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One of Italy or Portugal will miss out on the 2022 World Cup, while Wales could host Scotland for a place in Qatar if both nations win their play-off semi-final


By Michael Hincks

November 26, 2021 4:37 pm(Updated 6:30 pm)

Scotland and Wales could collide for a place in next year’s World Cup, while the outcome of Friday’s play-off draw also means one of Italy or Portugal will fail to reach the finals in Qatar.

Scotland will host Ukraine in their play-off semi-final in March, with Wales at home against Austria.

Should both home nations win then they will meet in Wales, with a place at the World Cup on the line.

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Bottom of Form

Italy and Portugal were the two daunting names in Friday’s draw, but Scotland and Wales were also seeded and subsequently avoided a semi-final meeting with the past two European Championship winners.

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However, with three different routes to next year’s World Cup in Qatar laid out, Italy and Portugal were ultimately drawn in the same pathway, making a showdown in Portugal likely if they overcome North Macedonia and Turkey respectively.

“It’s a very difficult draw for us, and if we win [the semi-final] we go to play a final in Turkey or Portugal,” Italy boss Roberto Mancini said.

The draw featured all 10 group runners-up from the Uefa qualifiers, plus Austria and Czech Republic based on their Nations League exploits.

World Cup play-off draw

Path A

  • Semi-final 1: Scotland vs Ukraine
  • Semi-final 2: Wales vs Austria
  • Final: Wales or Austria vs Scotland or Ukraine

Path B

  • Semi-final 1: Russia vs Poland
  • Semi-final 2: Sweden vs Czech Republic
  • Final: Russia or Poland vs Sweden or Czech Republic

Path C

  • Semi-final 1: Italy vs North Macedonia
  • Semi-final 2: Portugal vs Turkey
  • Final: Portugal or Turkey vs Italy or North Macedonia

Analysis: A World Cup without Ronaldo?

Twelve teams will be whittled down to three next March, and we now know Italy and Portugal can fill just one of those spaces after a dramatic draw. 

Italy will be expected to see off North Macedonia, the lowest-ranked side in the play-offs, while Portugal face a tougher task when hosting Turkey, but the reality is that even if they both win their semi-finals, only one of these European giants will make it to Qatar. 

It is extraordinary to think either the Euro 2016 or 2020 winners will not feature, but in 12 months’ time a World Cup boasting 13 European sides will go ahead without one of the nations who recently conquered the continent. 

It will not be until the March madness when we find out which country will find themselves conducting a full-scale review into how qualifying quickly turned sour. And it could yet be both of them.   

Italy had gone on a long unbeaten run under Roberto Mancini and were praised for dashing England’s hopes and winning the European Championship four months ago, but a late stumble in World Cup qualifying saw them finish second behind Switzerland. 

That included a goalless draw with Northern Ireland earlier this month, while the normally dependable Jorginho will be having nightmares about his last-minute penalty miss against Switzerland just days before. 

Meanwhile, Portugal had also been in pole position to top their group, but a dramatic late loss to Serbia saw them slip to second, and now the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo missing out on the World Cup is a very real prospect. 

Ronaldo will be 37 when the tournament starts next November. He has previously said he will only retire the moment his body “is no longer responding in the right way on the field”. 

Come the 2026 edition in Canada, Mexico and USA he will be 41. If anyone can, Ronaldo can, having already defied biology and the status quo, but rather than entertaining four years of will-he-won’t-he, his focus will be on a crucial 180 minutes in March. That could decide whether we’ve seen the last of Ronaldo at a World Cup or not.  

Play-off dates

The play-off semi-finals will take place on Thursday 24 March 2022, with the three finals played five days later on Tuesday 29 March.

When is the 2022 World Cup draw?

No date has been set for the World Cup draw, although April 2022 has been earmarked as the date when it will take place after the final spots have been confirmed during the March international break.

Who has qualified for 2022 World Cup already?

  • Host nation: Qatar
  • Conmebol: Brazil, Argentina
  • Uefa: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland      

Scotland and Wales’ World Cup history

Scotland are out to end a 24-wait having last featured at the 1998 World Cup. On that occasion Craig Brown’s side were unable to win a group game, drawing with Norway and losing to Brazil and Morocco.

That was Scotland’s eighth World Cup, which includes a run of five straight appearances from 1974 to 1990, and they are yet to progress beyond the opening round of the competition.

Meanwhile, Wales’ absence from the tournament is far longer, with their sole appearance at a World Cup coming back in 1958.

After qualifying from their group in second behind Sweden – and finishing above Hungary and Mexico – Wales then succumbed to a Pele winner as Brazil won the quarter-final 1-0 en route to winning the World Cup.


Source: https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2022-playoff-draw-wales-scotland-semi-finals-dates-fixtures-1321808