Zurich (Switzerland) (AFP) – The absence of a major team from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was confirmed, after the draw for the European play-off to qualify for the finals put Italy and Portugal, the two champions of the last two editions of the European Cup, on the same track, which means that their qualification together is out of the accounts.
The draw, which was drawn on Friday in Zurich, resulted in placing Italy and Portugal in the third track against North Macedonia and Turkey, respectively, which means that if they pass the latter two, they will meet in the final of this track to determine which of them will reach the finals.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos seemed confident of reaching the finals despite the presence of a major obstacle in the final track in the person of the Italian national team, saying, “First of all we have to focus on beating Turkey. It is the important match that will allow us to be in the final and win it.”
The European play-off, which is divided into three tracks, will be played on March 24 for the semi-final matches and on March 29 for the three final matches.
Portugal will play the semi-finals and the final at home, which made Santos optimistic as a result of “supporting the fans and avoiding movement. This is important. Now, we have to prepare well in order to reach the required level in March. Turkey has two players. Her team play sometimes pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. They are a team that causes a lot of trouble… But I am absolutely confident that we will qualify for the World Cup.”
The Italian and Portuguese teams put themselves in this position after failing to book the direct qualification ticket in the group stage by placing themselves in second place behind Switzerland and Serbia, respectively.
“It’s a very difficult draw for us,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini. North Macedonia is a very good team and if we win them we have to play abroad (in the third track final).”
Ten teams reserved their direct cards for the old continent, and three cards remain to be decided through the supplement, with the participation of 12 teams, including two from the European Nations League, Czech and Austria.
Contrary to the old system, the supplement will not be held in direct confrontations from two home and away matches, but the 12 teams will be divided into three tracks determined according to the lottery, and four teams will compete in each of them with a semi-final system and a final match, and the winner qualifies for the World Cup (three tracks = three qualified teams from each path).
Italy and Portugal were ranked in the first level, along with Sweden, Scotland, Russia and Wales, while Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria and the Czech Republic were ranked in the second level. In the semi-finals of the first track, Scotland will meet with Ukraine and Wales with Austria, while in the second track will meet Russia with Poland and Sweden with the Czech Republic, and in the third will Italy with North Macedonia and Portugal with Turkey.
The semi-final matches are held on top of the first-level teams, which naturally gives preference to Italy and Portugal, and therefore there is a great possibility that the two teams will meet in the final of this path to determine which of them will reach the finals, which means that Italy is threatened with missing out on the finals for the second time in a row and Portugal for the first time since 1998. The Italian team missed the last World Cup, which was held in 2018 in Russia, after losing the continental play-off against Sweden, which kept it away from the global wedding for the first time in 60 years, specifically since 1958. As for Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese companions, the Serbs stunned them in their stronghold when they beat They had to beat them in the last round 2-1 with a goal in the killer time, which made the direct qualification ticket in favor of the guests after the tie was enough for Europe’s Seleção to reach the finals. And it will not be the only third track that will topple a big team or a big star, as the Swedish Zlatan Ibrahimovic or the Polish Robert Lewandowski will definitely miss the finals, after the lottery put them in the second track.
Ibra and Leva will have to focus first on the Russian and Czech tests before considering their possible confrontation in the final of this track. In the first track, the Ukrainian team hopes to get rid of the play-off complex, in which its campaign was interrupted four times in 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014, by getting rid of Scotland first by defeating the latter on its soil, then Austria or its host Wales, which has the advantage of the semi-finals of the track and its match. final on the ground. The international playoffs scheduled for June 13 and 14 were also drawn on Friday. The fifth Asian qualifiers will meet the fifth South American qualifiers, and the fourth North, Central American and Caribbean qualifiers (CONCACAF) will meet the Oceania champions. continents).