With 2014 World Cup qualification continuing apace this week, we are beginning to get a good understanding of the 32 sides who will make up the competition next summer.
As qualification in some confederations still dependent upon playoffs and further group stages, predicting which sides will qualify is far from an exact science. However, we can still attempt to do so.
So, without further ado, let's set about predicting which sides will qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
With the European qualification system relatively straightforward and now nearing its completion, we have a decent idea which sides will top their groups and qualify automatically for next summer's World cup.
Most of the current group leaders look set to claim their place at the tournament, with just a few fixtures now remaining.
Should all go as expected, that would then see many of the traditional favourites for success at the competition qualify, including Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
Emerging powers of European football such as Belgium, Bosnia and, to a lesser extent, Switzerland all look set to join them.
The one side currently in second place in their group standings who will still be expected to top their group once all fixtures have been completed is England, with Montenegro still facing difficult trips to both Warsaw and London in the coming rounds.
To complete the European qualifying section, the top eight of nine second placed sides will compete in a round of playoff fixtures, with the four winners progressing to Brazil.
The draw is not completely random, however, with four sides first being seeded based on FIFA rankings in order to keep them separate when the draw is made.
For the purpose of this prediction, we shall assume that the highest ranked sides shall progress.
France vs. Bulgaria—France qualify
Russia vs. Hungary—Russia qualify
Croatia vs. Austria—Croatia qualify
Greece vs. Montenegro—Greece qualify
The second round group stage is now just one game from completion in Africa, with the top side from each of the ten groups set to move forward into playoff fixtures to decide the eventual qualifiers.
At present, it appears as though many of the countries leading nations historically will reach the final round—a change from recent World Cups where some less well regarded nations have emerged.
Here are the potential group winners:
Using the same principles and, thus, sticking to the FIFA rankings, the five seeded nations who would be expected to progress from their playoff fixtures would be: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Burkina Faso.
Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup is practically complete, with Iran, South Korea, Japan and Australia already having secured their berths at next summer's tournament.
All that remains to be decided now is the winner of a playoff fixture between Jordan and Uzbekistan, with the winner earning the right to play the fifth placed side in South American qualifying for a World Cup place.
Using rankings to decide once more, the fifth Asian side to qualify for the 2014 World Cup would be: Uzbekistan.
CONMEBOL (South America)
With each side now having completed either 12 or 13 of their 16 qualification fixtures, South American qualifying for the 2014 World Cup is beginning to take shape.
At present, Argentina are the only side mathematically guaranteed at least a playoff position. However, the top four of Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile all look safe bets to qualify with relative ease.
Of the continent's former World Cup winning nations, it is Uruguay who may not reach next summer's tournament.
Five points adrift of Chile, Uruguay have arguably the toughest fixtures remaining of any side involved and, despite their game in hand, could come under a significant challenge from Venezuela and Peru.
Looking at the remaining qualification fixtures, it is perhaps Venezuela who are currently in pole position to claim a playoff place—where they would meet Uzbekistan or Jordan.
Our prediction suggests it is Uzbekistan who they will face for a World Cup place and, going on world rankings once more, it is the Vino Tinto of Venezuela who would qualify for the World Cup.
CONCACAF (North America)
There are still four matchdays remaining of the Fourth Round of CONCACAF qualifying—otherwise known as the Hexagonal.
Much can, of course, still change between now and the final fixture on October 15, but the standings are beginning to take shape.
USA, Costa Rica and Mexico would appear to be good bets for automatic qualification at present, leaving just one more place available.
The fourth place side, though, will have to playoff against the winner of OFC qualifying (New Zealand) for a place at the World Cup.
At present Honduras lie in fourth place, with a point more to their name than Panama. It is Panama, though, who would appear to have the better fixtures remaining.
Therefore, for the sake of our predictions, Panama will take fourth place and a spot in the playoffs.
New Zealand have already emerged victorious from the OFC qualification section and will playoff against the fourth best CONCACAF side for a World Cup place—in this case Panama.
Using FIFA rankings once more, then, we can determine that Panama will take the final place at our World Cup table.
Full List of Qualified Teams:
|Russia||Ivory Coast||S. Korea||Colombia||Costa Rica|
Based on predictions