Italy and Portugal draw in the same group for the World Cup Qualifiers

Italy and Portugal are drawn into the same World Cup qualifying group on Friday, ensuring that the defending European champions (Italy) or one of football’s biggest stars (Portugal Cristiano Ronaldo) will be absent from next year’s tournament in Qatar.

Italy will face North Macedonia at home in the semi-final in March, and the winner will go on to face the winner of the other semi-final of the group – Portugal or Turkey – for one of three. final place in Europe at the World Cup. The winning team between Portugal and Turkey will host that match five days later.

The high probability of such a contest also increases the likelihood that Italy will miss the World Cup for the second consecutive cycle. Italy lost its last World Cup play-off, in Russia in 2018 – a defeat that one newspaper declared as “national shame. ”

“Definitely it could have been a little bit better,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini told Italian broadcaster RAI2 after Friday’s knockout draw. “As we were willing to avoid them,” he added, “they’ll probably avoid us, too.”

The match could happen to be the most exciting of the high-stakes for Europe’s final three places in Qatar, and the first test of the new qualifying format. In the past, European playoffs were played in a two-legged, head-to-head format.

Instead, this year, 12 teams – 10 of which finished as runners-up in their qualifying groups – were split into three four-team paths, each of which will have their own semi-finals and finals. . Only the winning team from each path will qualify for the World Cup.

In other matches, Scotland will face Ukraine, the winner will face Wales or Austria, and Russia will take on Poland for the right to face Sweden or the Czech Republic.

Wales, the only team to compete in the 1958 World Cup, were placed in the same group as Scotland, which had not qualified since 1998.

Ten European teams – led by Germany, France, Belgium and England – qualified, as did South American favorites Brazil and Argentina.

Friday’s draw is also set second chance routes to the World Cup for countries from four other regional alliances. In those matches, the fourth-place team from Concacaf, a region that includes North, Central America and the Caribbean, will play against the champions of Oceania and the fifth-place team from South America will play against the fifth-place team from Asia. ASIAN.

Those matches will be played as the first legs in Qatar on June 13 and 14 – more than two months after the draw for the World Cup grouping at the 32-team stadium on April 1. Italy and Portugal draw in the same group for the World Cup Qualifiers

Dustin Huang

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