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Portugal and Italy had the unpleasant surprise to finish second in their group in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, a ranking that requires them to compete in the play-offs to qualify. However, with the new format adopted for this phase of the competition, these two football giants could come face to face.
Portugal and Italy got into trouble. Unable to finish first in their qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup, they, like ten other nations, will have to compete in the play-offs next March to snatch one of the three remaining tickets for the UEFA zone.
Already absent from the 2018 World Cup, the European champions missed, Monday, November 15, in Northern Ireland (0-0), the direct ticket for Qatar, stolen by Switzerland. The final distant duel against the Helvetians turned in their favor: they healed their goal difference against Bulgaria (4-0) while Roberto Mancini’s Italy was unable to find the loophole in Ireland. North (0-0).
The day before, Portugal was surprised at home by Serbia (1-2). A defeat in the last minutes which deprives the 2016 European champions of direct qualification. Cristiano Ronaldo will therefore have to fight in March 2022 if he wants to participate in his fifth World Cup finals in a row.
New format, new dangers
And the new format of the play-offs has something to worry about the last two European champions. In December 2019, UEFA said goodbye to the traditional two-way play-off that had been the rule so far. Now, up to three “Final Four”: to win the qualification, each team will have to defeat two opponents in mini tournaments with four teams, with semi-finals and knockout finals.
The play-offs will begin on March 24, 2022. The ten runners-up in each group of the qualifiers will participate as well as the two best group winners of the last League of Nations. These last two tickets will be awarded to Austria and the Czech Republic or Wales, depending on the final results of Group E of the qualifiers where the two nations meet.
The barrage nations
- The Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- Ukraine or Finland
- Norway, Turkey or the Netherlands
Portugal and Italy are already guaranteed to have protected status for the semi-final. Indeed, the six best-ranked teams in the qualifiers (by equity, those having inherited a 6-team pool in the qualifiers have their results withdrawn against the last one) are considered seeded and will play their first match at home, with the guarantee of not meeting one of the other five best teams.
However, it is for the following round that things are spoiled since the winners of the semi-finals n ° 1 and 2, those of n ° 3 and 4, as well as those of n ° 5 and 6 and, therefore, will face each other. , potentially top seeds among themselves.
Will Portugal and Italy have to compete for a ticket to Qatar? Answer during the draw on Friday November 26 in Zurich.