SAITAMA, JAPAN – JUNE 16: Keisuke Honda of Japan in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifier second round match between Japan and Singapore at Saitama Stadium on June 16, 2015 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

A Much Too Early 2018 World Cup Qualifying Update

For the next several months (and possibly years), we at 32 Flags will update you on the happenings of the 2018 World Cup qualifying. It is still extremely early in this process, and the official draw isn’t for another month. However, the first game took place on March 12. The 2018 cycle has already begun.


The first two rounds are now complete. The first round played between teams ranked 22nd through 35th; the second round involved the seven first round winners and teams ranked 9th through 21st. The second round is a home-and-away series, and the results reported here are the score on aggregate. The third round draw for the will be held on July 25.

Notable CONCACAF 2nd Round Results

  • Curacao (FIFA ranking 182) def. Cuba (124), 1-1 [advance on away goals]

In the battle of baseball nations, Curacao barely squeaked by. Curacao wasn’t even favored in their first round game against Montserrat, and here they are defeating on of the best teams in the CONCACAF 2nd Round. Cuba has to be incredibly disappointed with their performance.

  • Barbados (169) def. Aruba (124), 3-0
  • Canada (122) def. Dominica (168), 6-0

Canada easily dispatched Dominica 2-0 and 4-0 behind goals in each game by Orlando City rookie Cyle Larin. While Larin mounts a case for MLS Rookie of the Year, he’s proving to be Canada’s primary attacking threat at the moment, something sorely needed with the recent retirement of Dwayne De Rosario.

  • Nicaragua (175) def.  Suriname (131),  4-1

Nicaragua demolished Anguilla–the worst registered CONCACAF club–by a margin of 8-0 in the first round. The momentum clearly continued into the second. Suriname isn’t exactly a good team, but they’re better than this result.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC)

AFC has a group stage as their 2nd round, and that first round of games for that stage are now complete. The first round was a home-and-away series between the bottom ten teams in the federation, all of which are ranked 171st or before. The only notable surprise here was the victory of Bhutan (209) over Sri Lanka (172).

Notable AFC 2nd Round Results

  • Guam def. Turkmenistan, 1-0; def. India, 2-1

Guam tops their group with a perfect six points from their opening two games. Yes, the first game was won via an own goal, and yes, the games were both played on home turf. But Coach Gary White has this club believing and playing well. Keep in mind this Guam side is not the same program that regularly lost by double digits as recently as 2009. Guam boasts two experienced MLS center backs (AJ DeLaGarza & Brandon McDonald) along with many other highly skilled players with MLS (Ryan Guy & Jason Cunliffe) and/or American Division I college experience (Travis and Shawn Nicklaw, Shane Malcolm, John Matkin, Alex Lee, and others).

What I’m basically saying is don’t sleep on Guam for this qualifying cycle. They are woefully under-ranked by the FIFA system right now.

India, on the other hand, really played a poor game against Guam. This national team should be much better than this, leading to many India fans  calling for a coaching change on social media over the past week.

  • Hong Kong def. Maldives, 2-0; def. Bhutan, 7-0
  • Japan draws with Singapore, 0-0

I don’t think any fan of the Japan national team will disagree: the Japanese attack was dreadful in this game. Japanese attackers, such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, must rediscover their creativity. They have time with seven more games against Singapore, Syria, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, but you never know in this wonderful game.

The Graveyard

The list of nations already eliminated from the 2018 FIFA World Cup. We will miss you all.

AFC: Brunei, Indonesia, Macau, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

CAF: Zimbabwe

CONCACAF: Anguilla, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands


About Josh Howard

Josh Howard is a PhD Candidate in Public History at Middle Tennessee State University where he writes about empathy, museums, and visitor studies. He is also a massive DC United fan and serves as a co-editor for For more, check out