Qatar World Cup 2022: Italy and Portugal on collision course in play-offs

Qatar World Cup 2022: Italy and Portugal on collision course in play-offs

Italy and Portugal could face off for a spot at the 2022 Qatar World Cup after they were drawn in the same path for the play-offs. 

The 12 teams - 10 of which finished runners-up in their groups - were split into three four-team paths, each with its own one-match semi-finals and final. Seeded teams were guaranteed a home game in the semis. The winning team from each path qualifies for the World Cup in Qatar, meaning Italy and Portugal cannot both progress.

Italy, who won the Euros earlier this year, and 2016 European champions Portugal will play their semi-final games at home against North Macedonia and Turkey, respectively. Should the two heavyweights advance, Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal will have home advantage in the final.

"It could have been a little better," Italy coach Roberto Mancini told RAI2. "As we would have gladly avoided them [Portugal], probably they too would have avoided us. We will have to play a great match [against North Macedonia)] then we will see in the final."

Failure to advance would be a major blow for four-time world champions Italy, who did not reach the 2018 edition when they were knocked out by Sweden in the play-offs, the first time they had missed out on qualification in 60 years.

Portugal captain Ronaldo, the leading scorer in men's international football, has scored in the last four World Cups but the 36-year-old's side must get past Turkey first.

"We can't count them out. They always put on a fight against their rivals," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said of Turkey, refusing to discuss a potential final with Italy.

"We can't look back and analyse now what they did in the Euros [where Turkey lost all three group games]. We need to look in depth at the way they play, but what we really need is to be prepared to those matches."

Wales, who are looking to make their first World Cup in 64 years, were drawn in the same path as Scotland, who have not qualified since 1998.

"We've given ourselves a great opportunity. We've worked ever so hard to finish second and get that home draw. We've got everything to play for," Wales manager Robert Page told the BBC. The playoff semi-finals and finals will be played from March 24-29.

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