Thirty-two national football teams will play in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. These will have to be chosen from the amazing 207 teams attempting to play in the world's largest sporting event. Only one team, the hosts Germany, will not have to go through the qualification process as, for the first time ever, the current holders will not automatically be given the chance to defend their title.
In order to separate the cream of international football out from the rest, FIFA run 6 seperate quialifying competitions, based on geographic areas with each area sending a set number of teams to the finals.
- Europe will send 14 teams (including Germany)
- Africa will send 5 teams
- North America will send 3 or 4 teams (the forth spot is contested between North America and Asia)
- Asia will send 4 or 5 teams (see North America)
- South America will send 4 or 5 teams (The fith spot is contested between South America and Oceania)
- Oceania may send one team, depending on a play-off with South America
What now follows is an outline of the seperate qualification processes for each zone. The qualifying teams will be added as approprate.
The European zone for qualfication has 52 members. Of these, Germany will automatically qualify for the finals as hosts so 51 must battle for the remaining thirteen places.
The 51 teams are drawn into eight groups (three of seven teams, and five of six teams). During this draw, the teams' rankings are taken into account to ensure a good spread of teams' abilities in each group.
The teams in each group play each other home and away as in a league system. The winner of each league group and the two best runners-up will qualify for the finals.
The six remaining runners up are drawn against each other for play-off matches for the remaining three places. These matches will also be played on a home and away basis.
- Serbia and Montenegro
- Czech Republic
The African zone also has 52 members, but one (Djibouti) is not contesting. The African qualification process involves two stages.
Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and Tunisia -- who qualified for the World Cup last time -- together with the four highest FIFA-ranked African teams, Morocco, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Congo, will not contest this stage and pass directly to stage two.
The remaining 42 teams will be randomly drawn against each other for a home and away knockout competition. The 21 winners will pass through to stage two.
The teams are seeded and sorted into five groups of six teams. The teams will play each other in a home and away league system. The winners of each group will become the five teams to go on to contest the World Cup
- Côte d’Ivoire
35 members make up the North American zone, but Puerto Rico did not enrol.
The teams are seeded and split into ten groups of three teams and two groups of two teams. Each team in each group plays each other home and away as a league system. The winners of each group go on to stage two.
The twelve teams from the previous stage are now sorted into three groups of four teams. Once again, the groups are played as a league system with home and away matches. The three group winners and the three runners-up continue to the stage three.
The six successfull teams from the last round are put through a final league system. One group, with all the teams playing home and away. The three top teams from the league automatically qualify for the World Cup. The forth-placed team will enter a play-off with the fifth-placed team from the Asia zone. The winner will go on the the finals.
- Costa Rica
- Trinidad and Tobago
Of the Asian zone's 44 members, Cambodia, Philippines, Bhutan, Brunei and Darussalam did not enrol; also Myanmar were excluded. This leaves 39 entries to the qualifiers.
The 14 lowest FIFA-ranked African clubs must play in stage one. The other clubs may proceed directly to stage two.
The 14 teams are drawn against each other in seven games. The matches are played home and away and the winners continue to stage two.
The seven teams victorious in stage two join the other teams to make 32 for this stage. Eight groups of four teams are rawn according to FIFA-rankings. The groups are played as a league with home and away matches. The eight winners of each group continue to the next stage.
Two groups of four teams are chose to play home and away fixtures in a league system. The winners and runners-up from each league qualify for the World Cup finals. The two third-placed teams will play each other home and away and the victor will face the forth-placed team from the North American zone in a playoff.
- Korea Republic
- Saudi Arabia
Twelve teams from the Oceanian zone will battle for the possibility to replace a South American team and qualify for the World Cup finals.
Australia and New Zealand do not contest this round, and move directly to stage two. The teams are drawn into to gruops which will play each other in a league system. The matches will not be played home and away, but at one of two neutral venues. The winner and runner-up of each group proceed to stage two.
The four teams from stage one plus Australia and New Zealand play each other in a league tournement in one venue. The top two teams from the league will move on to stage three.
The two teams who qualified from stage two, will play each other home and away. The team who wins on aggregate will then be drawn against the fith-placed team from the South American section. The winner of this match will qualify for the World Cup finals.
There are ten teams from South America competing for four spaces to qualify and an extra space contested with the Oceania section.
All ten teams are put in one league system. The teams all play each other at home and away. The top four teams when all games have been played automatically qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany.
The fith-placed team will enter a home and away play-off with the contender from the Oceanian zone. The winner of this will continue to the finals.