The 2022 World Cup preliminary Qualifiers are underway; but should more Asian nations make the finals?

COMMENT – I think there needs to be a bit more explanation about the SUM qualifying points. That sounds interesting, but is not really explained. Your graphic is good (from a visual perspective, I would have done it either going up or down or gone alphabetically), though I think it is not strong enough to make a point for more Asian spots, do you feel it does? I would have also looked at the points that the teams have at the finals, possibly that could have been used to make your argument. Try not to get carried away by the context (ie about the Chinese Super League) as you can’t really use that to argue that they should have more spaces – or if you want to do that, you would need to explain why that is relevant.

 

With the FIFA World Cup in Qatar rapidly approaching, the mens teams are now over half way through the second round of preliminary qualification in the Asian Football Conference (AFC).

For the Asian nations this will later include a group stage process with the other 45 states  that make up their federation, as they fight over the 4 possible spots.

With the chance of progressing at just 8.6% for the AFC, the question of whether the spots have been fairly distributed across the federations is questionable.

As displayed in the graph, the percentage of qualifying spots is not proportional to the number of member states.

For example, in the AFC the nations outnumber the amount of finals spots by 11.5 to one compared to South America (CONMEBOL) where there is just 2.5 nations for every one spot.

FIFA suggest that they pick the numbers based upon the quality of the countries in each confederation.

However, the quality of the AFC has drawn closer to the top level federations in recent years.

The average qualifying points, or “SUM” points, for the AFC is now just 237.8 below the European nations of UEFA, 1374.4 to 1136.6, meaning that in-fact the federations are as close as ever before.

This may be due to the growth of the domestic leagues in several of the confederations best World Cup hopefuls into global powers.

The pulling forces of the Chinese Super League (CSL) has grown massively in the last five years, with some of the Premier Leagues top players making big money moves to Asia.

Oscars transfer to Shanghai SIPG led to many of the other EPL to CSL transfers of the last half decade. Photo: Wikimedia

Oscar, Ramires, and Graziano Pelle have all taken large wage offers to join the CSL.

Some people have also suggested that the size of the countries should also be taken into account when deciding exactly which countries should or should not go to the finals in 2022.

This discrepancy between total population size and number of qualifying nations is as visible for the Asian nations as any other federation.

Of the top 50 most densely populated nations in the world, 16 of these are within the AFC, with just nine of the UEFA nations in there and zero of the South American (CONMEBOL) teams.

With the continued improvement of the standard of football at both the domestic and international level in the AFC, the pressure on FIFA to adapt the numbers of qualifying spots is continuing to build weight.