World Cup: Italy and Portugal fall in the same tie in the play-off

Only the winner of each group advances to the Worlds in Qatar

Published in 26/11/2021 - 18:45 By Rohith Nair - Bengalore (Índia)

Italy and Portugal, the last two European champions, can compete for a spot in the 2022 World Cup (Qatar) now that they were drawn in the same key as the European play-off this Friday (26).

The 12 teams, 10 of which placed second in their groups, were split into three four-team draws, each with its own semi-finals and finals.

The winning team in each bracket qualifies for the Cup in Qatar, which means that either Italy or Portugal will not compete in the tournament.

Italy, which won the Euro in July this year, and Portugal, European champions in 2016, will play their semi-final matches at home, respectively, against Northern Macedonia and Turkey.

Should the two heavyweights advance, Portugal will have the advantage of playing at home in the final.

“It could have been a little better, for sure,” Italian national team coach Roberto Mancini told RAI2 network. “We are confident and positive, especially in the most difficult moments”, he declared.

“Just as we would gladly have avoided them [Portugal], they probably would have avoided us too. We'll have to play a great match [against North Macedonia], then we'll see it in the final,” he said.

Not being able to advance would be a major setback for four-time world champion Italy, who did not compete in the 2018 edition. It was the first time in 60 years that the team did not qualify.

Wales, eager to play their first World Cup in 64 years, were drawn in the same bracket as Scotland, which has not qualified since 1998.

“We gave ourselves a great opportunity. We worked hard like never before to finish second and get the round at home. We have everything at stake,” Welsh coach Robert Page told the BBC.

Older Wales fans still get their heart rate racing when they think of the 1977 World Cup play-off against Scotland.

In the game played at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium, the Scots came out ahead with a penalty awarded for a hand touch, although replays have shown that the touch was by Scottish striker Joe Jordan.

Scotland won 2-0 and won a spot at the World Cup in Argentina the following year.

Eight years later, the Scots managed a vital draw in Cardiff to play in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but the celebration was short-lived after coach Jock Stein suffered a heart attack on the side of the field and died in the dressing room shortly thereafter.

European recap

key A
Semifinal 1: Scotland vs Ukraine
Semifinal 2: Wales vs. Austria

key B
Semifinal 3: Russia x Poland
Semifinal 4: Sweden x Czech Republic

key C
Semifinal 5: Italy vs Northern Macedonia
Semifinal 6: Portugal x Turkey

Intercontinental recap
Representative of the Asian Football Confederation x Representative of Conmebol
Representative of Concacaf x Representative of the Confederation of Football of Oceania

* With additional reporting by Simon Evans and Pete Hall

Text translated using artificial intelligence.

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