UEFA World Cup Qualifying Playoffs Draw
March World Cup Playoff Fixtures Set for European Nations
The final piece of the UEFA section of World Cup qualifying has been set in stone, as the playoffs draw for the final three places available for European nations in Qatar was finalized. The draw took place in Geneva, Switzerland, and had three footballing luminaries take part as Frenchman Christian Karembeu, legendary German Lothar Matthaus, and Portuguese superstar Thiago Mendes were all involved in the drawing of the balls.
There are three paths to playoff qualification as the twelve teams (10 group stage runners up and two UEFA Nations League qualifiers) were drawn into six one-off semi-final matchups. The nations were separated into two pots of seeded and unseeded teams.
Pot One: Italy, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Wales
Pot Two: Austria, Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine.
Before the draw began we were reminded that the UEFA Emergency Panel had decided that Russian and Ukrainian teams could not be drawn to face each other in UEFA competitions. If the balls fell that way Ukraine would be placed in the next available spot to avoid this.
PATH A Semi-Finals Draw
Scotland vs Ukraine
Wales vs Austria
The 'Path A' draw set up a potential battle of Britain as both Wales and Scotland were drawn as the home sides against opponents that they would both fancy their chances of defeating.
Wales or Austria will host the final in Path A. Welsh national team boss Robert Paige had this to say at the conclusion of the draw:
"We've worked ever so hard to finish second and get that home draw. "We've got everything to play for."
PATH B Semi-Finals Draw
Russia vs Poland
Sweden vs Czech Republic
In 'Path B' there is a distinctive eastern European feel to it. Russia would fancy their chances of defeating Poland and, with the host advantage going to the winner of that fixture, they'd fancy their chances of going all the way and clinching a spot in the finals in Qatar next winter.
Sweden are no easy beats and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic back in the national team fold, don't rule them out of qualification from this group of teams either. Sweden National team head coach Janne Andersson reminded everyone of how the playoffs went for the 2018 edition of the World Cup when asked for his thoughts following the draw.
“We already did it last time and we of course (think) that we can do it again. It won’t be easy against the Czechs, though”
PATH C Semi-Finals Draw
Italy vs North Macedonia
Portugal vs Turkey
The Path C draw saw a bomb dropped as it was confirmed that one of the last two European champions would not be at the biggest world sporting event on the planet.
Portugal and Italy were both made to pay for their failure to top their initial qualifying group as they were drawn together in Path C. Both nations will host their respective semi-final with the winner of the Portugal vs Turkey clash hosting the final in Path C.
Missing the tournament will be a huge disappointment for both Portugal and Italy, Italy, who missed the 2018 tournament in Russia have arguably the most to lose if they fail to qualify.
Roberto Mancini, manager of the reigning UEFA European Champions Italy had this to say following the draw:
“It could have been a little better, 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.”
It is set to be a dramatic playoff series in March next year and The Pyrrhic will have you covered the whole way through. Up to and including the big tournament in Qatar next year.
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Stuart Kavanagh is an emerging sports journalist from Melbourne, Australia, and Editor In Chief of ThePyrrhic.com. He is also the co-host of the After Extra Time podcast.
Always keen to discuss footballing matters, you can follow him on Twitter at stueyissickofit
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