Belfast Telegraph

Who can grab the final nine places at the 2018 World Cup finals?

We know Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are one step from Russia, but who else could snatch the last remaining places?

The final nine places at next summer's World Cup finals in Russia will be decided by the end of this month's international break.

Here, we takes a tour around the continents to look at the final issues left to be resolved, and when the key matches in each section will be played.

AFRICA (Three places remaining)

The group stages conclude this month with three places still up for grabs. Tunisia need just a point at home to Group A's bottom side Libya to secure top spot, the Ivory Coast must beat Morocco in Abidjan to overtake the visitors in Group C, and Senegal know they must take two points from two games against South Africa to top Group D. 

The matches that matter:

Friday, November 10: South Africa v Senegal (5pm kick-off)

Saturday, November 11: Ivory Coast v Morocco (5.30pm kick-off)

Saturday, November 11: DR Congo v Guinea (5.30pm kick-off)

Saturday, November 11: Tunisia v Libya (5.30pm kick-off)

Tuesday, November 14: Senegal v South Africa (7.30pm kick-off)

Tuesday, November 14: Burkina Faso v Cape Verde Islands (7.30pm kick-off)

ASIA/CONCACAF (One place remaining)

The first of the intercontinental play-offs involves Australia and Honduras. The Socceroos reached this stage by finishing third in their Asian final round qualifying group and then beating Syria in a two-legged play-off.

Honduras secured a play-off with a fourth-placed finish in the North American, Central American and Caribbean qualifying section, a place above the United States.

This play-off, as with all the two-legged ties, will use the away goals rule to separate teams level on aggregate. The winners qualify for the World Cup.

The matches that matter:

Friday, November 10: Honduras v Australia (10pm kick-off)

Wednesday, November 15: Australia v Honduras (9am kick-off)

EUROPE (Four places remaining)

Well we know this but here's a recap just in case.

Eight teams are vying for the four final places from the European section, with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland both involved. Arguably the star attraction, though, are four-time World Cup winners Italy, who must overcome a tough Sweden side to qualify after being in the same group as Spain.

The matches that matter:

Thursday, November 9: Croatia v Greece (7.45pm kick-off)

Thursday, November 9: Northern Ireland v Switzerland (7.45pm kick-off)

Friday, November 10: Sweden v Italy (7.45pm kick-off)

Saturday, November 11: Denmark v Republic of Ireland (7.45pm kick-off)

Sunday, November 12: Switzerland v Northern Ireland (5pm kick-off)

Sunday, November 12: Greece v Croatia (7.45pm kick-off)

Monday, November 13: Italy v Sweden (7.45pm kick-off)

Tuesday, November 14: Republic of Ireland v Denmark (7.45pm kick-off)

OCEANIA/SOUTH AMERICA (One place remaining)

New Zealand face Peru in the second intercontinental play-off, with the winners of this tie the last to confirm their finals place in the early hours of November 16 UK time. New Zealand are hoping to take up the sole place on offer to the Oceania section, while Peru are aiming to become the fifth South American side in Russia and qualify for a first World Cup since 1982.

The matches that matter:

Saturday, November 11: New Zealand v Peru (3.15am kick-off)

Thursday, November 16: Peru v New Zealand (2.15am kick-off)

Already qualified

Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Russia (as hosts), Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Uruguay

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