After 867 matches played across 32 months on six different continents, 211 have become just 32 and the line up for the 2018 World Cup is confirmed.
East Timorese's Chiquita do Carmo kick-started qualifying all the way back in March 2015 and since then over 2,000 goals have been plundered in an effort to reach the 21st edition of world football's premier event.
And it has been one of the more extraordinary qualifying campaigns. Matches have been fixed and replayed, nations disqualified and others prohibited from playing home matches while high-profile nations have missed out.
There will be no Netherlands, Italy, United States or Chile among others next summer.
That leaves us with countries from all four corners of the globe. But who are the lucky few who will bid to capture our attention next June?
Qualified automatically as hosts. But while nations across the world have battled to earn their spot, Russia have crashed to the worst world ranking in their history, of 65th. They have won just six matches in two years, leading to Stanislav Cherchesov taking over last year. Don't be fooled by the 3-3 draw with Spain.
The five-time winners were the first to take their place in the finals via the qualifying pathway. They topped the ever-competitive Conmebol section, losing just one of their 18 games and scoring 41 goals. The ghosts from the 7-1 defeat to Germany in 2014 have only been partly exorcised, yet Neymar, the world's most expensive player, remains at the epicentre of everything.
Former Real Madrid and Portugal boss Carlos Queiroz has worked wonders again, after U-turning on his resignation at the start of the campaign. Team Melli will play in consecutive World Cups for the first time in their history after progressing through both group stages without losing a single game.
A fifth World Cup appearance in a row beckons for Japan after they topped both groups in Asian qualifying. They lost to the United Arab Emirates early on but progressed with a game to spare after beating Australia. Vahid Halilhodžić's side will be the leading AFC threat.
Hiring Lozano's only goal confirmed Mexico's place in their 16th World Cup with victory over Panama. Juan Carlos Osorio's side didn't lose a single competitive game upon entering Concacaf qualifying and have a squad capable of matching their last eight showing from 1970 and 1986.
The unlikely managerial duo of Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry masterminded Belgium to become the first side to qualify via the European pathway. The Red Devils dropped just two points along the way - a curious 1-1 home draw with Greece - and prevailed albeit in one of the weakest groups in the section. Questions remain over the golden generation.
Though Korea Republic will take their place in a ninth straight World Cup, their far from convincing qualification raises questions over their competitiveness next summer. Finishing behind Iran in qualifying they lost three of their five games on the road. Head coach Shin Tae-yong will point to their second round performance however, which saw them win eight from eight and score 27 goals without reply.
Qualified on the same day as South Korea but with far greater aplomb. Victory over group winners Japan on the final match day secured their place in Russia and edged Australia into the intercontinental play-offs. Nawaz Al Abed was the star with five goals and he will prove crucial as the Saudis go in search of a first World Cup finals win for 24 years.
The four-time winners progressed with the only 100% record in qualifying, winning all 10 of their Group C matches, firing 43 goals in the process. Victory in the Confederations Cup in the summer amid an unbeaten 2017 has enhanced their status as favourites going into Russia yet no nation has ever won successive World Cups outside of their own country.
The 1966 winners were one of four sides to emerge unbeaten from their no thrills qualifying campaign. Manager Gareth Southgate has finally ditched the dead wood in favour of youth but his side do lack creativity. Five wins and five clean sheets from 10 games presents a more accurate picture of where they stand. Solid, if not stable.
Perhaps the most impressive automatic qualifier from the European section, given they were drawn with Italy in the group stage. The largely unknown Julen Lopetegui has blended experience – captain Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta all remain from the 2010 triumph – with new faces such as Isco and Marco Asensio to deadly affect. Building nicely.
A sixth appearance at the finals beckons for the Super Eagles after they topped their qualifying group with a match to spare. They almost didn't make it to the third phase after drawing with Swaziland in the first leg of the second round before a 2-0 success saved their skin. The 2013 African Cup of Nations winners have a woeful recent major tournament record and have not won a World Cup game since 1998, but a 4-2 friendly win over Argentina provides reason for optimism.
Kendall Waston's 95<sup>th minute goal against Honduras sent Costa Rica through in a critical qualifier in San Jose which would eventually lead to their opponents missing out on the finals entirely. Home and away wins over the United States meant that by the time Waston intervened they has more than earned their place in Russia. Wins since have been few and far between however for Oscar Ramirez's side.
Robert Lewandowski propelled Poland into their first World Cup since 2006 with 16 goals, a haul which hasn't been beaten in qualifying. They now occupy a place in the world's top 10 and look good to match their performance from Mexico '86 when they reached the last 16. Defeat to Mexico and a failure to beat Uruguay will curb expectations, but perhaps that will be welcomed.
Few teams booked their place in next year's festival of football in more dramatic fashion than the Egyptians. Mohamed Salah fired home a stoppage time penalty to beat Congo in their penultimate qualifier and send the country wild in anticipation of their first appearance in the tournament since 1990. Will be hopeful of matching Ghana and Cameroon's quarter-final appearances, the best by an Africa nation. Pele will be pleased.
A first appearance at an expanded European Championship has been backed up by qualification for a maiden World Cup as countries continue to struggle to match Iceland's blend of steel and calm under pressure. The 16 goals they scored was the lowest of any side to finish top of their European group but it was enough to see off an all-star Croatia side. The Viking war chant is coming to Russia.
In perhaps the most competitive group in the Uefa section, Serbia produced the most understated route to Russia of any team in Europe. It took a late goal from Aleksandar Prijovic against Georgia to see them through eventually. A team based on muscle and defensive stubbornness, draws with South Korea and USA in friendlies are unlikely to shine the light of fear into their competitors.
The European champions continued their habit of winning when it matter by beating Switzerland in the final qualifying game to finish top of goal difference. Cristiano Ronaldo was again the talisman with 15 goals as was much of the side which prevailed at Euro 2016. Eight of squad who played in the final 18 months ago featured in that vital win over the Swiss but the Portuguese will be far from predictable.
Though Didier Deschamps may have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, Les Blues remain far from convincing after finishing as runners-up at Euro 2016. France combined the sublime – a 4-0 thrashing of Netherlands – with the ridiculous – a goalless draw at home to Luxembourg as Deschamps continues to appear overawed by his resources. Victory over Belarus, which confirmed qualification, was far from impressive either.
The ever-competitive South American section came down to a dramatic final day but La Celeste avoided any trauma by beating Bolivia. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez continue to be the linchpins in attack and much rests on their shoulders. Defeats in Ecuador and Peru however suggest their powers are on the wane.
The two-time winners not for the first time have Lionel Messi to thank for dragging them kicking and screaming into the 2018 World Cup. The Barcelona magician registered a hat-trick in Ecuador to secure third place and rescue a campaign which had threatened to lurch into abject failure. Jorge Sampaoli chopped and changed throughout qualifying and failed to strike upon the right formula. He doesn't have long left to find one.
It was far from spectacular but James Rodgriguez's free-kick helped hold off Peru and send Colombia through, but their campaign was not without scares along the way. Sixth-place Chile finished the section with more wins than Jose Pekerman's side, who drew six times. Successive appearances since 1998 have been achieved but concerns, not helped by a friendly defeat to South Korea, remain.
The name of Roman Torres will forever be etched on Panama's football history after his 88<sup>th minute goal took his country through to the World Cup for the first time. Thanks to USA's defeat in Trinidad victory over Costa Rica was enough to progress. Regular improvement in the Gold Cup shows they have tournament pedigree but having won just six of their 16 qualifiers they will arrive in Russia firmly as minnows.
Senegal have reached their second World Cup but not before spluttering their way through qualifying. They were almost tripped up by Madagascar in the second round before needing to beat South Africa in a replayed fixture, after their original defeat to the 2010 hosts was annulled due to a match-fixing referee. Don't expect another opening round win over the reigning champions, like in 2002.
The sternest defence in the whole of World Cup qualifying saw Morocco reach their first World Cup since 1998. The team managed by former Lille boss Herve Renard conceded just once in eight qualifiers and kept six clean sheets in round three. A final day win over giants Ivory Coast confirmed their progress.
Another unspectacular qualifying campaign in Africa saw Tunisia secure a goalless draw against Libya to take their place in their fifth finals in a row. They were also unbeaten in their eight matches, with Al-Dhail forward Youssef Msakni producing the stand-out display with the hat-trick in the win at Guinea in October.
Vladimir Petkovic's side would have topped Group B had they managed to avoid a final round defeat to Portugal, although they eventually qualified for their fourth consecutive World Cup after a narrow 1-0 play-off victory over Northern Ireland, thanks to a hugely contentious penalty decision in Belfast. The Swiss were clearly the better team over the two legs, although their profligate finishing and lack of a clinical striker will be a major worry.
The controversial axing of head coach Ante Cacic just two days before a crucial Group I finisher against Ukraine quickly bore fruit, with a 2-0 victory in Kiev followed by a comfortable play-off drubbing of Greece. The damage was done in the first leg as a 4-1 rout in Athens masterminded by Zlatko Dalic was followed by a bore draw on home soil. The perennial dark horses will hope to avoid fizzling out in similar fashion to Euro 2016.
No Zlatan, no problem. Without their retired former talisman, Jan Andersson's hard-working and resilient Swedes successfully ended their 12-year finals absence in memorable fashion by sealing a shock 1-0 aggregate victory over Italy that sparked an outpouring of grief from Rome to Milan and saw the four-time winners fail to qualify for the first time since 1958. The question remains: will Ibrahimovic return for one last ego trip in Russia?
Denmark joined debutants Iceland and Sweden as the third Nordic country to seal their place at the next World Cup after Christian Eriksen's stunning second-leg play-off hat-trick broke Irish hearts in Dublin. Unbeaten in 2017 under the guidance of wily Norwegian Age Hareide, the largely functional Danes will be hoping for more magic from the dazzling Tottenham Hotspur playmaker next summer after his impressive 11-goal haul in qualifying.
The globetrotting Socceroos became the 31st team to book their spot in Russia, qualifying for a fourth successive World Cup courtesy of an unlikely hat-trick from Aston Villa midfielder Mile Jedinak in a feisty 3-1 second-leg play-off defeat of Honduras in Sydney. Ange Postecoglou's draw specialists could only manage an underwhelming third-place finish in their final Asian qualifying group and were given an almighty scare by the pluckiest of underdogs in Syria before being bailed out - not for the first time - by the head of 37-year-old Tim Cahill.
Paolo Guerrero kept Peru in the hunt for only their fifth World Cup appearance courtesy of a late free-kick against Colombia that saw them snatch fifth place in South American qualifying from reigning Copa America champions Chile on goal difference.
The Incas were without their captain, all-time leading goalscorer and national hero for a subsequent inter-confederation play-off clash with Oceania champions New Zealand after he failed a drugs test and laboured to a goalless draw in Wellington.
However, they were not to be denied in the return leg and took the 32nd and final place at Russia 2018, their first finals berth since 1982.