A total of 107 teams entered the 1978 FIFA World Cup qualification rounds, which began with the preliminary qualification draw on 20 November 1975 at Guatemala City, competing for a total of 16 spots in the final tournament. Argentina, as the hosts, and West Germany, as the defending champions, qualified automatically, leaving 14 spots open for competition.

The 16 spots available in the 1978 World Cup would be distributed among the continental zones as follows:

  • Europe (UEFA): 9 or 10 places, 1 of them went to automatic qualifier West Germany, while 9 places were contested by 31 teams. The team coming ninth in qualifying would advance to the intercontinental play-offs (against a team from CONMEBOL).
  • South America (CONMEBOL): 3 or 4 places, 1 of them went to automatic qualifier Argentina, while the other 3 places were contested by 9 teams. The team coming third in qualifying would advance to the intercontinental play-offs (against a team from UEFA).
  • North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF): 1 place, contested by 17 teams.
  • Africa (CAF): 1 place, contested by 26 teams.
  • Asia (AFC) and Oceania (OFC): 1 place, contested by 22 teams.

A total of 95 teams played at least one qualifying match. A total of 252 qualifying matches were played, and 723 goals were scored (an average of 2.87 per match).

Continental Zones

To see the dates and results of the qualification rounds for each continental zone, click on the following articles:

Group 1 - Poland qualified.
Group 2 - Italy qualified.
Group 3 - Austria qualified.
Group 4 - Netherlands qualified.
Group 5 - France qualified.
Group 6 - Sweden qualified.
Group 7 - Scotland qualified.
Group 8 - Spain qualified.
Group 9 - Hungary advanced to the UEFA / CONMEBOL Intercontinental Play-off.
Brazil and Peru qualified.
Bolivia advanced to the UEFA / CONMEBOL Intercontinental Play-off.
Mexico qualified.
Tunisia qualified.
Iran qualified.

Inter-confederation play-offs: UEFA v CONMEBOL

The teams would play against each other on a home-and-away basis. The winner would qualify.

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
Hungary  9–2  Bolivia 6–0 3–2

Qualified teams

Final qualification status
  Country qualified for World Cup
  Country failed to qualify
  Country did not enter World Cup
  Country not a FIFA member

The following 16 teams qualified for the 1978 FIFA World Cup:

Team Finals Appearance Streak Last Appearance
 Argentina (h) 7th 2 1974
 Austria 4th 1 1958
 Brazil 11th 11 1974
 France 7th 1 1966
 Hungary 7th 1 1966
 Iran 1st 1
 Italy 9th 5 1974
 Mexico 8th 1 1970
 Netherlands 4th 2 1974
 Peru 3rd 1 1970
 Poland 3rd 2 1974
 Scotland 4th 2 1974
 Spain 5th 1 1966
 Sweden 7th 3 1974
 Tunisia 1st 1
 West Germany (c) 9th 7 1974

(h) - qualified automatically as hosts

(c) - qualified automatically as defending champions

5 of the 16 teams subsequently failed to qualify for the 1982 finals: Iran, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden and Tunisia.


  • For the first time, over 100 teams entered qualification for the World Cup.
  • Statistically, this was the most difficult World Cup to qualify for. Taking the two automatic places into account, and excluding twelve teams who withdrew before playing, 95 teams competed for the remaining 14 places (14.7%). The number of spots was increased to 24 for the next World Cup.
  • Tunisia's victory over Morocco on penalties was the first penalty shootout in World Cup qualification matches.

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