captain Omar Al Somah, who is the top scorer so far in qualifiers with seven goals, including a hat-trick against Guam. Al Somah currently plays for Al Ahli (not Al Ahly) in Saudi Arabia, where he has played for six seasons and scored 159 goals. He has earned many awards in his time with Al Ahli, winning Saudi Professional League in 2015/16, as well as the Saudi Cup, Saudi top scorer, and Saudi player of the year.
Syria has come close to qualifying several times. In 2018, they were three games away from qualifying, losing on aggregate 2-3 in extra time to Australia after Tim Cahill scored in the 109th minute. Had Syria won, they would’ve played Honduras in a two-legged playoff to qualify for the World Cup, which Australia won 3-1. In 2014, Syria advanced to the second round of qualifiers but were disqualified since Syria fielded an ineligible player. They came the closest to qualifying in 1986, Syria won their group of North Yemen and Kuwait and beat Bahrain to advance to the final round, which they lost 3-1 to Iraq, allowing Iraq to qualify for the World Cup.
A while ago, during Curacao’s 2019 Gold Cup run, I wrote an article about Curacao being a dark horse to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. That article can be found here, but since then the qualifying format has changed, which might make things harder for Curacao. They need to be in the top six FIFA rankings in North America, and they are 33 points behind El Salvador. This means that Curacao would need to win eleven friendlies, while El Salvador get zero points.
Curacao have a great team, and they might actually have a better chance to qualify now. Originally the top six ranked teams would be chosen after June 2020, but CONCACAF might be forced to revert to the old format since several months of soccer had been canceled. If so, Curacao would be in a great spot to qualify, with a mix of veterans and youngsters.
Finland have a great chance to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. They are fresh off of qualifying for their first international tournament, the 2020 Euros, which will take place in 2021. Finland are in a now-or-never position, with Teemu Pukki, Lukas Hradecky and Simon Skrabb all in their prime.
Finland have not ever qualified for a World Cup, as they are a country that has traditionally been more invested in ice hockey. However, Jari Litmanen broke that trend in 1992 when he signed for Ajax. Litmanen went on to have an elite career, playing for FC Barcelona, Liverpool and Fulham, and he has inspired Finland to invest more in soccer. Finland’s current FIFA ranking is 58th in the world, a significant improvement from 94th in the world in 2016.
The 2022 World Cup will be one of many firsts. It will be the first edition of the tournament held in December, the first held in the Middle East, and Qatar’s first World Cup qualification.
Hopefully at least one of these nations will qualify, as well as so many others that could qualify for the first time, from Luxembourg to Jordan.
If you have any questions for me, please leave a comment. Don’t worry if your comment does not show up, all comments must be approved due to the amount of spam comments received. I hope you enjoyed, and as always, keep watching soccer!