Only nine spots remain available for the World Cup finals in Russia next summer, with previous winners France, Argentina and Uruguay among those to seal their qualification last night.

The fear that Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann could all be sat at home next June was allayed during the latest round of group games when 12 countries in total booked their passage to Russia.

Of those dozen, Iceland and Panama have reached the major tournament for the first time in their nations' history, while three-times finalists Holland, Chile and the United States have been among those eliminated.

Just eight nations - hosts Russia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea and Saudi Arabia - had already qualified before this international break commenced.

Germany, the only nation to have reached Russia with a perfect record in the preliminaries, soon followed along with 1966 winners England and 2010 winners Spain.

Nigeria became the first African country to progress when Arsenal's Alex Iwobi scored the winner against Zambia on Saturday, while a stoppage-time penalty from Liverpool's Mohamed Salah the following day took Egypt to their first World Cup in 28 years.

Hours after Salah's heroics, another late goal from Kendall Waston earned Costa Rica the point they needed to claim one of the three guaranteed places on offer to the CONCACAF nations.

In their final round of group games in Europe, Poland, Iceland, Serbia, France and Portugal all got victories which confirmed their places in Russia.

Euro 2016 winners Portugal did so by beating Switzerland 2-0 to leave the Swiss, who had won each of their other nine qualifiers, in the play-offs along with the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Sweden, and Greece.

Slovakia, runners-up in England's group, were the only second-placed team to miss out on the play-offs having amassed the fewest points in the mini-league, which discounted results against countries that finished bottom.

In South America, as many as six teams - Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Paraguay - kicked-off their final encounters knowing they could still secure one of the automatic qualification places.

Uruguay did their bit by beating Bolivia, and a Lionel Messi hat-trick proved enough for Argentina as Colombia and Peru could only draw, which saw the Colombians claim a top-four berth as Chile and Paraguay both lost.

Peru, who finished fifth, still have a chance to make it to the finals but must negotiate their way through a two-legged play-off against New Zealand next month.

Heading into the final round of CONCACAF fixtures, the United States were sitting in an automatic qualification berth, but their 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago, coupled with Panama's 2-1 success over Costa Rica and Honduras' 3-2 win over Mexico, means the Americans will miss their first World Cup finals since 1986.

Twenty countries are still in contention for the remaining nine World Cup places available - four will be from Europe, three will be from Africa and the other two will be the winners of the play-offs between Peru and New Zealand, and Honduras and Australia.

AFRICA

QUALIFIED
Egypt, Nigeria
WHO CAN STILL QUALIFY?
Tunisia, DR Congo, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, South Africa.
HOW WILL THAT BE DETERMINED?
There is still one more round of group games to go in most of the African groups. Tunisia, three points clear of DR Congo, are virtually assured of qualification, while Morocco just need to avoid defeat against Ivory Coast, who conversely know victory would be enough for them. Group D, where all four teams can technically still make it through, is complicated by the fact Senegal's match with South Africa still needs to be replayed. Senegal need just two points from their two contests against the South Africans to qualify.

ASIA

QUALIFIED
Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia
WHO CAN STILL QUALIFY?
Australia.
HOW WILL THAT BE DETERMINED?
Having come through a play-off against Syria, the Socceroos now have one final hurdle to clear when they meet Honduras over two legs, with the second of those two games being played in Sydney.

EUROPE

QUALIFIED

Belgium, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain.
WHO CAN STILL QUALIFY?
Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Greece.
HOW WILL THAT BE DETERMINED?
The eight nations will discover their play-off fate next Tuesday in Zurich when the draw is made. Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Denmark are all projected to be seeded and Ireland will face one of that quartet. A separate draw will be made to decide which nations host the first leg.

NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN

QUALIFIED
Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama
WHO CAN STILL QUALIFY?
Honduras.
HOW WILL THAT BE DETERMINED?
One play-off place was assigned to the team that finished fourth in the final CONCACAF standings and Honduras pipped the United States to that position. They will be in Russia if they defeat Australia over two legs during the next international break.

SOUTH AMERICA

QUALIFIED
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay
WHO CAN STILL QUALIFY?
Peru.
HOW WILL THAT BE DETERMINED?
The Peruvians, whose most recent World Cup appearance was in 1982, meet New Zealand in a play-off over two legs to decide which country advances to Russia. Anthony Hudson's All Whites will be at home first before travelling to South America.

OCEANIA

QUALIFIED
None
WHO CAN STILL QUALIFY?
New Zealand.
HOW WILL THAT BE DETERMINED?
No side from Oceania is guaranteed a place at the 2018 World Cup but New Zealand breezed through their qualifying section and have been waiting to see who stands between them and Russia. It looked like being Argentina at one point, so they will fancy their chances against Peru.