Qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is finally upon us, with UEFA hoping to produce its fifth consecutive champion in the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet.
What TV Channel are UEFA Qualifiers on?
Don’t miss a minute of the action on the road to the 2022 World Cup, with UEFA matches available to watch via ESPN2 and TUDN. You can live stream World Cup qualifiers on fuboTV.
World Cup 2022 - UEFA Qualifying Matchday 1
Wednesday, March 24
Serbia vs. Republic of Ireland (Group A), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 7
Portugal vs. Azerbaijan (Group A), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDN
France vs. Ukraine (Group D), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 1
Finland vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Group D), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 8
Belgium vs. Wales (Group E), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 5
Estonia vs. Czech Republic (Group E), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 9
Gibraltar vs. Norway (Group G), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 10
Slovenia vs. Croatia (Group H), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 6
Thursday, March 25
Israel vs. Denmark (Group F), 12 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 9
Bulgaria vs. Switzerland (Group C), 12 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 7
Italy vs. Northern Ireland (Group C), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 5
Moldova vs. Faroe Islands (Group F), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 10
Sweden vs. Georgia (Group B), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 8
Spain vs. Greece (Group B), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDN
England vs. San Marino (Group I), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 4
Germany vs. Iceland (Group J), 2:45 p.m. ET - ESPN2
Hungary vs. Poland (Group I), 2:45 p.m. ET - TUDNxtra 6
Visit UEFA to view the group standings in full
Not only have the last four World Cups each gone to European teams, but more than 70 years has passed since a nation from the continent failed to feature in the final—the 1950 decider between Uruguay and Brazil. Moreover, three of the last four finals have been all-European affairs (2014 runners-up Argentina being the outlier), so there’s a great chance next year’s victor will hail from this contingent.
Titleholders France are hoping to become the first country to successfully defend the trophy since Brazil in 1962, but Les Bleus are just one of many UEFA giants whose World Cup quest begins this week. Each of the 10 group winners in this stage qualify directly to the 2022 World Cup, with another three places to be decided via the playoffs.
Belgium Out to Wreak Revenge on Wales
Euro 2016 held so much promise for this generation of Belgium’s national team, but one of the country’s better tournament runs in modern times finished as probably their greatest shame.
Hopes for the Red Devils were sky high after a squad comprising Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and other star names hammered Hungary 4-0 in the round of 16. Their quarter-final started in dream fashion thanks to an early Radja Nainggolan goal, but it ultimately ended with a late Hal Robson-Kanu finish that will live long in Welsh memory:
That iconic turn sealed a 3-1 win that ousted Belgium from the last European Championship, as well as a second straight win for Wales over their Group E opponents. In fact, while they may sit 31st in the latest FIFA rankings, far below the world’s top-ranked team, Wales have gone unbeaten in their last four meetings with Belgium.
Both nations have moved on from their coaches during that 2016 clash. Roberto Martinez was appointed Marc Wilmots' successor after that embarrassing exit, and Rob Page remains Wales’ caretaker coach while Ryan Giggs—who replaced Chris Coleman—is investigated following allegations of assault against his ex-girlfriend in 2020.
The Czech Republic are another threat on the top places in Group E, while Belarus and Estonia will be expected to battle just to not finish dead last. Page’s side get their most difficult fixture of the first round out of the way early, but Belgium will be wary of Wales as an all-too familiar threat.
Ukraine First to Challenge France’s Throne
The hard work begins now for France coach Didier Deschamps, who will learn firsthand if what they say about staying at the top being tougher than the climb is true after all.
Les Bleus are somewhat fortunate to meet Ukraine in their Group D opener, returning to the Stade de France where they romped to a 7-1 friendly win in this fixture only last October:
This meeting should, in theory, be more difficult for the French considering Ukraine were at the time weakened by a spike in coronavirus cases.
Deschamps has retained his core of the team that were crowned world champions in 2018, with superstar names like Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante front and center. However, Corentin Tolisso (injury) and Eduardo Camavinga (lacking form) are each absent having each scored in this fixture six months ago.
Andriy Shevchenko will target big improvement in 2021 after guiding his side to six losses in eight outings last year, though a 1-0 win over Spain in the Nations League posits hope for Ukraine. The Eastern Europeans haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 2006, hoping their all-time top scorer can have success in ending that rut as he approaches his five-year anniversary as manager.
Group D also houses Kazakhstan, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Finland, the latter being the only team who have managed to beat France in their last 15 games (2-0 friendly in November 2020).
Germany Set Off for World Cup Redemption
Four-time World Cup winners Germany have featured in more finals than any other team and have fond memories of this tournament, but the 2018 edition was one to forget. Defending champions at the time, Joachim Löw’s men recorded just the second first-round exit in their World Cup history, followed by a winless quartet of results against France and the Netherlands in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.
The DFB nevertheless kept faith in Löw and signed their manager to a new contract through this World Cup cycle, with some normality restored in their results since the start of 2019. A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the current Nations League was hardly ideal preparation returning to World Cup qualifying, but Die Mannschaft should still encounter few problems trying to top Group J.
Opening opponents Iceland will be glad to have heard injury forced Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos to withdraw from Germany’s squad, but Löw still has a plethora of young talent and players in their prime to call upon, via DW Sports:
Germany went undefeated in 12 matches prior to that loss to Spain in November 2020, while Iceland visit the MSV-Arena on Thursday hoping to end a desperate streak of five losses. The last three of those materialized on their travels, one of which was a 2-1 playoff defeat to Hungary that ruled them out of participating at Euro 2020.
Iceland’s coaching duo of ex-international stars Arnar Vidarsson and Eidur Gudjohnsen will hope to inspire some of the same sentiment that got the team to its World Cup finals debut in 2016. They face a difficult debut opposite Germany, but second place in Group J is attainable as they look to beat the likes of Romania, North Macedonia, Armenia and Liechtenstein.