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Of the 32 nations qualified to play at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 20 countries competed at the previous tournament in 2014.

Both Iceland and Panama qualified for the first time, with the former becoming the smallest country in terms of population to reach the World Cup.

This was different from previous draws, when only pot 1 was based on FIFA rankings while the remaining pots were based on geographical considerations.Notable countries that failed to qualify include four-time champions Italy (for the first time since 1958), three-time runners-up and third placed in 2014 the Netherlands (for the first time since 2002), and four reigning continental champions: 2017 Africa Cup of Nations winners Cameroon, two-time Copa América champions and 2017 Confederations Cup runners-up Chile, 2016 OFC Nations Cup winners New Zealand, and 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup champions United States (for the first time since 1986).The other notable qualifying streaks broken were for Ghana and Ivory Coast, who had both made the previous three tournaments.France won the match 4–2 to claim their second World Cup title, marking the fourth consecutive title won by a European team. During the bidding process, the three remaining non-UEFA nations (Australia, Japan, and the United States) gradually withdrew from the 2018 bids, and the UEFA nations were thus ruled out of the 2022 bid.As such, there were eventually four bids for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, two of which were joint bids: England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium, and Portugal/Spain.

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