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Courtesy of FIFA Media Team, Sports Village Square brings to you the Facts and Figures on the 32 teams’ roads to the 21st FIFA World Cup Finals


  •  A total of 871 matches were played in the Russia 2018 qualifiers, one more than originally projected. The South Africa versus Senegal match had to be replayed owing to referee’s manipulation of the result of the original match.
  • Four nations made their debut in the qualifying competition. They are Bhutan, Gibraltar, Kosovo and South Sudan.
  • Italy were the only previous world champions to fail to make it through.

The Road to Russia 2018 is the longest in the history of world finals qualifying competitions. For some it has been a mere stroll in the park; for others an arduous journey full of obstacles. Some 209 teams started out, but only 31 made it to the end, joining hosts Russia in next year’s world finals.

With the dust having now settled, takes a look at some of the qualifying competition’s quirkier statistics.


871 – is the total number of matches played in the Russia 2018 qualifiers, a record. The first took place in Timor-Leste on March 12, 2015 and the last in Peru on November 12, 2017.


63 – is the number of World Cup qualifying matches Spain have now gone without defeat, a record La Roja can add to when the Qatar 2022 qualifiers get under way. Next on the list is Nigeria with 36.

22 – is the number of matches played by Australia on the road to Russia 2018, equalling the record set by Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago in the qualifiers for Korea/Japan 2002.


4 – is the number of teams who made their World Cup qualifying debuts: Bhutan, Gibraltar, Kosovo and South Sudan.

7 – is the number of previous World Cup winners who made it through the qualifiers: Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Uruguay, England and Argentina. The only one to miss out were four-time world champions Italy, who will be absent for the first time since Sweden 1958, following their defeat to the Swedes in the European play-offs.


21  – is the number of World Cup finals Brazil will have contested when they step out at Russia 2018. The first team to book their place, on March 28,  2017, the Brazilians are also the only nation never to have missed a single world finals. Holders Germany are next on the list with 17 consecutive appearances.

20 – is the number of teams who lined up at Brazil 2014 and will do so again at Russia 2018. Curiously, Nigeria are the only African side among them.

36 – is the number of years since Peru were last at the World Cup, at Spain 1982. The other teams to return after long absences are Egypt, whose last appearance came at Italy 1990, and Morocco, who were last on the big stage at France 1998.


2,457 –
is the number of goals that were scored in the qualifying competition as a whole. Quito scored the first, for Timor-Leste, in their 4-1 defeat of Mongolia in Dili on  March12,  2015. Christian Ramos scored the last, for Peru, in their 2-0 win over New Zealand in Lima on  November 15, 2017.


* The biggest win was Qatar’s 15-0 defeat of Bhutan in the second round of the Asian qualifiers.

* Joint leading goal scorers of the qualifiers, with 16 goals apiece:

  • Mohamed Al Sahlawi (Saudi Arabia)
  • Ahmed Khalil (United Arab Emirates)
  • Robert Lewandowski (Poland), who also scored three hat-tricks

* Highest goalscorers in a single match, with five goals:

  • Mohamed Al Sahlawi (Saudi Arabia), against Timor-Leste
  • Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala), against St. Vincent and the Grenadines

* Goalscorers

  • Youngest: Ahmed Al Sarori (Yemen), 17 years and 95 days
  • Oldest: Pablo Escobar (Bolivia), 38 years and 91 days

* Players

  • Youngest: Anthony Likiliki (Tonga), 15 years and 257 days
  • Oldest: Dady Aristide (Turks and Caicos Islands), 44 years and 293 days


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis




The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.


  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.


  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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International Football

Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal



Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.


An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.


The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.


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International Football

Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals



African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.


Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.



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