How many teams qualify for World Cup from Europe in playoffs?

In the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the UEFA (Europe) region, 13 teams will qualify directly to the final tournament in Qatar. The qualifying system is divided into 10 groups, with the winner of each group automatically qualifying. The 10 group runners-up will advance to a 12-team playoff, where the 12 teams will be drawn into 3 separate knockout paths. The winner of each path (3 teams total) will clinch the final 3 World Cup spots allocated to UEFA.

Quick Answers

– 13 UEFA teams qualify directly from the group stage for the 2022 World Cup

– 10 UEFA group runners-up advance to the playoffs

– 12 teams compete in the UEFA playoffs (the 10 runners-up plus 2 teams from the Nations League

– The playoffs feature 3 knockout paths, each with 4 teams

– The winner of each path (3 teams total) qualifies for the World Cup

UEFA World Cup Qualifying Format

For the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, UEFA was allocated 13 direct qualifying spots. To determine these spots, UEFA divided its 55 member associations into 10 qualifying groups – 5 groups of 6 teams and 5 groups of 5 teams.

Each group played a double round-robin format, with every team playing the others in their group home and away. The winners of each of the 10 groups automatically qualified for the World Cup. These 10 group winners accounted for 13 of UEFA’s allocation.

Playoff Spots

In addition to the 13 direct qualifiers, UEFA was allocated 3 more World Cup spots for the playoffs. These spots would be contested by 10 teams – the 10 group runners-up from the qualifying group stage.

Joining those 10 teams in the playoffs were another 2 teams determined by performance in the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League. These 2 Nations League participants were selected based on their ranking in the Nations League and the fact they had not already qualified directly or entered the playoffs as a group runner-up.

So in total, there were 12 teams entered into the UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs – the 10 group runners-up and 2 Nations League teams.

Playoff Format

The 12 playoff teams were split into 3 separate knockout paths, each featuring 4 teams. The playoff paths were drawn at random to determine the 4 teams in each path. Each path consisted of 2 semi-final matchups, with the winner of each semi-final advancing to a final.

The winner of each of the 3 playoff path finals would clinch one of UEFA’s 3 remaining World Cup spots. In total, 3 of the 12 playoff teams qualified for Qatar through this format.

The 12 Playoff Teams

The 12 UEFA teams that entered the World Cup qualifying playoffs were:

  • Portugal (Group A runners-up)
  • Scotland (Group F runners-up)
  • Italy (Group C runners-up)
  • Russia (Group H runners-up)
  • Sweden (Group B runners-up)
  • Wales (Group E runners-up)
  • Turkey (Group G runners-up)
  • Poland (Group I runners-up)
  • North Macedonia (Group J runners-up)
  • Ukraine (Group D runners-up)
  • Austria (Nations League qualifier)
  • Czech Republic (Nations League qualifier)

Seeded Teams

For the playoff draw, the 12 teams were seeded based on the overall European Qualifiers ranking. The 6 best runners-up were seeded teams, while the remaining 4 runners-up and 2 Nations League teams were unseeded.

The seeded teams for the UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs were:

  • Portugal
  • Scotland
  • Italy
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Wales

The unseeded teams were Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Turkey, Austria and Czech Republic.

The Playoff Draw

On November 26, 2021, UEFA held the official draw for the World Cup qualifying playoffs at its headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The 12 teams were split into 3 paths.

The draw ensured that the seeded teams were evenly distributed, with 2 seeds and 2 unseeded teams in each path. Based on the random draw, here is how the playoff paths and matchups looked:

Path A

  • Semi-final 1: Scotland vs Ukraine
  • Semi-final 2: Wales vs Austria

Path B

  • Semi-final 1: Russia vs Poland
  • Semi-final 2: Sweden vs Czech Republic

Path C

  • Semi-final 1: Italy vs North Macedonia
  • Semi-final 2: Portugal vs Turkey

The semi-finals were originally scheduled for March 24-25, 2022. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the postponement of Path B until June.

Playoff Results

Here were the eventual results from each of the 3 playoff paths:

Path A

  • Semi-final 1: Scotland 3-1 Ukraine
  • *Match postponed due to war in Ukraine
  • Semi-final 2: Wales 2-1 Austria
  • Final: Wales 1-0 Ukraine

Wales won Path A to qualify for the World Cup.

Path B

  • Semi-final 1: Poland bye (Russia disqualified)
  • Semi-final 2: Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic
  • Final: Poland 2-0 Sweden

Poland won Path B to qualify after Russia was banned.

Path C

  • Semi-final 1: North Macedonia 1-0 Italy
  • Semi-final 2: Portugal 2-0 Turkey
  • Final: Portugal 2-0 North Macedonia

Portugal won Path C to qualify for the World Cup.

Qualifying Teams

So in summary, these were the 3 teams that qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup through the UEFA playoff system:

  1. Wales (Path A winner)
  2. Poland (Path B winner)
  3. Portugal (Path C winner)

They joined the 13 teams that had already directly qualified from the UEFA group stage.


While 13 UEFA teams secure direct qualification to the World Cup from the qualifying group stage, 3 more spots are up for grabs through the playoff system. A total of 12 teams compete in playoffs that are split into 3 separate 4-team knockout paths. The winner of each path claims one of UEFA’s remaining World Cup spots. For the 2022 World Cup, Wales, Poland and Portugal emerged from the UEFA playoffs to qualify.

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